30 Unexpected and Unusual Things You Can Still Put in the Compost


Composting isn’t just for food, silly! You’ll be surprised at all the strange, random junk you can toss in the compost bucket. Don’t draw the line at peach pits and coffee grounds – start chucking the following items into that bucket and watch your garbage bill go down while you create top-drawer dirt (and help the planet, of course).

1. Bills – because somehow it’s a lot more satisfying shoving bills in with melon rinds and egg shells than the recycle bin. Trust me.

2. Latex condoms – both latex and sheepskin condoms are biodegradable; note that sheepskin does not protect against STDs.

3. Junk mail – if you’re like me not even the Do Not Mail list has managed to alleviate the jubilant deforestation companies are undertaking on your personal behalf.

4. Catalogs and magazines – just shred them first.

5. Old fish food and stale catnip

6. Abandoned hide/bone dog chews

7. Worn out rope and used masking tape

8. Any old leather – shoes, gloves, wallets, belts, “sexy” Halloween cat costume from college. Note: the leather should be fairly worn out, otherwise you’ll be dead before it degrades. Composting does not guarantee that your friends will stop calling you Cat Woman, however.

9. White glue – yes, you can!

10. ATM and gas station receipts

11. Ticket stubs, post-its, stickers, labels, price tags

12. Ratty wool or 100% cotton socks

13. Old Halloween candy – when the chocolate tastes like Jelly Bellies, it’s time to part ways. Good times.

14. Holey cotton underwear – come on!

15. Dirt, crap and grime from your shoes or boots

16. Cardboard cereal boxes – shred them up first

17. Vacuum cleaner bag/bin contents and dryer lint

18. Skunked beer, ancient candy bars, expired protein bars

19. Cotton tampons and cardboard applicators – really!

20. Expired dairy and moldy cheese – but hold the meat.

21. Used tissues and paper towels

22. Aquarium plants and wilted flower bouquets

23. Cat fur, dog hair, and nail clippings

24. Your hair – you could even bring the clippings home from your hair dresser. If you want.

25. Matches

26. Wood chips from the BBQ

27. Fireplace and campfire ashes

28. That cute little brie cheese box

29. Cardboard toilet paper and paper towel rolls

30. Hamster/guinea pig/rat/bird cage cleanings

It may seem like weird science, but all of the above objects are fully compostable.

You can compost anything of organic origin: fruit peels and pits, sandwich crusts, gluey pasta, oatmeal that’s gone the way of cement, soggy cereal, stale pastries, nut shells, orange rinds, tea bags, coffee filters, onion skins, melon rinds, seeds, cores, old milk, stale potato chips…

Wait…you compost, right? Composting is free, easy, and one of the best things you can do for the environment, next to cutting down on fossil fuel consumption and minding your three R’s – reducing, reusing, recycling. Call me juvenile, but I also feel like I’m somehow getting away with something. Burying bills in the dirt? Great!

Even if you aren’t a gardener, your green thumb neighbors will be glad to reap the benefits of all your bizarre biodegrading – and you’ll cut down on your garbage pickup fees.

Sources: Cheap Like Me, Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano

Image: johndan, theseanster93, pawpaw67, laszlo-photo

Further reading:

Getting Killed at the Pump? How to Green Your SUV

7 Signs of a Green Restaurant

I Toss 1/3 of My Groceries in the Trash – Here’s How I’m Stopping


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29 thoughts on “30 Unexpected and Unusual Things You Can Still Put in the Compost

  1. My son keeps our compost pile going, and we read a lot about items to add to the heap. Despite some discrepancies about things like dairy and such, it’s great to see growing interest in composting. This list is especially lively, though I need to keep my underwear on before my son takes his pitchfork to my rear-end….

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  3. shouldn’t some of those paper products like catalogs and junk mail go in recycling?  which is better environment-wise?  but really how many “sexy” halloween cat costumes are made out of leather?  much more likely to be nylon and vinyl – neither of which are compostable I would think…

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  5. Pingback: Crazy Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost (Plus, Some You Can’t), Holiday Edition | The Freedomist

  6. Please Please Please don’t compost receipts unless you’re sure they’re non-toxic!!! Most receipts use BPA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A), an endocrine-disrupting chemical, in the transfer process (i.e. making the black parts on the white paper). Putting toxic chemicals like BPA in compost bins means the resulting soil will be not fit for growing plants or returning to the environment, so what’s the point of composting? Receipts should be recycled, if possible.

  7. Did you know that I am composting the fecal matter from my toilet — with no odor whatsoever. After working on a community project in a rural pueblo in Mexico, I brought back and installed 2 “dry toilets” or composting toilets to use inside my modern city indoor plumbing bathroom. This is not a rural cabin, but a modern home. After using such a facility in Mexico for a week I became convinced. — Clean, odorless, ecologically sustainable. Check out this web site: http://sanmiguelgaia.wordpress.com/


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  11. For those apartment dwellers who can’t have a compost pile, get a worm bin. Worms will eat up nearly anything organic (hold the meat for vermin purposes, though it can be done), and you’ll be left with their castings (poo) which makes a great natural fertilizer/potting base for growing goodies with. No smell, no mess, recycle material and usable end-product.

  12. Aren’t dryer lint and vacuum cleaner contents likely to contain lots of nasty toxic and/or non-degradable synthetic plastic fibers? Not to mention the chemicals some people use on their carpets. Yuck. And I’ve always read that you shouldn’t put things like cheese and dairy products in the pile because they’ll attract animals who will dig through the pile and make a mess. And lots of junk mail has shiny coatings made with unknown chemicals and plastics. I think I’ll stick with non-animal waste from the kitchen and the yard.

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  14. Important to note that your compost needs to be pretty hot to deal with fibers like cotton and wool.

  15. Hmmmm. Use old socks as dusters. Then, when they’re too worn out for that task, throw them in the compost. Double-duty recycling!

  16. Excellant article and perfect timing, because my household is finally going to compost, for a long-awaited garden this year! I’ll print and hang this up for the family to see and we’ll have a place to store our compost materials! We needed more info and your timing on posting this is just what we needed!

  17. I recently came across compostable straws and plates as well, which is exciting. Here in Boulder, our garbage company is now picking up compost every other week which is amazing, especially in the winter when I cannot deal with trying to keep a compost pile going through the cold and snow. The more we can get our cities to do this, the better off we will be–it is possible to compost in the city!


  18. I’m not sure it’s illegal, but in an apartment building with no outdoors to put this, I can’t imagine…especially the spoiled milk and dairy products. I’d have roaches here in no time, and can’t imagine the stench. (but I bet you there are folks who do it :-) ).

    I do have a friend in the Hamptons who just keeps a large tupperware container of ‘compostables’ in the house and then takes it out to the backyard, digs a hole and buries it.

  19. New York’s rules regarding trash are (in)famous – but I didn’t realize you couldn’t even compost!

  20. If only we could compost in our homes in NYC! I’d never have any trash anymore between recycling and composting.

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  22. I never realized some of those things could be used in a compost. Underwear and glue, I would have never guessed.

  23. Yes, it would have been easier, but then it wouldn’t have provided a good visual picture for readers. :)

  24. It seems about half of those are paper… wouldn’t it have been easier just to write paper and cardboard trimmings ?

  25. I always heard meat in a compost pile was a sure way to attract an overabundance of flies and rats… so if you do put meat in the compost, make sure it’s further away from the house and yeah, cover it up well with grass clippings!

  26. Don’t hold the meat. Dinner scraps, roadkill, culled farm animals – they can all go in. The largest single thing I’ve seen melt away (in about a week) in a pile is a rock wallaby. Flesh is fully compostable. If there is any smell, you need more carbon in your mix.

    If it has lived, it can live again!

  27. What an awesome resource, who knew!

    I have an additional suggestion: I came across these great compostable plates, that, shockingly, are *actually* compostable! :-9 They’re made from one thing: leaves. And some steam to shape them. That’s it. And amazingly, they’re quite tough. I’ve reused some 10 times. Apparently they can even be used in the oven! Haven’t tested that yet.

    For more Vererra plates, mosey over to this article: http://www.triplepundit.com/pages/compostableware-that-leaves-th-003252.php


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