What Is Allowed For Composting


Is it easy to learn what can be composted?

Why should you learn about what to put in compost piles before you get started?

Does it matter, or can you just start composting without any research?

It’s not too hard to learn about which household items you can compost, but it may take a little time to get the hang of composting in an effective way. Reading up on as much as you can beforehand may make a positive impact on the way you approach your composting and in the amount of time it takes to get started.

Learning what to compost can make a big difference in the success of your compost pile. For example, if you try to compost something that cannot break down quickly enough, you may end up causing the pile to take too long to compost, and losing your chance to use it.

Or you might try to compost something that accidentally kills the good bacteria in the pile instead of allowing them to flourish. If this happens, you’ll likely need to start over again as well.

When you understand which items you can and can’t put in the compost pile, you’ll be well on your way to successful compost in no time. And when you have a good compost pile, you’ll be able to save money, help the environment, and make your life more convenient by using compost on your garden and yard plants, too.

So what can you compost? Read on to learn more!

What Can Be Compost?

Take a look at this list to help you get started understanding what you can easily compost. Just remember that you may not want to begin with all of these items, since some of them are more difficult to compost successfully than others. Some items may draw pests to your compost pile, while others may make a strong and unpleasant smell. Consider all of this as you check out our list below:

Option #1: Leaves from your trees.

Pretty much any type of tree leaf can be composted without having to worry about whether or not it will negatively impact the pile. In fact, tree leaves are green matter that is crucial to the success of the compost pile.

Option #2: Banana peels.

This is a common household waste item that does well in a composting pile and breaks down fast.

Option #3: Avocado rinds.

Some people believe the rind from an avocado is too tough and shouldn’t be composted, but in actuality, these rinds can be easily added to the pile and used to help break down the compost efficiently.

Option #4: Eggshells.

This is another one that some people are often unsure about. Eggshells may take somewhat longer than fruit or vegetable waste to break down, but they’re also beneficial in a compost pile.

Option #5: Grass clippings.

Just like tree leaves, grass clippings provide green materials that can help your compost pile get started and stay functioning perfectly throughout its existence.

Option #6: Cardboard, in some instances.

You should not compost cardboard that has been treated with a waxy coating, such as sealant on cereal boxes. However, natural cardboard can be added to the pile as long as you cut or break it into smaller pieces first. This will allow it to break down more quickly.

Option #7: Newspaper with black and white print only.

Most newspapers that have other colors of ink printed on them, like sale papers and inserts, cannot be composted because of the chemicals present in the ink dyes. However, some can; you may want to check with the newspaper itself to find out for sure.

Option #8: Coffee grounds.

These are very safe to add to the compost pile and are, in fact, a popular first item to compost for beginners.

Option #9: Sawdust and wood shavings.

These options can be thrown on the compost pile and make a positive difference quickly in the success of the composting pile. They help break down the compost and ensure the soil remains high in quality, too.

Option #10: Printer paper. 

As long as it isn’t printed with colored inks, printer paper can be composted with no trouble.

Option #11: Animal feces from vegetarian-only animals.

Animals that only eat a vegetarian diet have feces that doesn’t cause a strong smell when it’s breaking down. For this reason, it can be added to the compost pile with no concern.

Option #12: Sometimes, feces from non-vegetarian animals or even from humans.

Animals that eat meat—including humans—have feces that smell strongly when breaking down. If you have a way to combat the smell issue, you can use these feces on your compost pile. Make sure the compost heats hot enough to kill dangerous bacteria present in these feces.

Option #13: Sometimes, color newspapers or magazines.

Some magazines and newspapers are printed in color ink that is safe to be composted.

Option #14: Weeds that are not gone to seed.

When a weed has gone to seed, it may cause weeds in your compost too. However, before then, you can throw weeds on the pile with no trouble.

Option #15: Trimmings from all houseplants.

Any houseplant can contribute its trimmings to the compost pile. As long as it isn’t a weed or something that may become invasive quickly, it should cause no problems.

Option #16: Dead plants of any kind that didn’t die from a disease.

If your plant died from a disease, don’t risk spreading it to your other plants through compost; just throw it out or recycle it. However, otherwise, add it to the pile too.

Option #17: Paper towels that are not greasy or covered in chemicals.

If a paper towel has grease of any kind (including food grease, like butter) on it, or if it has been used with chemical cleaners or other similar items, don’t compost it. Otherwise, go for it!

Option #18: Cooked rice or pasta without any toppings or sauces.

Toppings and sauces that are completely vegetarian might be able to be added as well, but may attract pests. Hide pasta and rice deep within the pile to prevent rodents from coming after it.

Option #19: Wood chips.

Like wood shavings, wood chips do a lot to promote healthy composting. They can improve the soil quality as well.

Option #20: Small branches and twigs that have been chopped up.

In order to compost twigs, you should cut or chop them into smaller pieces before putting them on the pile. This will facilitate faster breakdowns.

Option #21: Pine needles and pine cones.

Pine cones that are very large may need to be broken before adding them to the pile; smaller ones should be fine as-is. Pine needles can go on the pile if you strip them from the branches first.

Option #22: Bedding from rodents and other pets that live in cages.

Even if feces or urine is present on the bedding, it can be composted.

Option #23: Dried spices or herbs.

Just remove them from their containers first and you can add them to your compost right away.

Option #24: Leftover holiday plants, as long as you trim them first.

You may not be able to compost your whole Christmas tree, but wreaths, trees, and other holiday decor can be easily composted when you break them down into smaller pieces beforehand.

Option #25: Corn cobs and husks.

Throw both of these on as-is or cut them up for quicker composting.

Option #26: Sometimes, bread that has gone stale.

You should bury bread in the middle of a compost pile and consider securing the compost within some type of container to prevent pests. Otherwise, compost bread as often as you like!

Option #27: Sometimes, meat or bone.

The rules here are the same as for bread; keep pests away (and odors locked in) for best results, and bury the meat or bone in the middle of the pile. Turn often to keep the compost hot enough to kill harmful bacteria on meat.


So what do you think? Did you learn a little something? If you find yourself asking “what can I compost?” even after reading the list above, you may need to brush up on the methods of identifying compostable materials. Here are a couple of pieces of advice for beginners to composting:

  • Determine whether or not the item is organic or manmade. If it is organic, it’s almost always going to be compostable, with some rare exceptions.
  • If the item is manmade, look for a symbol or any information on the packaging to let you know it is compostable. Some packaging will tell you, but some won’t, and you might have to do your own research to figure this out for yourself.
  • If an item is organic, consider how it will smell when it breaks down. If it’s going to smell terrible and you don’t have a way to lock that smell into the composting pile, consider skipping it—for your sake as well as your neighbors’! You should also consider how to manage pests when composting organic materials, with or without a strong smell.

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn more about composting and what you can compost, it’s time to get out there and start putting together your compost pile right away!

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