39 Items You Can Compost

April K.
By April K. May 14, 2019 06:42

39 Items You Can Compost

There are excellent reasons why you should make compost at home instead of throwing away your rubbish. Finding space for landfills is becoming a worldwide challenge, and throwing away rubbish that could become compost is like throwing away money.

Compost is an essential ingredient of a healthy garden. During the composting process, decaying material releases nutrients in a form that plants can absorb. If you are looking for a natural, organic way to make your garden flourish, compost is the perfect alternative to chemical fertilizers. Not only does compost return minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to the ground, but it also has a variety of trace elements and improves the water retention and soil texture in your planting beds.

Why would anyone want to throw away good compostable material only to buy expensive chemical fertilizers for their garden? One of the reasons people do this is because they don’t realize how many items which they discard in their household could be composted instead.

Here are 39 items you should add to your compost instead of throwing them away.

Garden Refuse is the Bulk of Your Compost

The first four items on our list are common-sense and will make up the largest part of your compost. However, if you want your compost heap or bin to work efficiently, it’s important to process your garden refuse in the right way.

#1. Grass clippings are great to add bulk to your compost pile, but make sure to layer them with rough materials such as leaves and twigs so that the pile can breathe.

#2. The cuttings from plants which you prune can go into the compost. Hard wood takes a long time to compost; try to cut branches into smaller pieces or use a wood chipper to chop them up.

#3. Weeds are the bane of every gardener’s life. You can put the weeds you pull out of your planting beds into the compost, but only if they haven’t gone to seed. If you put mature weeds on your compost heap, the seeds will sprout wherever you spread the compost.

#4. Animal manure. You can add manure from chickens, cattle, and all vegetarian animals to your compost. Since raw manure will burn the roots of plants, it’s a good idea to let it decompose in the compost before you spread it around plants.

Related: Top 9 Animals to Raise in a Post Apocalypse World

Kitchen Refuse That You Can Compost

A lot of what we eat is plant-based, so it makes sense to add kitchen refuse to your compost heap. However, vegetables that exceeded their shelf life and the inedible parts of plants such as fruit stones and stems are not the only things that you can put in the compost; some of the items on this list might surprise you.

#5. When you’re cooking, don’t pour the vegetable water down the drain; add it to your compost instead.  A compost heap needs moisture to work efficiently and leftover water from your cooking pots is rich in minerals.

#6. Egg shells add calcium to your compost. Plants need calcium to strengthen their cell walls.

#7. Coffee and tea. Coffee grounds, paper coffee filters, tea leaves, and tea bags add nitrogen to the soil and offer the benefit of improving the soil texture and helping to keep moisture in the ground.

#8. Spoiled milk and milk products. You can add sour milk, ice cream, yogurt, moldy cheese, and any other milk-based food to the compost. Not only will it add calcium to the soil, but spoiled milk also acts as a compost accelerator and a natural pesticide. Milk is especially useful against aphids and powdery mildew.

#9. Nutshells compost slowly and add texture to the soil. Avoid walnut shells in the compost though; juglone, a chemical abundant in walnut shells, inhibits plant growth.

#10. Old herbs and spices. When you tidy up the pantry, throw away expired herbs and spices in the compost.

#11. Sugar. You can throw old candy, jams, and other sugary food in the compost. The sugar will naturally break down and become an energy source for your plants.

#12. You can add fat and grease to your compost in moderation, but don’t pour it all in one spot. If you add too much oil to the compost at once, it will start rotting.

#13. You can add animal bones to your compost but try to bury them in the compost pile to avoid attracting vermin. Bones are a rich source of phosphorous, one of the three main nutrients for plant life.

#14. Spoiled starches such as pasta, rice, and other grains are safe to add to the compost that will decompose quickly.

#15. Animal blood is an excellent source of nitrogen for your plants and when poured on decaying plant material, it acts as a compost accelerator.

#16. Disposable wood such as chopsticks, toothpicks, wooden kebab sticks, and coffee stirrers will decompose in the compost.

#17. Kitchen paper such as paper towels, paper bags, unwaxed paper plates, paper serviettes, unwaxed takeout boxes, and cupcake liners are made of shredded plant fibers, and when moistened, they compost in a short time.

Related: How to Tell When Your Canned Foods Become Spoiled?

Bathroom Items That Will Decompose in the Compost

The bathroom is another plentiful source of compostable material in your home. Although some people are squeamish about putting personal items in the compost, remember the adage that if it lived, it can live again as compost. Organic matter makes nourishing compost, and once that matter has decomposed, the items on this list are safe to use as fertilizer.

#18. You can put hair pulled from your hairbrush or the sweepings after you had a haircut into the compost.

#19. Nail clippings make good compost.

#20. Q-tips, cotton wipes, and cotton balls are organic and can go in the compost. If you use Q-tips, try to buy the type with on a paper stick. Otherwise, snip off and discard the plastic stick before you put the ends in the compost.

#21. Tissues, new or used, can go into the compost bin.

#22. If you’re still using a plastic toothbrush, consider replacing it with a bamboo one instead. Plastic toothbrushes will stay in landfills for at least three generations, while you can put your used bamboo toothbrush in the compost and use the decomposed fertilizer in your garden next summer.

#23. Every household abundantly produces urine. Although you might balk at the thought of putting it on your vegetables, unless you’re suffering from an illness such as hepatitis, urine is sterile and completely safe to add it to your compost. Gardeners who use it for fertilizer call urine ‘liquid gold’ and science backs them up. Urine is an excellent source of nitrogen, and plants fertilized with urine-rich compost are healthier than plants fed with chemical fertilizers.

#24. Ivory and castile soap. You can add leftover slivers to the compost.

Compostable Materials Around the House

Now that we’ve dealt with compostable materials in the kitchen and bathroom, it’s time to have a look around the rest of the house.

#25. Add dryer lint from the laundry room to your compost. It doesn’t matter if all the fibers aren’t organic; synthetic fibers such as rayon might take longer to break down, but they will improve the soil texture until they do.

#26. Sweep up dead insects from the floor and window ledges and add them to the compost.

#27. Pet droppings and bedding. If you have a hamster, parrot, guinea pig, or another small animal, put their droppings and used bedding material in the compost.

#28. Household dust. You can empty your dustpan and the vacuum cleaner bag directly into the compost.

#29. Aquarium water from your fish tank is an excellent source of nitrates. You can also add water plants and algae from your fish tank to the compost.

#30. If you have a home carpentry workshop, collect the sawdust and add it to the compost.

#31. Leather is organic, and you can compost it. Instead of throwing it away, put your old shoes, leather belt, and handbag in the compost.

#32. Clothes made of organic materials such as wool, silk, and cotton will break down in the compost. To speed up the process, tear cloth into strips.

#33. Spent matches are a good source of carbon for your compost and they will decompose quickly.

#34. Natural wine corks are a form of wood and you can add them to the compost.

#35. Festive decorations. Your Christmas tree, Halloween pumpkin, flower arrangements, pinecones, and all other natural festive decorations can go in the compost when the holiday is over.

#36. Leftover alcohol. Emptying the dregs from beer bottles and wine glasses? Pour it in the compost.

#37. Empty your pencil sharpener in the compost. Contrary to popular belief, pencils don’t contain lead. Pencil shavings consist of wood and graphite; both are a source of carbon for your compost.

#38. Ashes from the fireplace. Ash is a first-rate source of carbon for your garden but adding too much ash to your compost can lower the pH and make your soil acidic. If you’re concerned about the pH, add bone meal to the compost.

#39. Junk mail, cardboard boxes, old bills, wrapping paper, party decorations, old books, magazines, and newspapers. Paper makes up a substantial volume of the things that we throw away every day. Instead of consigning it to the dustbin, shred your paper and add it to the compost.

Making compost is an excellent way to put back into nature what we take out. By throwing away fewer things, we lessen the need for landfills and leave a smaller footprint on the planet.

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April K.
By April K. May 14, 2019 06:42
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  1. Wannabe May 14, 14:35

    Sorry, several items on this list I just won’t compost and urine is definitely one of them. Milk products, sugar , and oils just won’t go into the mix. Causes critters. Attracts fire ants, and stinks to high heaven when it comes to dairy and urine. That seems almost as bad as North Korea using human feces for fertilizer. Man oh man. And junk mail? Really? A lot of paper products have oil based material in them when it comes to mail. Ever burn it? Puts off a wonderful black smoke. Don’t want that crap in my garden. Some of these things on this list are not organic in nature and will not be on my list of compost items. I guess see the good in it and disregard the rest.

    Reply to this comment
    • Graywolf12 May 14, 16:22

      I have used dilute urine as a boost in my compost pile for years, and to feed my pineapple plants. Dilute 1:20 and no odor. Under real adverse conditions you will not be able to buy commercial fertilizer so plants that are high nitrogen users will need urine to help them grow.

      Reply to this comment
    • Kurmudgeon May 14, 22:26

      A good compost heap needs an adequate balance of “greens” and “browns” and it sounds like you aren’t adding nearly enough of the latter. You likely aren’t including enough leaves, shredded straw, and yes, shredded paper. I have used everything in my compost you claim to avoid for three decades plus, and have never had a problem with stinky compost, probably because it mostly consists of tree trimmings and fallen leaves. We don’t have fire ants in our area, so I can’t speak to that issue, but we are blessed with reliably large populations of night crawlers that make short work of our kitchen scraps. As to your concerns about paper products, I believe you are referring to glossy paper, such as magazines, when you mentioned oil based material. Aside from that, there hasn’t been anything toxic in either the ink or the paper itself for years. Lead based inks were once used in newspapers, but those haven’t been used since the sixties.

      Reply to this comment
      • Wannabe May 15, 02:27

        You want to use junk mail go ahead, I for one will not. I have plenty of Browns because I use mulch from grinding stumps and the shavings I clean out of the chicken coop along with their poop mixed in it. Trust me , I’m not new to composting. As well as fruits and vegetables, but no breads, dairy products or meats. Even grease will not go in there because it will attract unwanted animals such as dogs and possibly a coyote. So that’s my take in the matter

        Reply to this comment
    • mj May 15, 03:46

      all of things you just mentioned not to put in your compost will break down more then you know. and is good for your soil and you. give it a try.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Mike May 14, 14:55

    On the subject of composting any vegetarian animal droppings . The horse only has one stomach and the grain isn’t completely digested and the oats seeds and others will sprout in the compost or were ever you spread it.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Tigron May 14, 17:50

    A nice post, but,
    Try to keep it biological.
    So: No plants thats contains disease such as mildew.
    Only animal manur without medicine residue.
    Milk and milkproducts often contains preservative.
    Old candy, jams, and other sugary food contains
    chemical ingrediënts
    White kitchen paper as Tissues can contains
    Hair, only when jou don’t take drugs because its in
    your hair as well.
    Urine, only when you take no drugs because its
    also in there.
    Dryer lint,clothes and leather contais chemical
    paint residue, leather contains tannic acid.
    Leftover alcohol contains chemical residue such as
    color and artificial essence.
    Junk mail, cardboard boxes, old bills, wrapping
    paper, party decorations, old books, magazines,
    and newspapers.contains chemical printing ink.

    The only things i ompost comes from my garden so i know its free from any chemical residue.

    My apologies for my bad english.

    Greets from the Netherlands.


    Reply to this comment
  4. Kimberley May 14, 20:25

    Thanks for this!
    I just went to a Master Gardener workshop where we learned about no-till gardening and composting, including urine as fertilizer. Wood ash makes your soil more alkaline, though, not acidic, so don’t add ashes if your soil pH is higher than 6.5: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/wood_ash_in_the_garden

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 15, 00:37

      Kimberley: I went to the all-knowing source (kind of like Karnak the Magnificent, the all-knowing, mystical seer from Burbank) Wikipedia. This is plagiarized directly from their website: “A lye is a metal hydroxide traditionally obtained by leaching ashes, or a strong alkali which is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions. “Lye” is commonly an alternative name of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or historically potassium hydroxide (KOH), though the term “lye” refers most commonly to sodium hydroxide.”

      So, to paraphrase Ed McMahon (Whose great something or other male forefather invented mayonnaise) ” You are right, O Magnificent One.”

      Perhaps you are not old enough to remember Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, but they were on the Tonight Show for decades. I was a faithful viewer. Sure miss their late night antics, however it is better for my health to go to sleep earlier now.

      SoCal soil is already highly alkali from the residual chemicals leached out of the desert and the mountains. People pay extra out here for “alkali water”. The fools. The tap water is already highly alkali if you are getting Colorado River Water or Owens Valley Water. Owens Lake is so alkali you can almost walk on water when there has been a low rainfall year. IF you are getting Municipal Water District water, you are either getting Colorado River Water or Owens Valley water. You sure don’t need to spend $1.00 a half liter for “alkali water.”

      Kimberley, please don’t take offense. I didn’t mean to insult, just wanted to add a little levity. Ashes do add some necessary chemicals, but they do raise the ph and in some areas of the country, higher ph is the last thing you need to enrich the soil. Coffee grounds are a better soil amendment than ashes in SoCal. They help offset the salts you are dumping on your plants every time you use faucet water to irrigate.

      Reply to this comment
      • Grammyprepper May 15, 05:57

        Boy, I must be old, cuz I caught all the references, @leftcoastchuck !

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck May 15, 21:11

          Granny: There are folks reaching adulthood who don’t even remember Jay Leno being the Tonight show host.

          Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon? Who are they? Are they famous for something?

          Reply to this comment
          • MikeyW May 25, 20:55

            Speaking of old remembrances, is it true that Paul McCartney was in some other band before Wings?

            Reply to this comment
            • Rickity Rick May 25, 21:20

              My short term memory fails me about that McCartney guy. We still didn’t have TV and Dad hoarded the radio. BUT, in the long-term all that usable grease and leftovers will attract Beatles which may further break down the sanctity of your compost.

              Reply to this comment
  5. Studhauler May 15, 13:04

    Y’all worry to much, you should check out Forerunners post on Extreme Composting at the homesteading today website. He claims and I agree, that the microbes in a good hot compost pile will destroy all the stuff you are worried about in a two year period.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 15, 21:08

      I have always thought that was the purpose of composting, the heat sterilized everything. Commercial composting is big in SoCal. Our county led the way with commercial composting in this neck of the woods. Every once in a while they won’t keep the compost heap (we are talking about mountains of compost here, folks) turned and wet enough and they will catch fire. Always makes for an interesting effort by the fire department because the fire creates more fuel for the fire. This past week a haystack at a dairy caught fire. The F.D. just had to let it burn and keep it from spreading. They couldn’t put it out. I don’t know if it still is, but at one time Los Angeles County was the single biggest producer of milk and milk products in the country — even bigger than Wisconsin. There is an area of LA County called Dairyland which I guess is sort of a clue.

      Reply to this comment
  6. IvyMike May 16, 00:55

    My Grandpa kept a big pile of chicken manure and straw composting out by the garden. It was so ‘hot’ it would dissolve the face off a quarter in a couple of months an experiment we didn’t try often because back when Steve Allen hosted The Tonight Show a quarter would buy 3 cokes with change back.
    Bird poop is actually a mix of urine and feces expelled through the cloaca, so everybody pretty much already composts urine.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Rickity Rick May 17, 21:18

    Yes, Ashes will sweeten the soil, or in other words add alkaline components to the soil, which will raise the pH. It is good for acidic soil and also adds micro-nutrients.
    In fact in my days, before night shows or even TV, we used to leach ashes out and use the water, which is potassium hydroxide mostly, and make soap with it. This can still be done with all that grease you want to try and compost but will mostly attract animals and insects.
    Urine is an excellent fertilizer as it contains urea, which is a rich nitrogen compound and readily converted by plants and bacteria to usable products.
    I’d worry more about your source of water for gardening, as municipal is a toxic mix of chemicals and chlorine and chlorinated hydrocarbons. Also the chlorine binds to soil materials and stays for years. Municipal water use can not be used on truly organic produce if you think about it.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 26, 03:18

      You are quite right, Rickety. If you go to some of the websites that stress 18th century technology you will see recipes for making soap using tallow (beef/mutton fat) or lard ( pork fat) and ashes to make soap.

      I wouldn’t use our city water to irrigate except that we get no rain from about April until (if we are lucky) October. That wouldn’t be a problem if we stuck to native plants or South African or Australian plants, but we insist on growing stuff from back East, lovely green lawns in the desert, elm trees from the East Coast and other assorted plants that need water to thrive.

      Our water also contain chloramines which I understand are a combination of chlorine and ammonia. If that is the million dollar question, don’t call me for your help, call somebody else. I got out of chemistry class a week before they were going to ask me to leave.

      Anyway, we were advised to let the water sit for a few days before adding it to koi ponds as it had a deleterious effect on koi and other ornamental fish. Yeah, and that was the stuff a lot of people were drinking. Don’t put it in your fish pond, it’ll kill the fish but it’s okay to drink.

      Did I mention that I had a really money making bridge I want to sell?

      Reply to this comment
  8. Hoosier Homesteader May 18, 11:59

    Many good pointers in this interesting post. However, I won’t be putting clothes, old leather shoes or handbags in my compost. No junk mail either.

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