Last Updated on June 15, 2023 by Grow with Bovees
Coffee drinking is a habit people nurture around the world. But that also directly translates to just as much coffee waste being generated for every batch of coffee you make.
But if you could decompose your coffee filters and grounds, returning the organic matter back to where it came from — nature — that would reduce the environmental burden on the process by a lot.
So, can you throw your coffee machine filters into a compost pile and put the waste to better use? Let’s find the answer!
What Is the Filter Made Of?
If you use a paper coffee filter for your coffee, it is perfectly compostable! Paper, as most people know, degrades easily and you can easily make it into mulch and add it to your compost pile.
Having said that, if you are not using paper filters, that changes things. Maybe you are using a reusable coffee filter, or your filters have a lining of a different material, or are not made from paper, you may want to avoid putting it in your compost bin only to err on the safe side.
Another common concern that people have is that most coffee filters contain some amounts of bleach.
Introducing bleach to your compost and soil from a bleached filter, may not be something most people would be happy doing.
However, by the time they reach the market, the amount of bleach is minimal so it should not pose any great threat if you add the filters to your compost heap.
Still, if you feel wary of doing this you can buy unbleached paper coffee filters, which is also known as a brown filter, and, as the name suggests, (unbleached filters), they do not contain any bleach.
If your coffee maker uses cone-style filters that have been heat sealed, you can cut the sealed portion out if you suspect any synthetic material has been used to seal it. The best thing would be to work around with what you have and make your filter compostable instead of throwing them away.
How Should You Compost the Filters?
Now that you know you can add your coffee filters to the compost pile, it is also important to be aware of how you should add them. If your filters have dried out, and you add them to the pile as it is, they will not decompose. The following are some things you may want to keep in mind when adding that used coffee filter to your compost pile:
Add Them To Your Compost Pile
It is important that you break the filters down as much as possible so it is easier for them to decompose, shred them before placing into your kitchen compost pail along with other food scraps. If you add them whole to your pile or compost tumbler, they will take longer to break down on their own and decompose.
Shred them up into small pieces and mix them into your compost. Ensure they are covered in soil as if they are exposed to the air and dry out, they will take much longer to decompose.
Don’t Dry Them Out
When you add the filters to your pile is also key to the composting equation. If they have been exposed to air for a long time and have completely dried out, the decomposition process will take forever.
Water is necessary for composting to occur.
For the microorganisms to start working on breaking the filters down, they need to be moist when you add them to the pile. They will also be no good as worm food if they are dry and in big chunks.
So make sure your filters are moist before you add them or soak them with a few drops of water if they have already dried out.
Maintain a Balance
Composting is a delicate process of balance and proportions. Whether it is your vegetable leftovers, citrus, old bread, or plain soil, it is important to not go overboard with what you are adding to the compost.
See also Why Is My Compost Clumping into Balls?
Similarly, do not add hundreds of filters at once. This will throw the balance of your compost pile off and the decomposing process will be hindered. You need to have the correct balance of green, nitrogen rich matter and brown matter.
The microorganisms that are working to create the compost and make it valuable for the soil and your plants need a carefully curated environment to do their job.
Many things can be safely composted to reduce the impact on the environment. Did you know that you can compost dog poop under certain circumstances?
You can see our beginner’s guide on backyard composting here.
How Else Can A Coffee Drinker Use Old Filters?
If you go through a lot of coffee in a day, you are likely to have more filters than your compost pile can handle. Don’t let those extra filters go to waste, the following are some alternate ways in which you can use those filters:
Remove the Coffee Grounds and Use Them for Cleaning
Coffee filters can double up as great glass cleaners. They are safe to use, do not leave any scratches behind and will leave your glass surfaces looking shiny if not new. Unlike cloth cleaners, coffee filters will not leave behind any lint or residue on your glass surfaces.
Control Weed Growth
If you have small plants that you want to protect from weeds, you can line the base of the plant with the coffee filters. This will slow down the growth of weeds around the plant while also allowing moisture to seep through. Gradually, the filter will compost inside that plant pot.
Line Pots for Your Potted Hydrangeas
You can also use the coffee filters to line the base of your pots. This will allow the water to seep through, so the bottom of your pot does not get flooded but it prevents the soil from spilling out.
Make It A Reusable Filter
Finally, you can simply reuse your coffee filter! Your filter is not meant to be used for a single pot of coffee and then discarded. If it is a high quality one, it has the tensile strength of being reused a few times. Simply dry the filter out and reuse it for the next batch. Each filter has at least 2-3 uses in it, so do not let it go to waste.
Conclusion Of Composting Coffee Filters
Coffee filters are not only compostable, they are also actively beneficial to any given compost pile. Coffee filters and coffee grounds are considered brown material, which means they are rich in carbon and can enhance a compost pile by maintaining a carbon to nitrogen balance.
With the right process for breaking the filter down and keeping it moist, you can get a very rich compost for your plants by adding these biodegradable filters. For where you cannot add the filters to your pile, simply reuse them in some ways described above. Now you know the answer to “are coffee filters compostable?”.