NC State Extension Publications

What CAN Be Composted in a Home Composting Bin?

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  • Autumn leaves, twigs, yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Vegetables and their trimmings
  • Fruit and their peels
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea leaves and bags
  • Paper napkins
  • Cereal boxes
  • Sawdust from deciduous hardwood trees
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Pizza boxes
  • Twigs
  • Paper bags
  • Houseplant leaves
  • Paper rolls (towel, toilet paper, wrapping paper)
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Paper plates
  • Straw and hay (no persistent herbicides:
  • Nut shells (no walnut shells—they can be toxic to plants)
  • Stale herbs and spices
  • Wine corks
  • Toothpicks
  • Paper baking cups
  • Hair and fur
  • Dryer lint
  • Vacuum contents & floor sweepings
  • Pencil shavings
  • Newspaper
  • Loofahs
  • Cotton, wool, linen, silk, hemp, burlap, felt
  • Office paper, junk mail, envelopes (no plastic)
  • Used matches
  • Yard trimmings
  • Nail clippings
  • Freezer-burned vegetables and fruits
  • Aquarium water, algae, plants
  • Soiled paper
  • Dregs from juice, beer, wine
  • Spent potting soil
  • Dead blossoms
  • Eggshells and crustacean shells
  • Paper table cloths
  • Spoiled tomato sauce, paste
  • Dead flowers, blossoms
  • Potpourri
  • Beer and wine-making leftovers
  • Seaweed
  • Evergreen garlands and wreaths
  • Jack O'lanterns
  • Dry dog, cat, fish food
  • Bread, tortillas, pitas
  • Cereal and crackers
  • Chips (tortilla, potato, etc)
  • Cooked pasta, rice, other grains
  • Soy, rice, almond, coconut milk
  • Crepe paper streamers
  • Yarn, thread, string, rope, twine
  • Cork
  • Wood chips and bark
  • Dryer sheets manufactured by Seventh Generation or Method
Backyard composting bin

Backyard composting bin.

Rhonda Sherman

What NOT to Compost at Home

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  • Meat, bones, fish (produce odors and attract animals)
  • Milk products, such as butter, milk, yogurt, sour cream (produce odors and attract animals)
  • Eggs, grease, oils, lard (produce odors and attract animals)
  • Pet and human feces, dirty diapers, tampons, personal care products (may contain pathogens harmful to humans and plants)
  • Plant material treated w/ herbicides/pesticides
  • Pressure-treated lumber (has toxic chemicals)
  • Lime (can cause ammonia gas releases)
  • Diseased plants and leaves (could cause disease to spread when compost is applied)
  • Persistent weeds (bermuda grass, alligator weed, dock weed, kudzu, ivy, dandelions)
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs (contains juglone, a natural aromatic compound toxic to some plants)
  • Heavily coated paper such as magazines, catalogs, wrapping paper, greeting cards with metallic inks
  • Dryer sheets made of polyester covered in chemicals
  • Pine needles (high in acid and resin; hard to compost)
  • Wood ash (too alkaline; can slow composting process and release ammonia)
  • Charcoal ash or coal (may contain substances harmful to plants)
  • Used facial or toilet tissue (may contain pathogens)


Extension Solid Waste Specialist
Horticultural Science

Publication date: April 11, 2011

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