Can You Compost Yogurt? What You Need To Know

Composting has gained immense popularity in recent years as people become more conscious of the environment and the need to reduce food waste. Composting is an eco-friendly way to recycle organic materials and reduce the burden on landfills. However, not all organic materials are suitable for composting, and there is often confusion about what can and cannot be composted. One common question that arises is “can you compost yogurt?”. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the topic of composting yogurt and provide insights into how to handle dairy waste in your composting process.

Wooden compost bin outside

Understanding Composting Basics

Before delving into the specifics of composting yogurt, it’s essential to understand the basics of composting. Composting is a natural process where organic materials decompose into nutrient-rich fertilizer through the action of microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi. To create a successful compost pile or bin, you need a balanced mixture of “green” materials, such as kitchen waste and yard clippings, and “brown” materials, such as dry leaves and coffee grounds.

Green Materials

Green materials are rich in nitrogen and provide a source of protein for microorganisms. These materials include:

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves
  • Fruit peels
  • Food scraps

Brown Materials

Brown materials are rich in carbon and provide energy for microorganisms. They include:

  • Dry leaves
  • Wood shavings
  • Charcoal ash
  • Paper products
  • Cardboard
  • Straw

Balancing these materials in your compost pile is crucial for proper decomposition and preventing foul odors. Now, let’s address the question of whether yogurt can be included in your compost.

Can You Compost Yogurt?

Yogurt is a dairy product with a high fat content, and it’s a common item in many households. However, when it comes to composting, yogurt presents some challenges due to its dairy content. Here are the key factors to consider:

1. High Fat Content

Yogurt contains a significant amount of fat, which can be slow to break down in a compost pile. High-fat content materials, like dairy products, can lead to odor problems and attract pests if not managed properly.

2. Animal Products

Dairy products, including yogurt, come from animal sources. Composting animal products can introduce pathogens and foul odors into your compost pile, which is not ideal.

3. Limited Quantities

In small amounts, yogurt may not pose a significant problem in a well-balanced compost pile. However, large amounts of dairy waste, such as multiple containers of yogurt, can disrupt the composting process.

Given these considerations, it’s best to exercise caution when adding yogurt to your compost pile. Let’s explore some strategies for composting yogurt effectively.

Best Practices for Composting Yogurt

If you’re determined to compost yogurt, it’s essential to do so in a way that minimizes potential issues. Here are some best practices to follow:

1. Use in Moderation

The key to composting yogurt successfully is moderation. Small amounts of yogurt can be added to your compost pile without causing significant problems. However, avoid dumping large quantities or whole containers of yogurt into your compost bin.

2. Break It Down

Before adding yogurt to your compost, break it down into smaller pieces. This will help it decompose more quickly and prevent it from forming clumps that can create anaerobic conditions in your compost pile.

3. Mix with Dry Materials

To balance the high moisture content of yogurt, mix it with dry fibrous materials like dry leaves or cardboard. This will help maintain the right moisture levels in your compost pile and prevent it from becoming too wet.

4. Consider Hot Composting

Hot composting is a method that involves maintaining higher temperatures in your compost pile (around 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit). This method can help break down dairy waste more efficiently and kill potential pathogens. However, it requires careful management and monitoring of temperature.

5. Bury It

Another option is to bury small quantities of yogurt in your compost heap rather than adding them to the surface. Burying helps to prevent pests and foul odors from developing.

6. Monitor for Odor

Regularly monitor your compost pile for any foul odors. If you detect rancid odors or other signs of trouble, adjust your compost mix by adding more brown materials and turning the pile to increase aeration.

The Benefits of Composting Yogurt

While composting yogurt may require extra attention and moderation, there are some potential benefits to doing so:

1. Nutrient-Rich Fertilizer

When yogurt eventually breaks down in your compost pile, it contributes valuable nutrients to your finished compost. These nutrients can benefit your garden and help your plants grow.

2. Reduce Food Waste

Composting yogurt is a great way to reduce food waste in your household. Instead of throwing it away, you’re diverting it from the landfill and turning it into a useful resource for your garden.

3. Educate and Inspire

If you’re involved in school gardens or community projects, composting yogurt can be a valuable educational tool. It can help teach others about responsible waste management and the natural process of decomposition.

Other Dairy Waste Considerations

Yogurt is not the only dairy product you may encounter in your kitchen waste. Sour cream, milk, and cheese are also common dairy items. Here are some additional considerations for composting these dairy products:

1. Sour Cream

Sour cream shares similar characteristics with yogurt due to its dairy content. Follow the same guidelines as you would for yogurt, using moderation and breaking it down into smaller pieces.

2. Milk

Milk is mostly water, and in small quantities, it can be added to your compost without major issues. However, avoid adding large quantities of milk, as the high moisture content can disrupt the composting process.

3. Cheese

Cheese can be challenging to compost due to its high-fat content. Like yogurt and sour cream, use moderation when composting cheese, and break it into smaller pieces.

Bokashi Composting and Yoghurt

If you’re concerned about composting dairy waste in your traditional home compost pile, you might consider alternative methods such as bokashi composting. Bokashi composting is an anaerobic fermentation process that can handle a wider range of food scraps, including dairy products, meat scraps, and pet waste.

How Bokashi Composting Works

In bokashi composting, you use a specialized bokashi bin and a mix of beneficial bacteria to ferment organic matter, including dairy waste. This process takes about two weeks, after which you can bury the fermented material in your garden or yard. It’s a good option if you have limited space or want to compost dairy waste in larger quantities.

How to Reduce the Risk of Pathogens in your Compost

One of the major concerns with composting dairy waste, including yogurt, is the potential introduction of pathogens into your compost pile. Pathogens can survive the decomposition process and may pose a risk when using finished compost in edible gardens. To address this concern:

1. Hot Composting

As mentioned earlier, hot composting can help kill pathogens and reduce the risk of human disease transmission through compost. If you’re composting dairy waste, consider using the hot composting method to ensure that your compost reaches the necessary temperatures to kill harmful microorganisms.

2. Finished Compost Testing

Before using your finished compost in edible gardens, consider having it tested for pathogens and heavy metals. This extra step can provide peace of mind and ensure the safety of your crops.

What not to Compost

While yogurt and other dairy products can be composted in limited quantities with the right precautions, some items should never be added to your compost pile. These include:

  • Synthetic fibers or materials (e.g., plastic bags)
  • Meat scraps, especially in large amounts
  • Pet waste, including cat poop
  • Synthetic fertilizers or chemicals
  • Garbage disposal remains
  • Any materials contaminated with human or animal disease


In conclusion, composting yogurt and other dairy waste is possible, but it requires careful management and moderation. The high fat content and potential for pathogen introduction make dairy waste a bit more challenging to compost compared to other organic materials. However, with the right techniques, such as moderation, breaking down dairy waste, and using complementary dry materials, you can successfully integrate yogurt into your composting process.

Remember that composting is a natural process, and when done correctly, it can transform food scraps and organic waste into valuable resources for your garden. Whether you choose to compost yogurt or not, the key is to reduce food waste and contribute to a more sustainable future by responsibly managing organic materials.

By following the guidelines mentioned in this comprehensive guide, you can make informed decisions about composting yogurt and other dairy products, ensuring that your compost pile remains healthy, productive, and beneficial for your garden and the environment. So, the next time you’re about to toss that yogurt cup into the trash, consider giving it a second life in your compost bin – it’s a small step towards a greener, more sustainable world.

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