What can I put in my compost pile? -Beth

If your compost pile is heating up properly, you can put all kinds of things in there. Be sure that everything you put in your compost pile is in pieces smaller than 1-2 inches. Shredded and chopped items break down must faster than whole pieces.

    Here’s a list of compostable items, including a few that might surprise you.

    Yard and Garden Debris

    • Dead plants
    • Extra potting soil
    • Grass clippings
    • Leaves
    • Old cotton or leather gloves
    • Peat moss
    • Pine needles
    • Pruning debris, limbs, and branches
    • Rock dust
    • Sawdust
    • Seaweed
    • Straw and hay
    • Wood chips

    Kitchen Scraps

      • Fresh or rotten produce including peelings, rinds, cores, stems, and leaves
      • Breads, grains, cereals, and flours
      • Canned fruits and veggies
      • Coffee grounds and paper filters
      • Corn cobs
      • Crackers and pasta
      • Egg shells
      • Fish bones and skins (if well buried)
      • Freezer-burned fruits and veggies
      • Ground-up animal bones
      • Herbs and spices
      • Gelatin
      • Jams and preserves
      • Milk, yogurt, and ice cream (although these may attract hungry animals)
      • Nut shells and husks

    • Paperboard (such as cereal and pasta boxes)
    • Popcorn
    • Rice
    • Seafood shells
    • Shredded paper towels and napkins
    • Soy products
    • Tea bags and loose tea
    • Toothpicks
    • Wine and beer
    • Cork wine corks
    • Wooden skewers

    Household Waste

      • Compostable forks, cups, plates, etc (look for these in the store!)
      • Cotton balls
      • Cotton swabs (if made of paper)
      • Crumbs and dustpan contents
      • Crushed seashells
      • Dead bugs
      • Dried flowers and potpourri
      • Dryer lint
      • Dust bunnies
      • Felt
      • Fireplace ashes (in small amounts)
      • Floral arrangements
      • Hair clippings (also good in the garden as critter repellent)
      • Houseplant trimmings and old potting soil
      • Tissue

    • Leather
    • Loofah sponges
    • Matches
    • Nail clippings
    • Rope (natural fiber)
    • Shavings from your pencil sharpener
    • Vacuum bag dust
    • White glue and paste
    • Wool, linen and cotton
    • Wreaths, garland, and Christmas trees (real, not artificial)


    Shred these paper items and add to your compost pile or recycle bin.

    • Business cards
    • Cardboard
    • Egg cartons
    • Envelopes (remove plastic windows)
    • Muffin cups
    • Newspaper
    • Office paper
    • Paper plates (unwaxed)
    • Paperboard (such as cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, etc.)
    • Post-It Notes
    • Ticket stubs

    Pet and Animal Waste

    • Dry pet food
    • Feathers
    • Manure from herbivores (cows, horses, rabbits, etc)
    • Pet hair
    • Wood chips from pet cages

    Compost Cautions

    These items should NOT be added to your compost pile:

      • Aluminum foil, plastic bags, and other inorganic packaging
      • Chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, bleach, gasoline, and oils
      • Cooked foods*

    Bread, yes – package, no.

    • Diapers
    • Diseased plants
    • Glossy or heavily dyed paper
    • Grease and fat*
    • Kitty litter*
    • Manure from meat-eating animals (dogs, cats, humans)*
    • Mayonnaise and peanut butter*
    • Meat scraps*
    • Particle board
    • Treated lumber
    • Whole bones*

    *Meat and protein wastes are generally not recommended for home composting because they can smell, contain disease causing bacteria, and attract pests. However, with caution and the right composting system, you can compost almost any plant or animal waste. For more information, see How to Compost Cooked Foods, Meat, and Dairy.

    Further Information


    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Danny Lipford

    Danny Lipford


    Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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