Can I Compost…?

Even the most diligent of composters have experienced that moment of confusion when you look down into your hand and wonder… “Can I compost this?” We get it. We’ve done the same thing, and the answer isn’t always straightforward.

Try Our Interactive Compost Tool

We’ve created a “Can I Compost… ?” interactive tool below that we hope will help you figure out which items belong in the compost and which items need to head to the trash or the recycling bins. If you’re seeking more information about whether or not you can compost a certain item, click on it below to expand for more information.

We’ve included some additional details, where it makes sense. We also added icons to indicate 1) if an item is compostable at home and 2) if it can go into your WasteWell bucket (for our local curbside compost collection customers).

We Don’t Cover All Methods of Composting

The classifications and discussion below focus on outdoor backyard composting and curbside collection composting systems. There are many other ways to compost at home, some of which allow more or less flexibility with respect to what can go into the compost system.

You can use Bokashi bins, for example, to compost almost anything, including meats, dairy, and oil. Worm bins can be a bit more finicky because you have to be sure you don’t modify the pH of the bin too much and risk harming the worms. And electric composters, like the FoodCyler or the Lomi, have their own set of guidelines.

See What You Can Compost At Home

Check out our tool below. If there’s something you don’t see and have questions about, let us know. You’re probably not the only person with a question about it, so we will likely add it to the list! Look for these icons on our tool below, and read on for more details about what belongs in your compost bin!

Compostable at home in an outdoor compost system

Compostable via WasteWell curbside collection (i.e. toss it in your bucket)

Food Items

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Compost piles love coffee grounds. They are a great source of nitrogen, so if you’re composting at home, be sure to add plenty of carbon sources to balance out the high nitrogen levels from the coffee grounds.

No.

Technically this is organic waste that eventually would break down (and it won’t contaminate a compost bin), but it is likely to get really stinky in a WasteWell bucket or attract unwanted pests in a compost pile.

If you have a bit of cheese or a dollop of yogurt mixed in with your food scraps, it’s no biggie. But you’re better off leaving spoiled milk in the garbage or pouring it down your drain.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

A few leftover eggs or some egg yolk on your eggshells is fine in the compost.

In large amounts, eggs could attract pests and slow the decomposition of your pile, so be careful about overwhelming your pile with eggs.

But don’t worry about cleaning eggshells or any yolk before composting them or scraping a few cooked egg remnants into a compost bucket. Those will be fine.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Eggshells are compostable. They take a long time to break down and add calcium to your compost. A few eggshells in a worm bin can even help the worms digest all your organic waste in the bin.

No.

Technically these are organic waste that eventually would break down (and they won’t contaminate a compost bin), but they are likely to get really stinky in a WasteWell bucket or attract unwanted pests in a compost pile.

Yep!

This is the bread and butter (not literally, of course) of compost. The little buggers in the dirt will eat this right up and spit out loamy soil amendment!

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes but…

Generally, it’s ok to add cooked fruits and veggies to your compost heap or bucket, even if you cooked it in a bit of oil, for example. Don’t overwhelm your compost with heaps of veggies in a heavy, oily ragu sauce, but some oily remnants on cooked food won’t harm your compost or cause a big stink as long as you’re mixing it with lots of other types of organic waste.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

You bet they can.

Mold won’t hurt the composting process and can even be part of the process to break down the food as it decomposes. Add it to your compost without a worry.

No.

Technically these are organic waste that eventually would break down (and they won’t contaminate a compost bin), but they are likely to get really stinky in a WasteWell bucket or attract unwanted pests in a compost pile.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

No.

Technically, this is organic waste and eventually would break down (and it won’t contaminate a compost bin), but it is likely to get really stinky in a WasteWell bucket or attract unwanted pests in a compost pile.

If you have some oily products mixed in with food scraps, like what you might use for cooking food, go ahead and toss that into your compost pile or your WasteWell bucket. But definitely don’t put your vat of leftover frying oil in the compost. That would be quite the mess.

This one is a bit tricky. Pasta sauce mixed in with some leftover pasta and plenty of other organic matter is fine. Pasta sauce won’t contaminate your compost pile.

But sauce can be oily and greasy. It may slow down the decomposition of your pile or attract pests, especially if you add a bunch of it at once.

Don’t be afraid of pasta sauce in your compost pile but add it with caution and in small amounts if you choose to include it.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes (but be careful).

We accept these plain rice, bread, and pasta items in our bucket. Once in the large compost piles at our partner processing facility, they will break down without an issue.

If you’re composting at home, be a bit more cautious. Be sure to bury these items under other organic matter (maybe some dirt or in-process compost) so they don’t attract wildlife. And don’t overwhelm your pile with them.

If you’d rather steer clear of these items, especially as a beginner composter, we don’t blame you. Use your judgment and monitor the pile. You can always remove them or stop adding them if they become an issue (but they won’t contaminate your pile if you choose to compost them).

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

You can compost tea leaves and tea bags, so long as the bags are not made from plastic. Also be sure to remove any staples from the tea bags, as metal is not compostable.

Household Items

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Bamboo is a natural material, so it can definitely find a home in the compost bin. If your toothbrush, hairbrush, or cleaning brush has removable bamboo bristles, pull the bristles out and add them to your compost bin.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yep!

Cardboard is a great source of carbon for a compost pile. Corrugated cardboard (with the air pockets in between the layers) is the best. Be sure to avoid cardboard with shiny coating on it (like many cereal and cracker boxes), as this is not compostable. Remove stickers and tape, tear the cardboard into small squares, and add it to the bin.

While we accept cardboard through our curbside collection service, please note that the cardboard should fit into the bucket. If you consistently have more material to compost than fits into the bucket, we’d be happy to help you upgrade to a subscription that includes an extra bucket for your organics.

Wait. What?! Compostable phone cases?!

Yep. They’re a thing. Most cell phone cases are not compostable, but brands like Pela make cell phone cases that you can compost in your backyard bin or throw in our WasteWell collection bucket. Look for brands that disclose their cases are compostable.

No.

Although they say “compostable”, they’re generally only compostable in industrial facilities. They take a long time to break down in a backyard bin and will be more of a nuance than anything.

We don’t accept them in WasteWell buckets either because they just end up blowing around the farm where our compost processing partner manages their operations.

Sorry, we don’t have better news on this one.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Tear up paperboard egg cartons and add them to your compost bin just like you’d add cardboard. Be sure to remove any shiny paper from the egg cartons (sometimes on the top to advertise the brand, etc…). You can tear off the shiny paper or soak the egg carton in water, after which the paper will come right off.

If you purchase eggs in a plastic or styrofoam container, those have to go in the trash or the recycling (as determined by your local recycling rules).

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Newspaper provides carbon to your pile. The ink is typically soy-based ink, so it won’t be an issue. Be sure to shred or crumble the paper before adding it to your pile. A stack of folded newspapers will become matted and won’t effectively break down because there isn’t enough oxygen in that part of the pile to process the matter.

Yes and no.

Unused paper towels and paper napkins can go into the compost. They are a good source of carbon (or “browns”) to offset your greens.

If you’ve used the paper towels or napkins, consider what you used them to clean. If you used them to clean food remnants, toss them in the compost or the WasteWell bucket. The same goes for using them with natural cleaning products like vinegar.

If you used them to clean with harsh chemical cleaners, we recommend putting them in the trash to ensure you don’t contaminate your compost with those chemicals.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Heck yeah!

Compost bins love pizza boxes. We know because we asked them (ok, not really, but we are certain pizza boxes belong in the compost).

Greasy pizza boxes can’t be recycled. The grease contaminates the recycling product.

But… they can (and should) be composted. That bit of grease absorbed by the box won’t cause any trouble in a compost bin, so tear it up just like any other cardboard and let it be a source of carbon for your compost buggers.

You can even throw your pizza box in your WasteWell bucket. We ask that you tear it up so it fits into the bucket, but it’s fair game for our curbside collection.

Nope. And they are the bane of our composting existence. They’re just so darn annoying!

We recommend removing them when you bring home your groceries and then you don’t have to think about it each time you peel a banana or open an avocado, but we’ll leave that up to you.

Some of you have told us that some produce stickers are compostable. If you find them, they’ll probably break down in your bins. Most stickers, however, are plastic, and plastic lives for what feels like for – ev – er.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yep. Toss them in the bin or the bucket!

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes, if they are natural cork.

So long as the wine corks are real cork and not plastic, you can toss them right into your compost bin. Cork is a natural material and will break down in the bin. Beware, however, of plastic stoppers made to look like cork. Unfortunately, these have to go head to the trash as they are not compostable.

Yard Waste

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yep!

Is there is a better source of carbon for your compost? I suppose we don’t need to play a popularity game but show some love for the leaves in the compost bin.

Maybe even collect leaves from streets or public areas to make leaf mold, if you’re feeling fancy.

Yep!

Add grass clippings to your compost pile but be sure to mix them in with other sources of carbon. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen, and they can also become matted down in a pile, which will prevent them from breaking down effectively.

If your grass is treated with pesticides or fertilizers you wouldn’t want in your compost, consider leaving your clippings on your lawn. They’re a great source of nutrients for your lawn and help the soil hold moisture (i.e. less irrigation necessary).

You’re welcome to put grass clippings in your WasteWell bucket, but it probably isn’t the greatest use of space. We’ll let you decide. 🙂

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yep!

And don’t forget to compost your Christmas tree if you opt for a real one.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Straw and hay make great carbon additions to a compost pile. They soak up the moisture from a wet pile and also leave pockets of air for good aeration and plenty of oxygen for the little buggers working so hard to break down your waste.

Holidays

Holidays can be the source of a lot of waste and Halloween is no exception. However, there are lots of food items, decorations, and even pieces of costumes that you can compost.

We wrote a whole post about what you can compost from Halloween, so head on over and check it out before you toss all those Halloween decorations in your trash.

Everything Else

compostable at home in an outdoor compost system

WasteWell doesn’t accept animal waste, but many types of animal waste are compostable. Manure from vegetarian animals like rabbits and horses can be composted at home. Chicken manure is great for compost as well.

Do not add animal waste from cats or dogs to your compost though. That can carry bacteria that will contaminate your compost. There are ways to compost dog and cat poo by burying it underground. We’ll work on getting a specific post written up about this for you and a link to it when it’s available.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

You can compost houseplants, but be sure they don’t have diseases. Hot composting will most likely kill any bad bacteria or diseases, but cold composting may not.

compostable at home and compostable through WasteWell curbside collection service

Yes.

Gross, maybe, but it’s perfectly safe to add to your home compost bin. Hair and fur take a bit longer to break down than cardboard and food scraps. If you’re keen to turn your waste into compost quickly, consider having a separate compost pile for things that take longer to decompose.

No.

Although leather is a byproduct of animals, there are often unknown chemicals and metals used in processing leather. Without knowing exactly how it was processed, we can’t conclude it’s safe for the compost.

Also, tanning and other processing of leather products are often designed specifically to make the leather last longer, which makes it really slow to decompose in a compost pile even if it doesn’t include contaminating chemicals.

Thus, it’s better to find other uses for scrap and waste leather. We can’t take it at WasteWell and don’t recommend composting it at home either.

No.

Save these for your recycling bin in most cases. Many metals recycle well but they cannot be composted.

No.

This shouldn’t go in any compost bin or pile.


A note on using this tool: Please use this tool as a guideline. We aren’t the all-knowing composting lords and can’t possibly have considered every variable related to every item on the list. We don’t know every fact about every item you want to compost. Many items break down differently depending on the weather, climate, compost heap condition, level of maintenance of the pile, other tools or appliances used, and so much more.

If you have questions about a specific item you want to compost, send us a note. We’re easiest to reach on Instagram, so send us a DM @wastewell. You can also send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll get back to you.