Thursday, May 8, 2014

Vitamin Pills in the Compost

Yesterday when I saw a pile of vitamin pills that Dean had dumped in the green bin, I remembered the guest blog about vitamins in the compost which I had written for Jeanette Baird's Studio last year. I thought it would be fun to post it on my blog, and it might help me decide what to do with the old vitamin B tablets nestled among the pea pods.

Vitamin B pills discarded in Greenbin

                 Jeanette titled her post A Little Green Science Experiment and this is my contribution:

Last week Jeanette emailed me that she had decided to clear out her family's outdated vitamins.  She came across a website that advised her to "place them in hot water until they dissolve, add coffee grounds or kitty litter, place them in a ziplock bag and toss them in the garbage."  So in the spirit of curiosity and adventure, she followed the directions exactly and documented her little science experiment.

Old vitamins bubbling away in hot water in Jeanette's kitchen

Sensing that there had to be a green alternative, she consulted her "Green Gal"--me. I immediately thought of composting them, so when I got done chuckling, I decided to check what the experts had to say.  Interestingly, in all my respected sources, there was zero information on the effect of vitamins added to compost.  Neither the comprehensive Rodale Book of Composting, nor The Berkeley Ecology Center, not my favorite guide, Composting for Dummies, had a word to say on the subject.

Finally, it was the Internet that provided some down to earth suggestions for vitamin disposal, and some novel ideas for their transformation - i.e. bead projects, noisemakers or a base for coloring paint.  Others discourage throwing them away at all, since it is debatable whether vitamin pills actually lose potency after their expiration date, which may be merely a gimmick used by manufacturers to sell more vitamins.

The Garden Web  has a lively forum with opinions and suggestions on discarding and composting vitamins.  The participants maintain that since compost is, after all, a mélange of organic matter made up of kitchen scraps and lawn clippings, etc., why not add unwanted vitamins into the mix.  These little capsules seem to have all the requirements for good compost material--they're small, non-toxic, water soluble and full of nutrients.  Why wouldn't they decompose with the other stuff, eventually turning into humus, which will in turn lighten, aerate and naturally fertilize the soil in the garden.

An Ecology Center employee told me that it's fine to experiment with home composting but the City of Berkeley doesn't want vitamin pills in their green waste.  That means I can't dump unwanted multivitamins in my green bin!

 So I removed the B vitamins Dean had dumped in the green bin and instead, I made a cleansing facial scrub. 

Preparing cleansing Facial Scrub in the food proocessor
Grind vitamins up in a food processor and mix them with yogurt, avocado and lemon or lime juice for a gentle exfoliating mixture you can use on your face and body. 


  1. Thank you dear ladies Jeanette and Taya for your graphically scientific treatises on vitamins in the compost. I'm sure Dean never again will commit such a faux pas.

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