Researchers May Have Just Discovered A New Composting Hack – Cooking Oil!

Kuroda, K., Tanaka, A., Furuhashi, K., & Fukuju, N. (2023). Evaluation of ammonia emission reducing effect by adding waste cooking oil in pilot-scale composting of dairy cattle manure. Animal Bioscience. doi: 10.5713/ab.23.0027. PMID: 37170507.

A Japanese study suggests that adding cooking oil to compost could be beneficial. This idea stems from previous research showing that cooking oil in cattle manure compost reduces ammonia emissions. However, this was tested under laboratory conditions without aeration. The new study aimed to replicate these results in real-world scenarios, using aerated compost piles.

The study compared two piles: one with manure and cooking oil, and a control pile with just manure. Findings revealed that the pile with cooking oil had lower ammonia emissions, retained more nitrogen (21.5% less loss), and reached higher temperatures. Though it lost more moisture, likely due to higher heat, the oil-enhanced pile didn’t break down organic material significantly faster.

The research primarily focused on reducing harmful emissions, but it also revealed that cooking oil could increase nitrogen content in compost, enhancing its quality for soil. The study used waste cooking oil from food factories and restaurants, including various vegetable oils like canola, corn, and soybean.

While adding cooking oil to compost is often discouraged due to pest attraction, the study suggests it might be beneficial for hot compost heaps. For effective results, the compost should reach USDA standards (over 55°C for 3 days). Home composters can try adding cooking oil under the top layer to minimize odors or use sawdust or straw as a biofilter. Used cooking oil is acceptable, provided it’s free from substances other than fine cooking residues. This approach could be a useful composting hack, especially in hot composting scenarios.

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