Can You Compost Bamboo?

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Bamboo has exploded in popularity over the last few years. At it’s most basic, it’s a tree you can grow in the garden, but you can also find bamboo around the home in the form of things like bathmatstowels, or soap dishes. 

So can you compost bamboo? Bamboo is a natural fiber that you can compost. But it’ll take a very long time to fully decompose unless you shred the bamboo before putting it in your compost bin. Bamboo leaves, bamboo stems, and household items made from 100% bamboo can all be composted.

Can you put bamboo in your compost bin?

As we said in the short explanation above, yes, you can compost bamboo, but it isn’t a fast process. 

Bamboo is high in lignin, a component that takes a long time to decompose. Bacteria can’t break down lignin, so it’s left for the fungi, which don’t appear until later in the composting process.

Fungi develop later on in the composting timeline when the temperatures are cooler

The fungi break the lignin down into less complicated elements, which are accessible to bacteria.

Shredding the bamboo helps speed up its decomposition because it gives the microbes a larger surface area to work on.

You can compost every part of the bamboo, including the leaves, stems, and roots.

Reasons to compost bamboo

Bamboo plants grow exceptionally quickly and tend to shed their leaves. Keeping your bamboo in check can create a lot of waste that you need to dispose of. Composting is a natural and eco-friendly way to get rid of your bamboo waste. It’s a much better option than sending it to landfill!

Composting bamboo is also great for your plants.

Powdery mildew on squash
Bamboo can help prevent powdery mildew

Bamboo contains high concentrations of silica, which isn’t an essential nutrient for plant growth but is a beneficial additive. Silica helps strengthen cell walls, protect against environmental stresses, and fungal diseases like powdery mildew.

Reasons not to compost bamboo

The number one reason people get put off composting bamboo is because of how slow it can be. 

The second thing is the risk that bamboo might start sprouting in your compost pile. Because bamboo grows so fast, if this was to happen, it could quickly turn your garden into a bamboo farm!

If you’re looking to start composting, make sure to check out our in-depth guide on how to start composting. It’s full of incredibly useful tips and tricks to give you the best chance of composting success.

Thankfully, bamboo sprouting in your compost is very unlikely. Especially if you take precautions such as drying the bamboo out, shredding the bamboo and hot composting. All these things effectively kill the bamboo and therefore prevent any regrowth. 

Bamboo grows from its roots or rhizomes. It will not grow from chips of bamboo. You can still compost the roots and rhizomes, just take extra care to shred them thoroughly before you put them in your pile.

How to compost bamboo

There are two main tips when it comes to composting bamboo.

Shred the bamboo before you compost it

We’ve spoken about this above, but we can’t stress enough, if you want to compost your bamboo in a reasonable amount of time then it needs to be shredded. Shredding also prevents the roots from re-sprouting.

The best way to shred a lot of bamboo quickly is with a chipper shredder. We recommend using the Patriot CSV-3100B. Because bamboo is so strong, you need a powerful machine, and the 10 Hp Briggs and Stratton engine on the Patriot machine is best in class when it comes to power and durability. There’s also an electric version. Watch the below video to see the Patriot chipper shredder in action:

Patriot is our top pick for bamboo, but you can check out our roundup of the best chipper shredders for composting for more options.

Chipper shredders can shred the stems and the leaves of your bamboo. If you just have bamboo leaves, then you can get away with something a little less powerful like this leaf mulcher from WORX. We have another article with some inventive ideas on how to shred leaves for compost that you can take a look at.

Hot compost

Hot composting is a method of composting that allows your pile to reach temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It requires more attention to detail, but massively reduces the time it takes to get finished compost.

The benefits of hot composting in terms of bamboo are twofold. It’s faster than cold composting, and the high temperatures kill any seeds or roots in your compost, eliminating the risk of you spreading bamboo around your yard.

Read our guide on how to heat up compost for more information, including how to hot compost in a compost tumbler.

Can you add bamboo to a worm bin?

Worms aren’t fussy creatures and will happily eat bamboo, so yes, you can put bamboo in your worm composter. As is always recommended with vermicomposting, chop the bamboo up into small pieces before feeding it to the worms to make sure you don’t overwhelm them.

A good tip is to soak the bamboo in boiling water for an hour or so before you put it into the worm bin. This softens the bamboo and makes it easier for the worms to digest.

If you have a bamboo tree in the garden, then it’s likely that you’ll have too much bamboo for one worm bin. But if you’re just trying to compost your bamboo toothbrush, then you should be fine.

Can you compost bamboo toothbrushes?

Bamboo is used to make all sorts of things these days, with one of the most popular items being a toothbrush.

Bamboo toothbrushes are a popular eco-friendly alternative to plastic ones

Bamboo toothbrushes are compostable, which makes them an eco-friendly alternative to plastic toothbrushes. However be careful, because often it’s only the handle that can be composted and not the bristles.

Most bamboo toothbrushes have bristles made from nylon or polypropylene, neither of which can are biodegradable. You’ll need to remove these bristles from the toothbrush before you compost the handle.

Can you compost bamboo furniture?

If the piece of furniture is 100% bamboo, then it’s fine to compost. But composting bamboo furniture can be complicated because it’s often glazed or painted with materials that aren’t biodegradable, and therefore, can’t be composted. 

You also need to be careful to check for any glue and parts made of non-biodegradable materials like plastic.

Can I use bamboo as mulch?

Bamboo makes an excellent mulch. Because it’s slower to breakdown, it’ll last longer than other forms of mulch. Bamboo works really well as a weed barrier. 

peppers mulched with bamboo
Peppers mulched with shredded bamboo leaves (Source: GreenJeane)

The bamboo acts as a slow-release fertilizer, releasing its nutrients back into the soil until it’s completely degraded. Bamboo mulch is particularly effective around plants such as roses, cucumber, and squash which are particularly susceptible to powdery mildew. The silica in bamboo helps to guard against this disease.

As with composting bamboo, you don’t need to worry about new shoots sprouting from your mulch as long as you’ve taken care to kill the roots beforehand.

Ways to recycle bamboo

Bamboo’s rot-resistant nature means that you might be able to re-use your bamboo before you compost it. Here are a few ideas for what to do with bamboo you don’t want to compost straight away:

  • Bamboo stalks make great stakes for plants in the garden
  • You can use old bamboo toothbrushes to make plant labels
  • Make a wind chime with the stems
  • Give it to the kids and they can use it to make a den
  • Make a compost bin (this is our favorite idea!)
  • Put up a new bamboo fence

Summary

Bamboo is a great addition to your compost pile, and if you want to speed up the process shred shred shred!

About Veronica Fletcher

Veronica has a passion for all things eco-friendly. After growing up on a farm in Ireland, she went on to study Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. Veronica has also volunteered in many sustainability roles, including conservation efforts in Bangladesh and teaching Environmental Sciences to schoolchildren in Kenya.