Squirrels, Squirrels, everywhere!

Squirrel eating compost bucket

Squirrels are ingenious city dwellers that consider our homes as public canteen, and what better than a stash of food “served” in a bright orange bucket! Many of you have been reporting squirrel damage to your compost buckets and we’ve been delivering Squirrel Stopper Lids left and right.  (If you don’t have one, let us know and we can give you one on your next pickup.) In addition to the Squirrel Stopper Lids, Collective Resource, Inc. would like to pass on this helpful advice below to dissuade these little buggers.

How do the squirrels get into the compost?

protect your compost bucket from squirrels
Collective Resource Compost bucket damaged by squirrels

They simply chew though the plastic! These smart little things, bite by bite chew their way into the pot of “gold” leaving the surrounding area littered with orange shreds. Even if you don’t mind sharing your food scraps with the local squirrel population, there are several issues.

  • the compost becomes accessible to other critters
  • more oxygen accelerates the rotting, causing bad odors
  • the shredded bucket goes to trash as it cannot be reused, which is indeed the worst part of it all!
  • it’s not good for the squirrels, the plastic, not the compost. They spit most of it out, but small particles, inevitably, stay in their tiny bodies.

Read on to find out hot to prevent the above from happening.

Keep Compost Bucket Indoors

The simplest thing you can do is keep your bucket inside. Whether it’s inside your back door or the garage, this is one of the most effective ways to keep the squirrels at bay. If you’re concerned about the smell, keep dairy, fish, and meat scraps in a container in the freezer or refrigerator and then place them in your bucket right before you put it out for pickup.

Handle Your Compost Bucket With Clean Hands

If you need to keep your bucket outside, always make sure your hands are clean when you handle it. Squirrels will be attracted by the smell of the food residue on the outside of your bucket and will start chewing to find out what’s inside. Also, keep vigilant and clean up any spills down the side and around the rim of your bucket. Place newspaper under your bucket when tipping items into it so that any spills or splatters will happen on the newspaper and not the area around your bucket. Immediately after you’re finished, place the newspaper in your bucket.

Create a Physical Barrier

Other options for keeping your bucket outside are to purchase Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray or a Behrens 10-gallon Stainless Steel Locking Lid Can. Place the plastic bucket we provide inside of the metal one and give us a heads-up so we can make a note to your service driver to look for the metal can on pickup days. Spray Bitter Apple on the outside of your bucket. As its name implies, the bitter taste will have the area squirrels making lemon-faces and scurrying away.

These measures will help us keep the squirrel at bay, and ensure an orange-shred-free environment! Thank you for this and all your efforts to create a sustainable relationship with our environment.

Battling smells, flies, and other critters

Squirrel attack is one of the potential issues you might experience while composting in an urban environment. If you are having issues with bad smell, or want to be proactive about it, consider lining your freshly received bucket with newspaper or some craft paper! Read more about compost odor prevention here. Also, your kitchen set up for compost collection at home is a key component of preventing bad composting experience.

If you don’t yet compost at your Chicago area home, now is a great time to start!

Cute squirrel photo by Chloe Blanchfield, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Author Details

As CRI’s owner, Erlene wears many hats. Though she oversees operations, equipment, crews, bookkeeping, and marketing, she says she enjoys the education piece the most. “When we started this in 2010, not too many people had been exposed to composting. They didn’t really know what it was. I have had a lot of conversations about what composting is and why it’s important. It’s important to reduce landfill use because food waste in landfills creates methane and CO2. It’s important for air and water quality. People call us and want this information.”

Erlene finds herself educating in many different settings. “Anytime I’m talking about the company, I’m educating about composting. It happens casually, socially, and at zero-waste events.” As a result of her efforts, Erlene was awarded the Walter Lucansky Environmental Stewardship Award.