Dear Umbra,

OK, the kitty-litter thing pushed me over the edge. I know you are sick of writing about gross, yucky things, but I had to ask: if kitty litter is compostable, what about biodegradable maxipads and tampons? One of the leading natural feminine-care brands touts their stuff as being biodegradable and compostable. Can this actually be possible?

Liz Schlegel
Waterbury, Vt.

Dearest Liz,

I’m not sick of writing about gross, yucky things. I just got very sick of reading enthusiastic letters about picking up animal waste. I love animals (baby sheep are especially cute), but I don’t have any pets of my own right now, so I don’t need to think about pet poop — and I want to retain that privilege.

Let the gross-out smackdown begin.

Photo: iStockphoto.

But on to menstruation! What’s not to love about the discarded uterine lining? Pair that with composting, and we’ve got a one-two combination sure to be a hit at every dinner party from Seattle to Waterbury. If people say, “What’s new?” you say, “I’m experimentally composting endometria.” They’ll have no idea what you are talking about.

The basic rule of composting is that all organic matter can be composted — anything once alive, you might say (although nitpickers might point out that plastic was once alive, in which case, we’ll say anything that was living within the last century). Animal products, such as the uterine lining or humanure, can be a bit trickier than, say, cauliflower, because they can contain pathogens and attract nasty “decomposers.” I hope you do not have a story like mine, about the time I left the chicken innards on a high shelf intending to give them to Stacy’s cats later, and then forgot about them for two weeks until they were found writhing with maggots. (See, I will dominate in the gross-out smackdown.) Meat-dwelling maggots are revolting, and animals that will root through flesh-odored compost are usually unwanted. Hence compost educators and advice columnists issue sweeping “No Meat” orations, when in fact, meat is fine. It just requires effort.

I’m going into the meat thing here because our bodily effluent is basically meat, right? If I were going to compost all-cotton tampons and pads, or other types of meat, I would use a worm bin, or “wormery.” Red wiggler worms and their attendant critters are excellent and rapid decomposers. Worm bins can destroy pathogens and are odor-free if properly managed. Today’s worm-bin instructional link comes from a company in Ireland that composts all-cotton nappies. I would give it a go, and if you get the hang of it, you’ll have a place for your meat scraps as well.

That is, I would give it a go except I use the Keeper. Have you tried it?

Disgustingly,
Umbra