Welcome to the composting club!
We’re so excited to have you here. Composting has been one of the most life-changing sustainability practices we’ve adopted.
Maybe you’re getting into apartment composting with one of the many convenient indoor compost bins now available for us urban decayers. Or maybe you’re going old school with a simple compost pile or bin in the backyard.
Either way, you’re on your way to making one of the biggest positive impacts on the environment. So congrats!
WHAT CAN YOU COMPOST AT HOME?
Compostable materials (which, by the way, are not to be confused with biodegradable materials) fall into one of two categories. Both are necessary for a successful pile and perform best when alternated in thin layers.
- Green: Nitrogen rich materials like live plant material and fruit/vegetable waste. These provide moisture to your pile and break down quickly.
- Brown: Carbon rich materials like dead plant matter and wood-based waste. These provide aeration and structure, but break down slowly so work best when chopped into small pieces.
We’ve broken down this list into sections based on where you might find them in your home. Then we’ve broken down these sections again into brown and green matter, so you know you’re getting the right balance.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of the zero waste products we recommend at Sustainable Jungle are also compostable or packaged in compostable materials.
Also, while this list is designed for those wanting to compost at home, industrial compost facilities can compost a lot more (e.g. dairy and meat & bones). More and more council/municpalities are starting to offer food waste / composting collection services so check out what’s available in your neighbourhood for things not on this list!
For a detailed list of all the things you can’t compost at home, read our article on What is Not Compostable
Now let’s get rot down to it!
QUICK LINKS FOR WHAT IS COMPOSTABLE AT HOME
WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST FROM THE KITCHEN
Kitchen Composting Greens
- Fruit and vegetable scraps: To mention just a few, think potato skins (though these can also be eaten!), melon rinds, broccoli stalks, apple cores, soggy lettuce, seaweed and moldy peppers.
- Corn husks and chopped up cobs
- Non-acidic fruit peels: Banana peels, avocado skins, and melon rinds are okay, but avoid grapefruit, orange, lime and lemon peels. They make your compost overly acidic and can kill your worms.
- Fruit pits and seeds: Chopped up to prevent sprouting in your compost, unles you want that 🙂
- Spoiled plant milk: Including almond, rice, soy, and coconut milk, but NOT dairy milk.
- Moldy cheese: Only in very small amounts and buried in your pile.
- Beans and other legumes
- Herbs and spices
- Tea leaves and natural paper teabags (be careful though, most have plastic in them) – best to go loose leaf
- Coffee grounds
- Liquid filling from canned fruits and vegetables
- Expired jams and preserves
- Moldy pasta sauce and tomato paste
- Soured beer, liquor, and wine. Even soil has a palette!
- Old condiments: Things like ketchup, relish, soy sauce, mustard, and the like are okay, but only in small amounts as they can be acidic.
Kitchen Composting Browns
- Stale bread, tortilla shells, and leftover pizza crust: Buried in the pile so they don’t attract pests.
- Stale cereal, oatmeal, and granola bars
- Stale crackers, cookies, pretzels, and chips
- Dry rice and pasta: Cooked rice and pasta is also compostable, but try not to overdo it as the excess moisture may make odor management tricky. Cooked rice also breeds bad bacteria.
- Grape and other fruit stems
- Nut shells (except for walnut): Be warned: these will take longer than other items here to break down.
- Popcorn, unpopped or burnt
- Egg shells: Crushed up otherwise they can take a while to decompose.
- Cardboard egg cartons
- Coffee filters: unbleached.
- Real wine corks: Chopped into relatively small bits.
- Brown paper shopping bags
- Paper lunch sacks
- Cardboard food boxes
- Used paper napkins
- Non-grease-soaked paper towels: Don’t forget to shred the cardboard center!
- Corrugated cardboard pizza boxes
- Parchment paper
- Cupcake and muffin paper wrappers, without waxy linings
- Non-coated paper plates
- Paper cups without a waxy lining (no Dixie Cups, for instance)
- Wooden chopsticks and bamboo skewers
WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST FROM THE GARDEN OR LAWN
Garden / Lawn Composting Greens
- Green leaves
- Grass trimmings: While an excellent compost ingredient it can become compact forming a dense air tight clump, making the breakdown process anaerobic. Make sure to either thoroughly mix in grass trimming with the rest of your compost material or spread it thinly on top.
- Sod chunks
- Deadheaded flowers
- Weeds: Only those that haven’t yet gone to seed.
- Spent bulbs
- Thinned out, weaker plants
Lawn / Garden Composting Browns
- Non-coated, paper seed pouches
- Dead leaves
- Dead plants, including their roots and soil: Just be sure they didn’t die of disease or insect infestation.
- Bush and shrub trimmings
- Hay, straw, or alfalfa
- Sticks and twigs: Be sure to break these into small pieces. They will already take a long time and a large amount of nitrogen (to balance out their own high carbon content) to break down.
- Sawdust and wood chips (from untreated wood only): As with grass, beware of clumping. Be sure to either layer between other materials or lightly sprinkle on.
- Pine needles and pine cones
- Burned wood ashes: A great alkaline substance to balance the pH of your pile if you’ve been adding a lot of acidic items (i.e. pine needles, oak leaves). Note these shouldn’t be confused with coal ashes which are a composting no-no.
- Peat pots and seed trays
- Coir flower basket liners
- Leftover or outdated potting soil
- Fallen or abandoned bird nests
- Cut up burlap sacks from use as pot or garden bed liners
WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST FROM THE BATHROOM
Bathroom Composting Browns
- Wooden toothpicks
- Shredded toilet paper rolls
- Cotton balls and cotton swabs with cardboard sticks: Make sure they don’t have any synthetic makeup or skincare on them.
- Fingernail clippings
- Human hair and razor trimmings
- Cardboard packaging from personal care products
- Used facial tissues: But avoid the ones you’ve used when you’ve been sick / had a cold.
- Cut-up loofahs: We mean real, all-natural loofahs; not those plastic pink ones.
- Old cotton towels and sheets.
WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST FROM THE OFFICE
Office Composting Browns
- Newspaper: For all paper based items, they compost best when shredded or torn into bits.
- Bills, plain junk mail, and other non-glossy paper documents and cards.
- Subscription cards from magazines: You may not be able to compost the glossy pages of People Magazine, but don’t forget the standard subscription cards inside. They’re usually included in most widely published magazines.
- Envelopes without a plastic address window
- Corrugated plain cardboard boxes and mailers
- Sticky notes
- Pencil shavings
WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST FROM PETS & ANIMALS
Pet Composting Greens
- Manure: From non-carnivorous animals only, like horses, goats, chickens, rabbits, gerbils, and hamsters.
- Bird droppings
WHAT YOU CAN COMPOST FROM THE HOLIDAYS
Holiday Composting Greens
- Cut floral arrangements
- Jack O’ Lanterns and decorative gourds: Channel your second favorite 90s Alt Rock band and start smashing those pumpkins first!
Holiday Composting Browns
- Wrapping paper (provide not plastic coated) – althought try to reuse first if you can
- Crepe paper streamers
- Popcorn strung around the Christmas tree (people DO still do that, right?)
- Real Christmas trees themselves: Just make sure you either put them through the wood chipper or have a hayday with the hatchet.
- Evergreen wreaths and garlands: Make sure you’ve got all the wire ties and any other non-compostable decorations out.
- Paper table cloths
WHAT (ELSE) YOU CAN COMPOST FROM THE HOME
Home Composting Browns
- Stained or worn out clothes: They must be made from 100% natural fabrics like cotton, linen, wool, bamboo, hemp, silk or Tencel. No polyester, nylon, or Lycra, even in the smallest blend.
- Natural potpourri
- Dirt and dust bunnies: Those picked up by your broom, not vacuum, which also could have picked up synthetic carpet fibers and more.
- Spent matches
- Packaging that very clearly says “compostable” and ideally “home compostable” on it (NOT biodegradeable). We have tried some of this type of packaging with our worms and they don’t seem to mind!
- Unwaxed, organic string, thread and twine
- Non-glossy price tags
WHY START COMPOSTING?
For those who are new, we’ll remind you that composting is the breaking down and repurposing of organic waste through microbes like bacteria, fungi, worms and insects.
Specifically, composting breaks down waste of biological (organic) origin, such a plant matter and food waste. Yet in 2017, only 6.3% of food waste was composted, according to the EPA.
This is downright devastating because when organic waste hits the landfill, it breaks down anaerobically (as opposed to composting’s aerobic process). This releases methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
Composting is really a necessary means of reducing worldwide waste and, when implemented on a wide scale, it reduces factors that contribute to climate change.
It also produces an incredibly useful substance. You’re essentially making your very own soil, after all!
Nutrient rich humus (commonly known as compost) is a natural pesticide and fertilizer, and is capable of healing depleted soil (or soil amendment) and even hazardous waste remediation.
So even if you don’t have a garden to use your compost in, the world as a whole needs it and desperately so. We humans tend to take from the soil far more than we ever give back. By giving your compost to someone who can use it, you’re still helping rebalance the nutrient cycle. For more on the benefits of composting, have a look here.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHAT IS COMPOSTABLE
As you can see, there are SO. MANY. THINGS we typically throw away. Things which we could instead compost and return to the nutrient cycle.
In fact, the EPA’s Municipal Solid Waste report revealed that in 2015, 57.8% of landfill waste was actually compostable. Over 50% of our waste need not be wasted at all.
We need more people to see that composting is our chance to make a positive impact on the planet. To give back instead of just take. Waste not, want not.
While there’s a huge number of compostable items, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with a few tricky things you can’t compost.
We hope this list proves to be a valuable resource in all your composting capers. Share it with friends to show them how easy and expansive the possibilities for composting are.
And of course, reach out and give us your thoughts. Anything we left out? Did you have an interesting experience composting something on here? We’d love to know!