What Can I Compost? The Scraps That Make the Cut

Dumping food waste and other organic matter into landfills just doesn’t make sense. Trapped under layers of garbage, these materials not only release massive amounts of pollutants such as methane, they also become unavailable where they’re needed most – back in the soil. Composting instead of trashing food waste and other organics slashes environmental impacts and transforms otherwise squandered scraps into a useful resource. Dark, moist, nutrient-rich compost is a perfect fertilizer, free of pollutants, chemicals and costs. For green thumbs and local farmers, compost adds invaluable organic structure and nutrients to the soil, and for everyone else, healthy soils mean better food and a healthier planet. If you already keep a compost pile, you’re probably aware that maintaining a clean, odorless heap takes little work when you know what you’re doing. Composting can easily become a habit once you have identified your compostables and chosen a compost method that suits your lifestyle. 

Originally published by GRACE Communications Foundation


What Exactly Can You Compost?

Food scraps, yard trimmings and paper products are the most common ingredients used to feed compost heaps – but plenty of other organic waste can be added, too. As a general rule, any item that was once alive or was derived from living matter can be composted. It really is that easy. However, there are reasons to limit what you compost, particularly because the types of materials you use can optimize decomposition, deter pests and keep things from getting stinky. Avoiding toxic, diseased, chemical-contaminated wastes is also important.

Good Scraps

Whether you’re composting in your backyard, or sending scraps to a municipal compost operation, some items are nearly always acceptable for compost. Here’s a list of common items you can toss in your compost pile without a second thought: Food Scraps

  • Fruit and vegetable peels and scrap
  • Plate scrapings (excluding meat, bones, dairy products, oils and greasy foods - see below)
  • Egg shells
  • Tea bags (remove the staple!)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Grains (breads, cereals, rice, pastas, etc.)
  • Nut Shells
  • Fruit pits
  • Pet food (grain/vegetable-based)
  • Bottle corks

Yard Trimmings

  • Leaves, straw, pine needles
  • Fresh or dried grass (as with all items on this list – chemical-free only)
  • Flower and plant clippings
  • Weeds that have not gone to seed
  • Houseplants and potting soil
  • Wood ash

Paper Products

  • Paper items (napkins, towels, shredded brown bags, etc.)
  • Shredded cardboard boxes
  • Shredded black and white newspaper
  • Non-glossy junk mail
  • Bedding from hamster/gerbil/rabbit cages
  • Paper coffee filters

Perhaps Scraps

While most big, municipal composting programs can handle nearly any compostable, those managing smaller compost operations may wish to exclude some organics, such as meat, dairy and fish, since they’re slower to degrade, may smell and can attract animals. If you have your own compost pile, you can decide for yourself what to add – but community compost programs often have rules about what you can include. 


This post was originally published by the Natural Gourmet Institute. Learn more about today's Natural Gourmet Center.

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