To Compost Or Not To Compost, That Is The Question!

Reader Contribution by Jane Gripper
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It has become somewhat of a ritual for me to clean out my 83 year old mother’s fridge after Christmas. While my mother often reminds me “I haven’t lost my marbles yet”, she is only partially sighted, has dodgy hips, and is quite understandably, incapable of cleaning the fridge out. As a result, whiskery gnarled morsels, shoved to the back of the fridge many months previously, may remain there, unseen, and untouched by my mother’s arthritic hands.

To complicate matters, my mother shares the fridge space with some of her itinerant offspring, who well meaningly bring bunches of fresh asparagus or arugula, left over tidbits, exotic dips, or some homemade chilli tomato sauce that they are sure she would love. Sadly, these offerings remain in the fridge until I clean them out after Christmas.

Cleaning the fridge out should be so easy right? Just get out a triple strength plastic garbage bag, and sweep the fetid cargo from each shelf, but I have this sometimes very annoying green conscience that says, “this should be a zero waste activity Jane.”

Grrrr, how irritating! So, with my bare hands, I start on the great fridge clean out. Reaching into mystery plastic bags, I relieve them of the slimy asparagus and arugula, drizzle it straight into the compost bucket. Now, what to do with the jar labelled “Sue’s Mango Guava chutney. May 2000 “? The jar has a dangerously bulging lid and furry growths looking like some ancient Precambrian era landscape!

It is slops such as these that present us with the “to compost or not to compost” dilemma.

Whilst staying with another friend over the holiday period, my attitude towards the compost bin changed significantly. This friend, who has a very small yard, with a large compost bin, does not use her compost bin to make garden compost per se. “If it’s compostable, chuck it in,” is pretty much the rule (meat scraps are fed to the dog). Surprisingly, the bin does not smell, and pretty well everything does eventually break down.

So, it was with this attitude that I proceeded to deal with the gunge from my mothers fridge – vegetarian Indian curry…into the compost, Sue’s mango guava chutney…into the compost, mouldy jam….into the compost, leftover Christmas cake (from the previous year)…into the compost, fizzing, marinaded artichoke hearts…into the compost, a beautiful road kill snake my brother had picked up and stored in the freezer…into the compost (actually, I think I buried this last one – I do have some standards!).

Having washed and recycled glass jars, plastic bags, and plastic take away food containers, I stood back and looked at the steaming compost heap, covered it with a good layer of vegetable matter from the garden, and prayed that it would not self-combust with the effort of dealing with all that “fridge detritus”.

The “Great Christmas Fridge Cleanout” at my mother’s house always inspires me to clean my own fridge out. The chickens are ecstatic about the delectable array offered to them before it all gets tossed into the compost bin.

My friend’s “if it’s compostable, chuck it in” rule, when it comes to cleaning the fridge out, has so far saved many bags of trash from landfill, and eased my own compunction about tossing food into the trash.