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Can I Compost Fabric offcuts, scraps & thread ends?

(From the Household waste category | 1 comment - join the conversation)

sewing-offcutsYou might be able to compost your fabric scraps & the ends of threads and whatnot – it depends on what they’re made from.

Basically, as you might have guessed, natural fibres will compost down but synthetic ones will not.

Pure wool, cotton, silk, linen, hemp and ramie (or a blend of any of those) will compost down – but they will all take a while (their durability is one of the reasons why we make clothes from them rather than, say, paper). Thread/yarn ends will mix into the general compost of a heap but larger pieces of fabric (or heavier ones like wool felt) will not – tear up them up into smaller pieces to help them rot down faster.

100% synthetic fibres – such as acrylic yarn, polyester “cotton” sewing thread, nylon or microfibre fabrics, fusible interfacing or elastic – shouldn’t be added to the compost heap as they won’t break down.

Blends of natural and synthetic fibres are more of a judgment call, depending on the mix. If it’s more synthetic than natural, then almost definitely leave it out but if it’s only includes a little synthetic material, then you might consider adding it. The synthetic part might break up but will still not break down – you might be left with either lots of little tiny pieces of it throughout the compost or some longer strings. If you want to keep your compost heap free from synthetics then obviously leave them out, but if you’re not so fussy, you can add them.

It’s easy (and tidy!) to collect scraps as you go along – reuse a paper bag (or a little cardboard box from some food packaging) as a bin for your ends and offcuts as you’re going along then you can simply throw the whole thing in your compost bin when you’re done. You can also use your scraps for stuffing or padding small items.

Natural fibres are a “brown” in composting termsmake sure you add them alongside fresher, wetter items (like veg peelings or garden cuttings) to ensure they break down in a timely manner and your heap stays balanced.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi, this is a long shot enquiry. I’m considering the idea of making a small tent to take to festivals out of waterproof compostable materials. I was wondering if you could advise me on what fabrics and materials would be suitable for this project, and apart from the certifications and period rate of decomposure, what else would I need to consider?

    Kind regards


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