Does Compost Expire? Ask These 4 Questions Instead!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
Composting food waste

You might think that since compost is made up of materials that literally rot, it could expire. But, it doesn’t go bad so much as it loses quality and structure. Rather than asking about an expiration date, it can be more helpful to ask the following questions.

Is it ok to store compost in bags for long periods?

Most compost piles that you see are not sealed away because the material must be formed out in the open. Once it is placed into bags, it can start to stink, but you can still use it. When you do, the odors can dissipate and won’t cause too much of a problem.

Another thing to keep in mind is that bagged compost will lose volume and structure. This doesn’t actually cause a problem other than losing a little of your investment. The bigger issue happens when the mixture loses nutrients through a process called leaching. You will see a dark liquid at the bottom of the bag when this occurs. Don’t throw it away! It is a highly-nutritious byproduct that you can use to boost plant growth.

If smell indicates a problem, why does my windrow smell bad?

Even if your compost piles are outdoors and get the right about of air, they can still smell bad. As said above, this doesn’t mean that the mixture is going bad. But, it does indicate that something in the process isn’t going right.

  • The compost smells like garbage: This means that the pile is no longer in an aerobic state. You can fix this by creating a new bottom layer and turning the compost onto it.
  • The pile smells like ammonia: This odor indicates that nitrogen levels are too high. Simply add more brown materials to the mixture as you are turning it.

Is compost bad if it has bugs?

Bugs do not indicate that your compost has expired. They can actually mean that the mixture is healthy. Common bugs that you may see include ants, termites, and fruit flies. If you see flies, don’t throw out your compost. They DO show that the mixture is in an anaerobic condition, but you can fix that by restoring the aerobic conditions.

Will storing it away make my compost last longer?

If you produce and sell large quantities of compost fast, you likely won’t need to worry about this. But, for those who don’t, it can be a common issue. Here are some good storage tips for large-scale and small-scale composters.

  • Don’t lock away your product in an air-tight shed or bag. Instead, keep it in large piles, covering it only to protect it from harsh weather. If your large-scale composting operation doesn’t do this, consider making a change.
  • Having proper long-term storage is important for all composters. This usually looks like walled storage with some form of coverage that still allows for proper airflow.

Keeping your compost stored the right way will help keep quality and nutrition value high. This is better for your customers if you sell the product or for crops if you make your own.

Looking for commercial composting equipment?

Using the right tools and equipment will help you create the highest-quality commercial compost. At SCARAB International, we build custom compost turners for small, medium, and largescale operations. Check out our turners For Sale and our Leasing Options to see what we have available. You can also reach us at (806) 883-7621 to learn more about our Products and Services.