What to Compost and What Not to Compost

Here's a List of What's Safe for Composting

Man using compost bin
  Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

Knowing what's safe to throw in your composting bin, and what should stay out, can be confusing. Here's a list to make it easy to compost, adapted from the EPA, Cornell University, and other composting experts.

What to Compost

  • Animal manure from herbivores (not meat-eaters like dogs or cats)
  • Cardboard rolls, cereal boxes, brown paper bags
  • Clean paper
  • Paper towels
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton and wool rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Crushed eggshells (but not eggs)
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings, yard trimmings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Seaweed (rinse off salt water)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea and tea bags
  • Wood chips, sawdust, toothpicks, burnt matches

What NOT to Compost -- and Why

  • Meat, fish, egg or poultry scraps (odor problems and pests)
  • Dairy products (odor problems and pests)
  • Fats, grease, lard or oils (odor problems and pests)
  • Coal or charcoal ash (contains substances harmful to plants)
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants (diseases or insects might spread)
  • Pet wastes (dog or cat feces, cat litter) (might contain parasites or germs)
  • Yard trimmings treated with pesticides (might kill composting organisms)
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs (substances harmful to plants)

Remember that most composting experts advise a balance between green waste -- watery materials like fruits and vegetables, grass clippings and weeds -- and brown waste like dried leaves, sticks, fur, cloth, cardboard, and paper.