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Composting Human Hair and Orange Peelings in Sunny Spain!

We had an interesting enquiry today from a new user about to set up the HOTBIN in Spain on how to compost human hair and orange peelings.

Can I hot compost human hair and orange peel?

“I have just ordered one [HotBin] for southern Spain. My hairdresser is happy to provide bags of hair. Is hair in large quantities ok? Also a juice bar has offered bags of orange peel. Again is this ok in large quantities? I want acidic compost. Thanks for your help. I am really quite excited about moving from cold to hot composting”

With the first snow of winter falling today, sunny Spain sounds great.

Here is a summary of the tips:

Hot Composting Human Hair

You can hot compost human hair. As with most things in composting, it tends to work better when mixed with other items. We do not have specific experience, but for a few months check it does not form into a dense thick layer that might affect airflow. Remember to give it a stir and mix in less if it does.

Hot Composting Orange Peelings From Juicing

Orange peelings and pulp from juicing will be a challenge for hot composting. They are very high in water content and an item often “too wet for hot composting”. You may need lots of shredded paper or to air dry the peelings in the sun for a few hours. (Also your dry hair might be a good balance – it really depends on how much of each you have). You will need to experiment but give a call any time if you need help to get the recipe right.

Acidic Compost

You mention ‘acidic compost’ – presumably you are trying to tackle an alkaline soil. I am not sure attempting to make acidic compost is the best route. Bacteria in the heap work best at neutral Ph. If the bin goes acidic (due to organic acids found in all plants, but high in orange peel), the compost will turn anaerobic, stink and slow down to a halt.

I think you will be better leaving the compost to work at neutral Ph and tackle your soil Ph either slowly by adding ‘neutral’ compost which will eventually bring the soil Ph down, or by adding a natural acidic mineral to the soil (eg sulphur or iron sulphate). You may know this, but just in case, take care because if you add too much you will cause issues. Best to get an exact Ph reading from the soil and then match this to the exact quantity (in grams) of the acidic mineral.  The RHS has a good article on soil acidification: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/AdviceSearch/profile.aspx?PID=82

Sourcing “Trade Waste”- Do a Quick Check

I do not wish to put a damper on your ideas, but please check with your local traders and you will not get into trouble with the local Environment Agency or waste disposal officer. All waste from businesses within the EU is classified as ‘trade waste’ and rightly, each business is subject to rules to ensure the waste they generate is disposed off safely. As daft as this might appear, they might not legally be able to give you peelings or hair for home composting! Hopefully, your local agencies will be enlightened and see small quantities and home composting as a good route, but these things can get very sensitive depending on interpretation of the rules.

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