65 Common Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost

May 25th, 2010 - filed under: The Farm » Flora

It was just over a year ago that I wrote All About Compost, in honor of our very first Monday Monthly Mission. Now it’s spring and garden season once again, and I’m returning to shed some new light on the subject. Because kitchen scraps are just the tip of the iceberg – you can also compost:

  1. Soy/rice/almond/etc milk
  2. Coffee grounds
  3. Fireplace ash
  4. Nut shells (not walnut)
  5. Toenail clippings
  6. Pet hair
  7. Human hair (home haircut or saved from the barber shop)
  8. Dryer lint
  9. Dust bunnies
  10. Innards of a vacuum bag (empty the bag into the compost)
  11. Burlap sacks
  12. Pumpkin/sunflower/sesame seeds (chop them to ensure they won’t grow)
  13. Toothpicks
  14. Cotton or wool clothes, cut into strips
  15. Stale tortilla chips/potato chips
  16. Stale crackers
  17. Domestic bird and bunny droppings
  18. Old potpourri
  19. Sawdust
  20. Fish food
  21. Dog food
  22. Crumbs
  23. Flowers
  24. Seaweed/nori/kelp
  25. Peanut shells
  26. Bran (wheat or oat, etc)
  27. Condoms! (latex only)
  28. Paper towels
  29. Paper napkins
  30. Paper plates (non wax- or plastic-coated)
  31. Trimmings from an electric razor
  32. Tea bags/looseleaf tea
  33. Crepe paper streamers
  34. Q-tips (not the plastic ones)
  35. Old breakfast cereal
  36. Dead houseplants (or their dropped leaves)
  37. Newspaper
  38. Avocado pits (chop them up first)
  39. Frozen fruits and vegetables
  40. Tofu/tempeh
  41. Expired jam or jelly
  42. Feathers
  43. Kleenex (including ‘used’)
  44. The dead bugs on the windowsill
  45. Pickles
  46. Balloons (latex only)
  47. Egg shells
  48. Coffee filters
  49. Popcorn kernels (the ones at the bottom of the bucket)
  50. Oatmeal
  51. Aquatic plants (from aquariums)
  52. Matches
  53. Old loofas (real, not synthetic)
  54. Tampon applicators (cardboard, not plastic)
  55. Pencil shavings
  56. Holiday wreaths
  57. Bamboo Skewers
  58. Old herbs and spices
  59. Pizza boxes (shredded)
  60. Cooked rice
  61. Cooked Pasta
  62. Wine corks
  63. Paper muffin/cupcake cups
  64. Cotton balls
  65. Booze! (beer and wine)


  • Tenise Rae

    Condoms and balloons?!? Really?! How long do they take though?
    Oh, and I guess that means I need to go get a “condom catcher” for next to my bed. LOL…EWWW!

  • http://fromscratch-blog.blogspot.com Amy

    Can all of these items go in a worm bin as well? I’m thinking probably not anything latex or alcoholic (though drunk worms may be an interesting sight).

  • Leah

    A friend of mine composted a dead raccoon once.

    I guess that’s for your more rural composting needs.

  • http://easierthanyouthink.wordpress.com Ginger Baker

    @Leah I don’t know, we’ve gotten raccoons, possum and of course squirrels and birds all OVER the place here…and we’re not exactly rural, by a LONG shot!

    :coughs: So at the risk of going THERE, I’m gonna ask, what about menstrual blood? I mean, if condoms are okay…and people bury placentas…

  • Callie

    @Ginger – menstrual blood is supposed to be really good for plant-life, but most places say not to put tampons in because they’ll take too long to break down. It really depends on the container you use and other conditions. We’re in a city and have an urban composter, which is fully enclosed, so we tend to put things in there (like fish or meat scraps) that our friends who live up north and have a compost pile that’s open wouldn’t include because it would attract pests.

    This is a good little link about composting meat: http://www.grist.org/article/fem-products/

  • http://www.medicalassistantcoach.com/ medical assistant

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  • http://iwantherlife.wordpress.com Claudia

    I had absolutely no idea that you could compost latex condoms! Or dryer lint for that matter. Thank you for the list!!!

  • RawJoy

    I thought I heard you can only compost black & white newspapers. The dyes in colored pictures can be toxic (????).

    thanks for a great list. Saw a few things on there that I use and would have never thought to add.

  • http://easierthanyouthink.wordpress.com Ginger Baker

    @Callie Thanks for the link! I’ll definitely check it out. We also have an enclosed container so that’s not an issue. (And I use a Diva cup, so while that would be a logistical issue, it wouldn’t be a decomposition-time one…!)

  • Alis

    I was wondering about the menstrual stuff too. I thought I read that the all cotton feminine products could be composted.
    Oh, & you mentioned Dust Bunnies twice. ;)
    The other thing that I was thinking could be composted is old breastmilk. Or old raw milk even. Has anyone heard anything about this?
    And you might want to specify that the wine corks need to be actual cork & not synthetic.
    Thanks! Great post!

  • Sarah

    I’ve used this link/list of things to compost in the past: http://www.compostthis.co.uk/category/garden-waste/page/2

    It’s pretty comprehensive but doesn’t include some of the more awesome stuff on this list (like condoms)! All of things on this list are obviously fine sometimes but only under certain conditions.

  • http://twitter.com/erosan EroSan

    I’ve been meaning to start composting, but I have issues with the brown to green ratio…

    I can find tons of ‘green’ things to compost, but not so much for browns… ideas?

  • Bel


    Just for folk in the UK (perhaps) – it’s illegal to compost ‘cooked’/processed items, of which cooked tortilla, pasta, rice, and even bread bits etc would be included. How they implement this law is a question for another time….!!!

  • http://thegreengeek.wordpress.com Courtney

    That is an awesome list! I didn’t know you could compost latex. When I start to compost, my husband is going to think I’m crazy when I start telling him everything that he can’t throw away anymore.

  • Kelly H.

    Some of this is news to me too! Wonderful!

    (Though why anyone would compost booze as opposed to just drinking it is beyond me! :o)

  • Hyla

    This is amazing information…and I’m with Kelly H.! : ) I just started getting serious about composting but am already troubled with fruit flies, since most of my compost is kitchen scraps. More brown? Newspaper?

  • Melissa

    We will strike out on our compost adventure again this summer. We have tried just directly burying kitchen scraps into our gardens in the past and had some success, but it can attract wanted guests. We have also created a compost pile, encased in chicken wire, but that did not last long. Does anyone have a compost bin that they can recommend? Something economical? I saw that someone was using a trash can that they roll around. Does that work?

  • Rebecca

    This list is intense! Condoms? whaaa?
    I am in an apartment and not yet ready to commit to an indoor worm bin (with the dog–yikes!) but a girl can dream of having a patch of land to call her own and compost in one day, right?

  • Leah

    @Ginger Baker,

    I meant for the smell, which was not insignificant. Yowzer! I’d want that pretty far from my house.

  • http://easierthanyouthink.wordpress.com Ginger Baker

    @Leah Hahaha yes that makes sense! (And mainly, I’ve seen LIVE racoons and possum…no clue where they end up dying actually, now that I think about it.)

  • http://www.renegadeyogi.com/ Eric Normand

    Great list! Unfortunately, we don’t have a garden right now (we’re living out of backpacks). But soon, I’ll put these items to good use.

  • Kaye

    I thought that you’re not supposed to compost meat? That’s what I was always taught. In that case, shouldn’t dog food not go into a compost…?

  • http://pluckysalek.blogspot.com/ Salekdarling

    This is completely off the subject Sayward but I thought I would let you know what I found through watching Ellen DeGeneres’s show. First off, I adore Ellen. She brightens my day and is the only reason I watch TV besides watching the news…and NCIS. LOL. Second off, she’s a vegan…which makes me love her even more! Third, on her website I found out how I can find a co-op in my area! She has a link to this site called Local Harvest in which you put your zip code and it shows the farmers markets, stores, farms etc. The site gives customer reviews on the co-ops and distance from your location. It’s pretty nifty!


    Also, thanks for adding to the list of things you can compost. I’m glad I can do pizza boxes since I work in a pizza shop and take left overs home often. =] I think the worse decision my family could have made was to start getting our trash picked up. We were doing fine with composting and recycling. =[

    Once I move into my new humble abode, I’m going to push my roommates to help me start a compost for next year’s garden. Looking forward to it!

  • Minna

    @ Kaye – that’s what I’ve heard, too. That meat should be avoided in compost, so I got wondering about the dog and cat food as well.

    For me, all of these things on the list make sense, the only news was of course condoms & balloons. Would you know if there’s any difference whether the latex is synthetic or natural?

    I know my family composts pretty much everything that’s organic matter: food scraps, cotton, tea bags, coffee grounds etc. But I guess what’s important is the quality of the compost? I know a lady who doesn’t compost any foreign and non-organic fruit for example, just cause she wants to know that her earth doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Tenise Rae – Ahaha, ewww is right! But seriously, not sure how long it would take to break down. I’m sure it would depend on the size/heat of your compost heap. Probably quite a while in a back yard pile.

    @ Amy – I’m not totally familiar with worm bins, but it’s my understanding that the worms actually eat the matter (as opposed to anaerobic bacteria breaking it down), so the contents have to be ‘edible’ organic matter, ie kitchen scraps. I think work bins are quite a bit more limited.

    @ Ginger Baker – I’m pretty sure the issue with bood is simply blood borne pathogens (like Hepatitis, which can live outside for extended periods). As long as you know you’re ‘clean’, I think it would be fine (if the compost is safe from pests that may be attracted by the odor). Of course, I’m no pro so I encourage anyone to look into it further before attempting to compost blood.

    @ RawJoy – It’s my understanding that most newspapers use soy ink these days (maybe even all – it may be mandatory – couldn’t get a clear answer on that). I think it’s safe but you can always call your local paper to find out for sure.

    @ Alis – Thanks for catching that! I changed it. =)

    The problem with breastmilk is that it’s technically dairy, and dairy is a no-no in the compost pile. It’s a bummer!

    @ EroSan – I have difficulty coming up with enough browns naturally. You can buy a bale of hay at any feed store, they’re super cheap and will supply you with enough browns for years (I bought one for my chickens so that’s what I’ve been using). Also wood shaving or sawdust, which Im sure you could find somewhere for cheap or free. Luck!

    @ Bel – But that’s just for the community compost, the stuff they haul away from your house, right? It can’t be illegal to put it in your own back yard (can it?)

    @ Kelly H – Haha, I think it would be the ‘morning after’ booze. Like flat champagne, half drunken beers, ‘vinegared’ wine, etc.

    @ Hyla – More brown! But also, that just sort of happens.

    @ Melissa – I use this and really like it. If you can find something similar I definitely recommend it.

    @ Rebecca – Yes! I dreamed and dreamed until I had my place. Dream away! =D

    @ Kaye – Yes, true about meat. But dry dog and cat food is okay. I should specify that in the list – I only mean *dry* food.

    @ Salekdarling – Yes I love Ellen! I never watch her show (don’t have cable) but I’v loved her since high school, when she had her sit com. When she came out on TV it was SUCH an inspiration for all us queer kids. =) She is awesome, and I was SO thrilled to find out she’s vegan!

    @ Minna – I’m not sure, but it’s probably only the natural latex. You’re right about the quality of the compost. It really depends why you’re doing it I suppose. I’m fine throwing everything in there (of course knowing that none of the stuff is *actually* going to harm me) because to me it’s more important to keep as much stuff as I can out of land fills. For others, it may be more important to maintain a very pure compost in order to feel most comfortable with their garden. It’s really personal preference I suppose. =)

  • http://www.endomental.com boliyou

    This is a great list…very useful. We’re new to composting and it never would have occurred to me to put in there. I had to share it with my readers, too!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ boliyou – I’m glad you like it! And, thanks for the shout out on your site. =)

  • Kat

    There’s a better use for corks than compost! There are quite a few ways to recycle corks popping up. Here’s a link to one: http://recork.org/

    If you don’t want to send them away, you can always cut them in half and make yourself a cork board. (I will be doing this once I have a house of my own — we’ll need a place to post notes, grocery lists, etc!)

  • Lesa Luyk

    What about Guinea pig droppings and their pine shavings? I have nine guinea pigs, and they create alot of waste!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    If they are pets, I would say it’s okay as long as you let them “cook” in the pile for a *long* time. Wood shavings take a long time to break down anyway, so this should be fine. =)

  • Jenine Lacroix

    this page need a compost photo so i can ‘pin’ it :)

  • Aeddinger89

    I saw a comment below that breast milk (or any other meat or dairy should you find yourself wanting to toss any) can’t be composted. This is half true. If it’s an aerobic compost, animal products are no good because they can’t be broken down. In an anaerobic compost, however, you can toss dairy (including human milk) and even meat. This was good news to me when I didn’t use up all the milk I’d thawed for the babysitter, I hate to throw it away!

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