can you compost bamboo

Can You Compost Bamboo? — Don’t Get Rid of Those Bamboos Yet!

Bamboo is one of the most sustainable wood alternatives currently on the market. It’s also popular in many places as an ornamental garden plant.

kids playing with bamboo sticks
Kids playing with bamboo sticks

I myself have a few lucky bamboo plants as they are pretty hard to kill! My kids love to play with bamboo sticks – they make great structures using them!

Of course, all good things must come to an end. And when they do, we have to decide the best way to dispose of them. 

And as with all things that are destined to waste, I want to know if it can be composted!

Yes, you can compost bamboo. But it could take several months for this material to completely break down.

bamboo tree
Good news: bamboo is compostable

Here’s why you should have patience and compost old bamboo anyway (and how to speed up the process as much as possible!):

Is Bamboo Compostable?

Yes! Bamboo is a plant and all plants are composed of organic matter.

With that said, bamboo takes much longer to compost than most other plants. 

The reason for bamboo’s slow decomposition is a compound called ‘lignin’. Lignin is similar to cellulose and is what makes bamboo tough and wood-like.

Unlike many compostable materials, lignin can not be decomposed by bacteria alone. Fungi must break down this compound before it becomes accessible to the bacteria.

Since lignin requires a two-step process to decompose, composted bamboo can take up to 6 months to noticeably break down.

What Is The Best Method For Composting Bamboo?

man cutting bamboo
Breaking bamboo up will fast track the compost process

The best way to compost any slow-to-decompose material is by breaking it into small pieces before adding it to your heap. 

Shredding bamboo before incorporating it into your compost will make it easier for the fungi and bacteria to do their jobs.

Bamboo responds well to high temperatures. The hotter you can get your compost pile, the faster the bamboo will decompose.

Is Bamboo Compost “Green” Or “Brown”?

Composted materials are generally split into two categories: Green and brown. 

Whether or not bamboo is green or brown matter depends on how recently the plant was alive. 

Newly cut bamboo (that which is still green) can be grouped with other nitrogen-rich materials like lawn clippings and salad greens. Dry bamboo should be treated like carbon-rich brown matter, such as dead twigs or fallen leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you compost bamboo leaves?
bamboo leaves
Bamboo leaves compost faster than stalks

Yes, bamboo leaves can be safely composted. Fresh bamboo leaves are considered to be green matter. Old, dry leaves are considered to be brown matter.

While bamboo leaves typically compost faster than bamboo stalks, the process is still slower than most other plant matter. Bamboo leaves compost fastest when shredded into small pieces.

Can you compost items made from bamboo wood?

Yes, as long as the item is made from 100% bamboo. 

Bamboo chopsticks, toothbrush handles, skewers, and other household goods can all be composted just like raw bamboo. Just be sure to remove any materials that are not 100% bamboo before composting (such as the bristles of a bamboo toothbrush).

Will bamboo sprout in compost?

Bamboo is an aggressive grower — many regions consider bamboo to be invasive. So having a bamboo patch appear in your compost pile is far from ideal.

While bamboo could technically sprout in your compost pile, it’s very unlikely. Bamboo will only grow from root tissue. Composted stalks and leaves can’t produce new plants. 

To be safe, let bamboo roots dry out and die before adding them to your compost heap.