How long does it take for orange peels to decompose?

  • By: composthq
  • Date: March 12, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Orange peels decompose in an average of 6 months, but it can take anywhere from 13 weeks to a couple of years.

The process can be shortened using different methods of composting, with earthworms being the most efficient as you can see in this study.

Orange peel is an organic compound, that is usually not considered a pollutant, but the truth is that we should take a few steps in minimizing the impact that it has on the environment.

Why is Orange peel a problem?

Oranges are a great source of nutrition and the fact that they taste good makes them a fruit that is consumed world-wide. This isn’t a problem, right?

Well, it has become one because many people who go out in nature believe that they can just leave the peels on the ground and nature will take its course.

However, in dry environments orange peels take years to decompose, and this means that they will stay there for a long period of time, interfering with the natural environment and wildlife.

Furthermore, only 50% of an orange is usually transformed into juice, the rest is discarded.

There are a lot of companies that sell orange juice, and the orange peel that remains behind will take a long while to decompose.

This creates a world-wide orange peel problem that needs to be addressed by everyone, even if we just consume an orange every now and then.

What do companies do with Orange Peels?

The United States and Brazil are the largest orange juice and orange peel producers. At a global level, there are 87 million tones of oranges produced every year. This translates into a lot of byproduct.

oranges piled up in a supermarket

Sadly, many companies discard the Orange peels by burning them. This leads to pollution because of the carbon dioxide that is released along with greenhouse gasses.

You probably are beginning to see how a simple industry, that is selling something that is actually healthy, can damage the planet.

Before giving up oranges forever, you should know that there are solutions, and we can all do something about it and the solution is as simple as compost.

Can you compost Orange Peels?

Yes you can, in fact you can compost all citrus peels and we will show you how.

There are two main types of compost: Vermicompost and traditional compost.

Worms are excellent at breaking down the orange peel, and they can do it in as little as 13 weeks, as you can read in the study attached at the beginning of this article.

The problem is that some worms just don’t like the taste, and they prefer to start eating it when it is highly degraded.

Who knew that worms have food preferences?

In an industrial setting, this can be adjusted, but for the home composter is easier to just stick to traditional composting.

Due to the chemicals that are sprayed on citrus, there is the common misconception that you cannot use their peels to make compost.

But, those chemicals decompose fast and most of them evaporate.

If you want to be extra safe about that, you can wash the fruit before peeling it.

Actually, in some countries there is a general recommendation to wash citrus before consuming, to avoid transferring some chemicals to your hands.  

How to compost Orange Peels?

If you already have a compost bin, you can simply throw your orange peels inside. Of course, they still take a lot to break down, so you can cut it in small pieces before doing that.

If you think that cutting the peel down is too time consuming, you can just place it into a food processor, once you have more of them gathered.

compost with orange peel and several other compostable items

If you don’t have a compost bin and are new to composting here is a fast way to get started.

  1. Decide where to compost.

You can choose a bin or just a piece of land outside, in the garden. Composting in an apartment requires a bin that suits your space needs.

  1. Mix brown and green materials

Brown materials are: cardboard, paper, dried leaves, dried grass, newspapers and milk cartons. Just make sure to rinse them.

Green materials are almost anything green like grass, salad leaves, that bag of baby spinach that you forgot hidden in the refrigerator.

You just need to chop them a bit and layer them alternatively.

  1. Add water until is moist but not wet.
  2. Turn the pile occasionally, in order to add oxygen to all the different layers.

In this pile or bin, you will add your citrus peels, and to be fair, you can throw in other peels too.

One advantage of adding orange peels to your compost is the fact that they contain d-limonene, it is the compound that gives oranges their distinct smell, and it will keep insects away from your compost pile.

The same ingredient may be the one that doesn’t appeal to compost worms.

What to do with the compost?

Compost can be used in the garden, to feed flowers and to sustain crops. Even small gardens can take advantage of its benefits.

Orange peels are highly nutritious for soil and research suggests that they are great for fertilization.

You can throw the compost in your garden, as it is, or you can mix it with dirt, by shoveling a bit.

In an apartment, it is great for flowers, or if you have more than you need, you give it away to friends, family and people who are passionate about gardening.

They will definitely appreciate the effort.

If you are looking to keep cats and insects at bay, from your garden or balcony, a great option is to chop up the orange peels and throw it in the areas you need to protect.

It will offer a great smell and you will be able to have a cup of coffee without being tormented by mosquitoes.

The level of pollution in the world, at this very moment, is at the highest point that it ever was.

And this will be true no matter when you read this article.

If you will manage your own orange peel waste, you will take one small step towards a better tomorrow.


How long does it take for orange peels to decompose? Does it impact the environment?

In this short article, you will find the answer to these questions and information about what to do with your orange peels in order to help our planet.

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