What to Put in a Compost Bin – and What Not To!

Knowing what you can put in your compost bin and what you shouldn’t is the key to successful composting. However, it can be confusing since some things decompose very quickly, some take time and others don’t at all. Here’s a list of things that are safe to throw in your compost and things you should avoid altogether.

a container full of compostable things

 Nitrogenous Items – These Decompose Quickly

  1. Vegetable and fruit scraps
  2. Coffee grounds
  3. Loose leaf tea
  4. Spoiled rice/soy
  5. Spoiled milk – any type of milk
  6. Cooked rice or pasta
  7. Spoiled tomato paste or pasta sauce (or any type of sauce)
  8. Tofu, tempeh
  9. Nori, kelp, seqweed
  10. Spices or herbs
  11. Old candy (crush or chop these first)
  12. Seeds – sunflower, pumpkin or any other type of seed. Chop them up first so they won’t sprout.
  13. Dairy products
  14. Old jelly, preserves or jam
  15. Old juices
  16. Flowers
  17. Leaves
  18. Grass clippings
  19. Paper table cloths
  20. Crepe papers
  21. Jack O’lanters – smash these
  22. Droppings from rabbits, gerbils, hamsters
  23. Cow, goat or horse manure
  24. Pellets usually fed to pets like rabbits
  25. Old wine

Carbonaceous Items – These Take Longer to Decompose

  1. Egg shells – crush these first
  2. Coffee filters
  3. Paper napkins, paper towels
  4. Unwaxed cardboard eg. Pizza boxes – rip or cut these up first
  5. Paper bags/ muffin cups
  6. Old bread, tortillas, pitas
  7. Potato chips
  8. Food crumbs
  9. Biscuits
  10. Nut shells
  11. Popcorn kernels – the ones that don’t pop
  12. Pizza crusts
  13. Peanut shells
  14. Wine corks – chop these up first to speed things along
  15. Toothpicks
  16. Tissues
  17. Hair
  18. Toilet paper rolls – shred these first
  19. Old natural loofahs – cut them up first
  20. Nail clippings
  21. Cotton balls
  22. Dryer lint
  23. Cotton fabric scraps – shred these first
  24. Wool clothing – shredded
  25. Cotton towels – shredded
  26. Old cotton sheets – shredded
  27. Paper documents – ripped or shredded
  28. Envelopes
  29. Sticky notes
  30. Pencil shavings
  31. Calendars – not the glossy ones
  32. Business cards – also not the glossy ones
  33. Dustpan contents – remove inorganic things like toys or pennies
  34. Newspapers
  35. Old receipts
  36. Junk mail – remove any glossy, coated paper
  37. Burlap sacks
  38. Wood ash
  39. Potpourri
  40. Christmas trees – chop first
  41. Twigs
  42. Wood chips
  43. Old string made of natural fabrics
  44. Fruit pits – mango pits, avocado pits etc…
  45. Pine needles
  46. Pine cones
  47. Egg cartons
  48. Holiday wreaths
  49. Dry animal food
  50. Fish pellets
  51. Alalfa hay
  52. Feathers
  53. Saw dust
  54. Nut shells
  55. Used clothes

What NOT to Put In Your Compost Pile

coal and walnut shells
  1. Cat or dog poop – these can contain parasites
  2. Walnut shells – these are toxic to plants
  3. Diseased/insect-ridden plants – these can spread insects and diseases
  4. Any plants or yard trimmings that contain pesticides – these can kill the good bacteria in your compost
  5. Coal or charcoal ash – these can contain substances that are harmful to the plants

The Take Away

When you’re composting, remember to balance between the green waste (like fruits, vegetables, weeds and grass clippings) and the brown waste (fur, sticks, dried leaves, cardboard, cloth and paper). If there’s too much nitrogen in your pile, it’s going to be stinky and slimy. On the other hand if there’s too much carbon means your pile will be really slow to decompose and it’ll also be very dry.

Well now that you know what you can put in your compost bin, it’s time to get started. Have fun!