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What to Compost - What Not to Compost

Great news!!! There is a huge amount of items that you can compost.

Almost any plant matter is a good candidate for composting. Look for yard, garden and kitchen materials that are organic, and has not been exposed to chemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. For example, lawn grass clippings is great for composting... until it is treated.

For proper composting, use 4 parts Nitrogen (Green) materials, to 1 part Carbon (Brown) materials. More on the proper mix of greens and browns.

What To Compost
Green (Nitrogen) Compost Materials Other Compostable Materials
Brown (Carbon) Compost Materials What Not to Compost


Green Materials (Nitrogen):
  • Banana peels, orange peels

  • Clover

  • Coffee grounds (it's okay to toss in the paper filter)

  • Egg shells, they have plenty of calcium

  • Grass clippings, very high in nitrogen

  • Hay

  • Hops

  • Kitchen fruit scraps

  • Kitchen vegetable scraps

  • Leftover pizza - remove the pepperoni and sausage

  • Manures (not pet or human) in small amounts

  • Pasta and sauce (not the meatballs)

  • Seaweed(wash off salt, if taken from the ocean)

  • Stale bread

  • Weeds, before going to seed


Brown Materials (Carbon):
  • Branches and twigs, chop finely for quicker decomposition

  • Corn stalks, dried out

  • Dead, dried up weeds

  • Dead flowers

  • Fall leaves

  • Newspaper (black and white, no colored paper or colored inks)

  • Peanut shells, preferably unsalted

  • Sawdust

  • Shells from clams, lobsters, oysters, etc. Rinse and finely crush first, contains calcium.

  • Straw

  • Tree Bark

  • Wood/fireplace ash - lots of potash, alkaline pH

  • Wood chips and wood shavings

  • Wooden Chopsticks

  • Old mulch - wood, cocoa shells, pine bark

  • Plant roots

  • Peanut Shells

  • Pine cones and needles -  in small amounts, as they are acidic

  • Peanut shells - they break down slowly.

Tip: Shred materials before putting them into your composter. This creates more surface area for bacteria to do its job, and increases the rate of decomposition.


What Else to Compost:
  • Brown cardboard

  • Brown or white paper bags

  • Cardboard core of rolls of wrapping paper

  • Corks from wine bottles - will decompose very, very slowly.

  • Hair trimming, yes human hair

  • Kleenex tissues

  • Newspaper

  • Paper plates and napkins - white

  • Paper Towels, but not if used to wipe chemicals,oil, grease, etc..

  • Paper towel and toilet paper cardboard holders.

  • Stale bread, or feed the birds

  • Tea bags

  • Toothpicks

  • Vegetable oil- in small amounts

  • Wax paper- if the wax is organic

  • White, 100% cotton t-shirts (no colors, no synthetic materials)

Note: Fireplace ash does not need to be composted. It is already broken down. However, many people mix a little fireplace ash into raw or finished compost. Emphasis is on "a little".


What Not to Compost:

Knowing what "not to compost" is as important as knowing what to compost.  

  • Avoid weeds with lots of seeds

  • Bones, unless finely crushed first.

  • Coal ash

  • Colored print material/inks - They can contain toxic chemicals.

  • Colored papers

  • Cooking fats, except small amounts of vegetable oil.

  • Dairy products, except in very limited quantity

  • Dead animals

  • Diseased plants

  • Fish

  • Inorganic materials, any

  • Meats

  • Pet or human excrement, can harbor communicable diseases

  • Plastics - Do not toss in plastic bags, saran wrap etc. into the composter.

  • Poisonous plants like Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac.

  • Treated wood, contains toxins you do not want in you vegetable garden.

  • Walnut trees, any parts of this tree. It contains "jugoline", toxic to plants.

  • Wax paper - if it is petroleum based


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Make your own fertilizer.

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