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Because microorganisms can metabolize paper, yard waste, food waste, and wood, this waste is classified as biodegradable. Disposable diapers and their contents are also largely biodegradable, as are cotton and wool textiles.

Some biodegradable waste materials are more readily metabolized than others. The most readily metabolized materials are those with high nitrogen and moisture content: food waste, grass clippings, and other green, pulpy yard wastes. These wastes are putrescible and have high bioavailability. Leaf waste generally has intermediate bioavailability. Wood, cotton and wool, although biodegradable, have relatively low bioavailability and are considered noncompostable within the context of solid waste management.

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