50 Things You Can Compost

You might be surprised by what can be composted

compostable items

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

One of the most common questions among beginning composters is "what can I put in my compost bin?" While it helps to know that there are two basic types of materials (greens and browns––nitrogen-rich and carbon-rich) to add to your bin, it's even more helpful to have a detailed go-to list of things you can compost. We've got you covered there.

Greens for Your Compost Bin

"Greens" are the nitrogen-rich additions to your compost pile. These tend to have lots of moisture, break down quickly, and provide a quick burst of heat to your pile. While we call them greens, technically any plant matter will work here: coffee grounds, for example, are brown in color, but they're rich in nitrogen, hence, they're a green for composting purposes. Here are some ideas for greens to add to your compost bin:

  1. Fruit and vegetable peels
  2. Citrus rinds
  3. Melon rinds
  4. Coffee grounds
  5. Tea leaves and paper tea bags
  6. Old vegetables that aren't suitable for eating anymore
  7. Houseplant trimmings
  8. Weeds that haven't gone to seed
  9. Grass clippings
  10. Fresh leaves
  11. Deadheads from flowers
  12. Dead plants (as long as they aren't diseased)
  13. Seaweed
  14. Cooked plain rice
  15. Cooked plain pasta
  16. Stale bread
  17. Corn husks
  18. Corn cobs
  19. Broccoli stalks
  20. Sod that you've removed to make new garden beds
  21. Thinnings from the vegetable garden
  22. Spent bulbs that you used for forcing indoors
  23. Holiday greenery from wreaths and swags (just be sure to cut the stems off of the wreath form or wires first)
  24. Old dried herbs and spices that have lost their flavor
  25. Eggshells​

Browns for Your Compost Bin

"Browns" are the carbon-rich materials that add aeration to the pile and structure to your compost. They break down more slowly, so it's a good idea to chop them up fairly small. Here are some browns to put in your compost:

  1. Shredded newspaper
  2. Shredded office or school papers
  3. Shredded, non-glossy junk mail
  4. Torn up plain corrugated cardboard boxes (not with glossy coatings)
  5. Straw
  6. Bedding from hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits
  7. Fall leaves
  8. Chopped up twigs and small branches
  9. Pinecones
  10. Nutshells (avoid walnut shells as they can inhibit plant growth)
  11. Excelsior
  12. Raffia
  13. Used napkins
  14. Toilet paper, paper towel, or wrapping paper tubes
  15. Fallen bird's nests
  16. Pine needles or straw
  17. Used paper coffee filters
  18. Pressed paper egg cartons, torn into small pieces
  19. Sawdust (only from untreated wood)
  20. Brown paper shopping bags, shredded or torn
  21. Brown paper lunch bags, shredded or torn
  22. Leftover peat or coir from seed starting
  23. Coir liners for hanging baskets
  24. Wood chips
  25. Bedding from chickens

More About What Can Be Composted

Not everything on this list will be for everyone. Some people, worried about pests in their compost, will decide to forgo composting grains like rice, pasta, and bread. Others will decide that they would just rather recycle newspapers than compost them.

You'll notice some items missing from this list, such as meat, dairy, and fats. While you can technically compost all of these (especially if you have a Bokashi compost bin), we've left them off because extra care must be taken to compost these items safely. The items here are safe for you and for your garden.

In general, you should have about four times as many browns as greens. For super-fast compost, pay strict attention to proportions. If your goal is simply to avoid sending organic matter to the landfill and the compost is an afterthought, then you don't need to worry about it too much. If your bin gets wet and smelly, add more browns and cut back on the greens for a while, then give it a turn. If the contents of your bin aren't breaking down, add some greens, turn it, and it should start turning into compost again.