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What You Should and Should Not Compost

Updated on February 9, 2013

Composting is one of the most natural things in the world, but knowing what you should and should not compost is an important part of the process.  If you decide to mix the good with the bad, you will not get great results.  Put the right things in your pile and you will end up with a nutrient rich batch of compost.

All vegetables and fruits can be composted.  This means every part that is not consumed.  It can be the avocado pit, banana peel, apple core, etc.  You realize how much of a watermelon is not eaten but this is not an issue, because you have a place for it to go.  That salad that is slimy and the wrong color will be a nice addition to your compost pile.  Nothing is lost, just repurposed.  

Compost coffee, teabags, and lint sheets

While you are cleaning up, remember to include coffee grounds, teabags, and paper towels that are cleanish. Not full of bacon grease. Some people will not compost anything with oil, butter, or fats, which should read some sort of protein or fat. However, if the amount is small, it will be absorbed. SMALL being the operative word.

The options continue. It is possible to compost paper, newspaper, corn made products (like those nifty plastic like cups), lint sheets (yes, really), and dryer lint. These dry items mix well with the moist fruit and vegetable matter.

Of course all of your yard debris: grass clippings, cut flowers, sawdust, untreated wood scraps, and plants that die prematurely (it is nice to know they have a future purpose, which helps with accepting the death of another plant). by net efekt, on Flickr. by net efekt, on Flickr.

What Not to Compost

Do not compost any sort of protein or fat in your backyard composter (or pile). Electric composters say bring it on. I know I said a tiny winy amount is ok, but try to keep in mind that a cheesy quiche does not mix well in a compost pile. The point here is do not include chicken, fish, oils, cheese, and anything else that falls in the protein/fat categories. Eggshells can be composted, but not the eggs themselves. Potatoes with a little seasoning are okay, but if soaked in butter, then they are not okay. Hard core types will disagree with the previous suggestion. It is better to error on the side of no proteins.

It is probably worth mentioning that cat and dog fecal matter is not appropriate in a compost pile. There are ways to compost this matter, but I am not familiar with the processes.

Another no no, are the weeds. When you walk through your yard deadheading and collecting leaves, put the weeds in a separate pile. Typically, backyard composters do not get hot enough to kill the weeds’ propagating abilities. The best way to neuter this issue is to fill up a recyclable yard bag and send it to your local municipal green waste recycling. They often use machines that get much hotter than the home versions. If you decide to compost your weeds, it is likely you will spread the weed seeds when you spread your fresh and gorgeous compost. Do not ruin your beautiful creation.

Happy composting. Please share what you think should and should not be composted.

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    • Jessay profile image

      Jessica 5 years ago from USA

      Hi Casimiro,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Just today I got another composter - - couldn't resist the price. $10 at a used/discount store.

      Anyhow, I have been adding shredded paper too and do find that it tends to clump together, but it does seem to mix well with the dense black compost in the middle.

      Best of luck to you and your rotting veggies.



    • profile image

      Casimiro 5 years ago

      Fantastic, practical overview of how to compost Jessay!

      I'm not sure why, but I've found that citrus fruits don't seem to help out composting process, so I leave those out to compost separately. I've done some experimenting with adding shredded paper to my compost, too, with mixed results. I was hoping it would up the carbon level, but mostly it just becomes an entangled mess.

      Looking forward to reading your other hubs on composting.