99 Things You Probably Didn’t Know You Can Compost

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

An individual is composting old vegetables. There are tons of items that you may not know you can compost. Anybody who has a composting bin or compost pile at their house knows that old apple cores, banana peels, and potato skins can be composted. The list of compostable items doesn’t stop there, in fact, it barely scratches the surface.

Did you know that you can compost an old tea bag? Old spices? Grass clippings? How about sticky notes? Yes, each of those items can be composted!

There are many compostable items, and this list will get you started with the first ninety-nine. Composting at home is a very effective method to reduce the amount of waste you contribute to the landfill.

If you are composting for an organic garden, use organic starting materials. Some of the items below I would not recommend for organic gardens. For clarity, I will specify those items below.

The Basics

  1. All organic vegetable and fruit matter including rinds, skins, shells, seeds, cores, and peels
  2. Leaves
  3. Hay
  4. Used coffee grounds
  5. Paper coffee filters
  6. Grass clippings
  7. Egg shells
  8. Tea bags
  9. Peat moss
  10. Tree bark
  11. Flowers
  12. Garden soil
  13. Topsoil
  14. Stale bread
  15. Wheat bran
  16. Cooked grains
  17. Olive pits
  18. Popcorn kernels
  19. Dust bunnies
  20. Toothpicks
  21. Business cards (Paper)
  22. Natural wine corks
  23. Toilet paper rolls
  24. Wrapping paper rolls
  25. Loose leaf tea leaves
  26. Dried brown garden weeds (avoid composting weeds that go to seed)
  27. Spices and herbs that have lost their smell
  28. Nut shells (except walnut shells, which contain a chemical that can be toxic to plants)
  29. Wood chips and sawdust – from untreated wood, treated wood is toxic
  30. Soy products – non-GMO
  31. Wine and beer-making wastes
  32. Dry cereals, crackers, chips, cookies, etc.
  33. 100% cotton swabs and Q-tips (do not compost plastic sticks)
  34. Wood fire ashes from grill or fireplace (also from smoking fish and other meats)
  35. Dirt from soles of shoes
  36. Facial tissues (unless soiled with chemical products)
  37. Organic milk, ice cream, cream, etc. (in limited amounts)
  38. Spoiled rice, almond, or coconut milk
  39. 100% cotton clothing (ripped into small pieces)
  40. 100% wool clothing (ripped into small pieces)
  41. Raffia decorations
  42. Crepe paper streamers
  43. Paper napkins
  44. Natural wreaths, garlands, and other natural holiday decor
  45. Chopped up Christmas trees
  46. Aquarium plants
  47. Paper bags (ripped into smaller pieces)
  48. Sticky notes
  49. Any form of paper that has been soiled by food
  50. Pizza boxes (make sure to break them down into small pieces)
  51. Used paper plates without wax coatings
  52. Mail and bills (make sure not to compost envelopes with the plastic windows)
  53. Paper or wood matches
  54. Animal manure and droppings
  55. Paper towels and towel rolls
  56. Cork
  57. Organic glue
  58. Animal fur
  59. Gelatin
  60. Paper muffin and cupcake cups
  61. Cage cleanings from small pets such as Guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, and iguanas
  62. Freezer burned fruits and veggies
  63. Burlap sack
  64. Stale candy (remove the wrapper, of course!)
  65. Cardboard and paper egg cartons
  66. Cardboard tampon applicators
  67. The boxes that surround many forms of cheeses
  68. Pure cellophane bags
  69. Paper envelopes from your mail (shredded up)
  70. Shredded catalogs and magazines (unless they have a very waxy cover)
  71. Chewing gum
  72. Feathers
  73. Rope
  74. Stale catnip
  75. Organic cotton socks
  76. Dead houseplants
  77. Halloween pumpkins
  78. Electric razor trimmings
  79. Fingernail and toenail clippings
  80. Hair (both human and animal hair is compostable)
  81. Ground bone and blood meal
  82. Rawhide dog chews
  83. Dog/cat foods
  84. Dryer lint
  85. Urine (although can be quite smelly in the summer sun)
  86. Cheeses
  87. Corn cobs
  88. Beer, wine, and liquor
  89. Crustacean shells (shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.)
  90. Organic tobacco waste
  91. Bamboo products
  92. Fish food
  93. Sheepskin condoms
  94. Shower loofahs (made from natural materials, such as sea sponge)
  95. Newspaper (shredded)
  96. Granite dust
  97. Dolomite lime
  98. Liquid from canned fruits and vegetables
  99. Pure soap scraps

Do you compost at home? Can you think of some other items you can compost? If I missed anything, please let me know in the comments below.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Rick Burner

    It’s easier to list what I don’t compost (for use in a vegetable garden): Metal, household chemicals, plastic, used motor oil.
    Note that I do not use toxic chemicals in the yard.

    Everything else goes in: windfall grapefruits (never more than 40# at a time), meat, bones, humanure, occasional spilled oil or diesel fuel (soaked up with sawdust), shredded branches, opposums that try raiding my garden, etc.

    Been doing this for years.

  • Kat

    Great list of what you can compost! I was just thinking to my slef that I wanted to get a compost pile going, but dont’ really eat much veggies. So, it’s good to know that there are many other things you can compost!


  • Al

    How is animal manure not organic?

  • Green Girl

    Excellent list!

    I wish more people would compost and hopefully, this list of items will help encourage more people to try composting. Good work!

  • Better go look at the videos on humanure composting if you’re going to compost animal products, oils and such. Joe Jenkins has a lot of excellennt ideas on the whole process from source to product. The Swedes are promoting this sort of sanitation systems for bootstrapping their friends in Africa, under amazingly Swedish-sensible foreign aid. The results are VERY encouraging everywhere it’s practiced. Jenkins has been active in Mongolia and in Haiti (post disaster, first responder, and great step to healthy sanitation). There’s also a major group in California (a spinoff of the GreywaterGuerilla movement) and you can see their in-house project at http://www.youtube.com/user/dectiri where we have been accumulating great ideas to incorporate into sustainable thinking and living.

  • Laure

    After searching for the greenest choice in rubber gloves, I found an expensive version and Casa Bella gloves (still more than the not-so-natural blend found in Playtex and other grocery brands).

    I like natural cleaners, but even things like vinegar can be tough on the skin when used full strength. And I finally found a natural solution for my dog’s ear problems, but again, not ingredients I want on my skin unless I want to be wearing Gentian Violet all day….for for days.

    From what I could find, they are 100% latex (barring the colorant?) and should biodegrade even more quickly if left in the sun for awhile.

  • Laure

    Someday I want to grow my own loofahs, like I saw growing in Mexico. You just have to make sure you get the seeds out before using it in the shower!

  • diane greenfield

    I compost almost everything you have listed…I also scrape up the dirt/ wood chips from where I chop my fire wood and throw that in… I like used coffee filters/ paper towels in the bottom of planters…throw in compost scraps part way….in big pots, I like to use fir cones that have fallen for fill…small branches can be broken into small pieces and added… when we have a fish that isn’t good for consuming, I dig a hole in the garden..put it in, then plant something in the hole….

  • John Cossham

    A few inaccuracies. ‘Organic’ in composting terms means ‘contains carbon, from plant or animal’ and as such anything organic can be composted.

    Soil does not compost down… it doesn’t harm the heap, but takes up space. Don’t worry about soil on roots of plants, put it in, but don’t put shovelfuls of it on.

    Chewing gum (in the UK at least) is not biodegradable.

    Be careful what sort of sawdust you put on… stuff with preservatives is best left out.

    Envelopes with windows, well more and more, these windows are compostable so I’d bung them in and take any uncomposted ones out of the finished product…

    Tissues are biodegradable but many baby wipes aren’t, and tea bags also may have a non-organic component, leaving ‘tea bag ghosts’ in your finished compost. I tear these open to release the composted tea leaves and bin the ghost.

    Why only herbs and spices which have lost their smell? Weird! Walnut shells are fine… they don’t contain the chemical which can affect plant growth… the walnut tree mainly exudes this from its roots. And weeds which might run to seed are fine… just be aware that if you put weeds WITH seeds, these may germinate at a later date!

    Finally, corks and moss take ages to rot down… be patient and put it back in the next heap and it’ll go the second (or third!) time around.

    You forgot latex gloves such as ‘Marigolds’, rubber bands, and of course, ‘humanure’ which if dealt with sensibly, is great for composting.

    However, any article which encourages people to recycle more and get better soils is good, so thank you!

  • Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable

    Great list! I pinned it in order to refer to it often:) Thank you for sharing.

  • Blue Buffalo

    What about expired dog food? If the ingredients are all natural and align with the lists above, shouldn’t that be OK to add to the compost? I see it on your list, is there any specific ingredients you would want to stay away from?


  • Oldngrumpy

    Soil can be a waste of valuable space in a compost bin, but it also contains many bacteria and natural enzymes to jump start the process. Manure would be a better choice, as would potting soil in small amounts.

    Walnut shells contain tanic acid, which is a preservative used in curing leathers and hides. Since it retards decomposition, it is very counter productive in compost. The shells themselves will decompose, but the entire bin will suffer for them. Best to find other uses for them, such as abrasive for heavy cleaning and sandblasting made from crushed shells. A small tumbler with crushed walnut shells will polish up metal pieces in a few minutes.

  • laurachristine

    i thought dairy was a no no… and please don’t compost dryer sheets…. theyre laden with toxic chemicals… please don’t even use them if thats possible.

  • David

    Why only non-GMO soy products? That seems like an odd distinction to make.

  • DDF

    I don’t think I saw dryer lint mentioned…AS LONG AS……YOU DON”T USE THOSE DRYER SHEETS, lint is great! Also, not too much fire ash as it is very very alkaline and would certainly change up the ph if used often and too much!!

  • Tom

    Question: Can empty vitamin and supplement capsules be composted. V-caps are made with cellulose, and regular capsules are ususally made with gelatin.

    Thanks for great info!

  • DebbyBruck

    I’m working on a compost pile now and these great suggestions mean that I can add a lot more materials.

  • Kerstin

    Just ran across this article, wanted to add to the list:

    “excess sourdough starter” – since it is yeast, water, and flour…pretty good.

    “Kombucha scoby babies” – a growth primarily of bacteria and yeast…if you cannot get rid of extras that grow, you can compost them. Same for extra “kefir grains”.

    Thanks for the list.


  • ghc_health

    Great additions! Thanks, Kerstin!

    -Dr. Edward Group

  • maureen

    I have a lot of moss in my South facing garden – can moss go into my compost bin?

  • I believe so… it’s the main ingredient in moss peat. It’ll be fiber heavy and not add a lot of nutrients but in a quick search, I didn’t see a problem. Anyone else have some input?

  • greenthumbgardener

    I have been growing the conventional veggies such as potatoes, corn, garlic, onions, pumpkins, cantaloupe, cucumbers, peas, beets, lettuce, and radishes in my garden for seven years now and I started out with sand and crab grass that robbed my veggies of their food. With the lawn care business, I started adding every bit of grass to the garden that I cut as long as it wasn’t full of weeds. This helped my garden out tremendously by the third year of plowing grass under. Three years ago I started using something that all fisherman hate to catch but I can’t seem to stop looking for now….CARP! These fish are bottom feeders that eat salmon eggs as well as other great fish eggs and though they may sound gross for us humans to eat, they are full of fatty acids and tend to do a great job filling in the underline base of my soil with nitrogen. The way I feel is that if we use the crap fish to feed our gardens and therefore ourselves for now; then we can eat more of the good fish later. Great list of degradable items up top and I will be sure to use some of them.

  • u2u2u2

    If they are vegetarians, than the manure is organic.

  • csigirl2

    Can you please share how you determined chewing gum to be compostable? Pretty sure the elastomers and plasticizers are synthetic and will not compost/biodegrade, especially in a backyard pile.

  • Mark

    does anyone know if i can use the dirt from my salamanders tank for compost? he only eats crickets. thanks

  • Hi there, I was wondering if this packaging can be composted. It’s recyclable plastic.

  • I’m not sure what those symbols are but recycling and composting, while both awesome, are two separate things and not always interchangeable!

  • I’m not sure what the symbols mean but recycling and composting, while both awesome, are two different things and not always interchangeable.

  • Thank you.

  • Marshall

    Dryer lint is one.

  • helen

    Can I put prawn crackers in please xx

  • Red Pete

    Relatively small amounts are fine but it is quite resistant to decomposition. Moss peat has taken many many years and specific conditions to form.

  • Red Pete

    Given that old motor oil can be used as a preservative it makes no sense to believe it decomposes in a compost heap. Small amounts will not be obvious but it won’t have decomposed.

  • Sue Kowatch

    Thank you. It’s my first year at composting and so far I don’t have much. It’s at the back of the old barn. Now I know I can put a lot more stuff in and may end up with enough by next Spring for both of my big gardens. I also planted flowers in with my veggies this year,no bugs ate my plants this year. I have some stuff that got freezer burned, yellow squash and tomatoes.Now I know I can throw those in.Thanks.

  • SunshineSunshineSunshine

    How about human poo (shit)? Especially those who eat a healthy diet?

  • Wheres Overholt

    I compost all our used coffee grounds and paper filter, emptied egg shells, banana peels, lemon/orange/lime peels, wilted sad greens ,veggies we didn’t get to eat from our crisper (how people throw these items of gold that could in their starter compost/ bins instead, would rather see them down the disposal is a shame!), our toilet paper rolls/paper rolls, wilted brown leaves , planters with dirt to aide in decompostion as I walk in the garden as I do a pass over: I throw it all in a round tumbler with side wheels, water everything thoroughly, close the lid and roll the bin 2x once a week and viola by the 3rd week, I have my black-gold compost (an handful of my compost full of beneficial microbes!! outdoes 1 gallon of that garbage synthetic miracle gro-throw it out folks, ) Since using only my compost, my garden hasn’t been heathlier, so healthy I haven’t had to test my soil for 5 years now. Every gardener out there knows what I’m talking about. COMPOSTING ROCKS and SAVES MONEY, YOUR PLANTS WILL LOVE YOU FOR IT SO DO IT !!

    Ps, I refuse to pee on my compost lol, fecal matter is definitely a NONO, I have yet to use lint, clothe, hair and nail clippings but my compost is A+ with what I stated I’ve been using, air (tumbling) and water–everyone has all to make theirs starting today! Good luck.

  • chartreusenotobtuse

    I took a mini-workshop (just one evening) from a Master Composter (they have that designation where I live, special training…) and she also mentioned newspaper. Just be sure to tear it in strips and pieces. It’s great because it can add some “browns” — and a great compost mixture has either @ 50% greens and browns, or 60% / 40%, depending on your end use. (Vegetable gardens like one thing; perennial / shrubs like a different %).

    One question: what about the skins from smoked salmon, are they safe to use?

  • Who me?

    How about old hand/body soap pieces? Is that pure soap or is pure soap some weird California hillbilly stuff.

  • Anne Shelley-Smith

    I also compost sugar cane mulch once it’s gone through juicing machine.
    Chicken manure, old horse manure, cow manure, and any other rodent manures.

  • Pingback: Waste Not… | Journey to my Real Life()

  • Direct Compost

    Nice article.I agree with your points.These items will cause problems in composting.

  • Carrie

    Hi, not sure if this is still an active blog, but I am trying to find out if I could compost “Horse Sweet Feed” which is made up of oats and molasses. I have about 20 pounds of it and I believe it is too old to give to my daughters horses. Would anyone know if this would be safe for compost? Thanks

  • Tricia Durand Allen

    How about vinegar? I make my own canned horseradish, but after 3 mos, I dump it. Can the dumped horseradish/vinegar mix go into compost?

  • Tricia Durand Allen

    its fine!! I also have horses 🙂

  • Tricia Durand Allen

    No. Plastics can not be recycled unless they are marked “biodegradable”. Recycling is a different process

  • Thanks Tricia.

  • bonnielou

    Isn’t that what the Native American Indians did, plant fish scraps or crap fish in the hole with every corn plant?

  • dinsky34

    You could also collect veggi scraps from a friend who doesn’t compost. I do that too!

  • Maria Morales

    I disposed our old bed frame and take out all the inside contents which includes like brown fiber cotton materials inside, can I use this as compose? it is look like a coconut fiber but it is more refine and softer and look like cotton. Thank you.

  • Busybarb24-7

    Can I compost boiled veggies? I pickle beets and other veggies and would like to compost what I do not use.

  • PeekaJim

    Can big seeds like avocado seeds and dropped peach pits be composted?
    Can avocado skins be composted?

  • PeekaJim

    Will leaf stems, twigs, etc, eventually decompose or how can they be removed if the compost is to be used before they are “gone”?

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