Composting is a win-win. Not only do you get to feed your garden all the nutrients it needs but you’re recycling your garbage. Every piece of garbage that goes into the pile instead of the dumpster saves valuable landfill space and adds much needed nutrients to your soil.
Once you get a good pile going, you’ll start running into the same question over and over again, “Is this compostable?” More frequently than you might think, the answer might be yes. Pretty much anything organic (organic here meaning derived from a natural source, not just stuff from Whole Foods) can go in the compost pile. If you’ve not replaced your paper products with fabric, good news! You can compost them and still help the environment.
Start with the most obvious
1. Tea Bags and Coffee grounds, including the filters
2. Fireplace ashes, good news for those of us with wood burners
3. Dead houseplants (I can only grow mold & mildew, so I’m good at this one)
4. Stale Bread and other grain products. (even if it’s a little moldy, that’s fine).
7. Used paper towels, napkins, non-coated paper plates and cups (no plastic or Styrofoam)
8. Paper grocery bags, ripped in pieces
9. Dirt from the bottom of your shoes and boots, or swept off the floor or the wood box (I save my wood box sweepings for fire starters).
10. Droppings from any of your vegetarian critters: chickens or other birds, rabbits, hamsters, horses, sheep, cows, etc. (No dogs or cats though).
11. Paper towel and toilet paper rolls.
12. Miscellaneous cardboard, so long as it’s not waxed and has been ripped into pieces (good job for a bored kid): paper plates, pizza boxes, egg cartons, cereal boxes, you name it!
… more unique
13. Dryer Lint
14. Polish-free nail clippings (from you or your pets)
15. Hair, fur and feathers (great for when you brush the dog and fill a shopping bag or the tumble weeds if you have hard wood floors)
16. Cotton, Wool and Silk clothing or house linens that you’re not using anymore, if it’s too ratty to donate to charity, it’s perfect for the compost pile
17. Rope and twine made from natural fibers like hemp, cotton, jute, etc. (I use mine for wood bundles so it’s burnable)
18. Wine Corks (or a wine box… broken down with the plastic bladder removed)
19. Pencil shavings and eraser rubbings
20. Cotton Balls & Q-tips (with the cardboard stick, not plastic)
21. Toothpicks and bamboo skewers
22. Old pet food: dry dog kibble, dry cat food, fish food, catnip
23. Shredded documents (just make sure not to shred the envelopes with plastic windows still in them, also if your shredder has a credit card shredder make sure these aren’t hitting the pile as well.)
24. Old loofahs (but not plastic poufs)
25. Expired dairy products (yes, you have to still get them out of the plastic container)
26. Old Halloween candy (no wrappers please)
27. Produce that has sat too long (onions, tomatoes and lettuce come first to mind. Before you chuck the bananas, put the fruit in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for banana bread or smoothies, and just put the peel in the pile.)
28. Used matches and old stale tobacco (no cigarette butts or papers.)
29. Holiday Decorations (jack-o-lanterns, crepe paper streamers, wrapping paper, latex balloons, Christmas Wreaths, Valentine’s Day bouquets, etc – no mylar balloons or anything shiny. Keep this in mind when buying them.)
30. Beer and wine (I don’t know anyone who has this leftover personally)
31. Condoms made from latex or sheepskin
32. Cotton and Cardboard feminine products
33. The contents of your vacuum canister (if it has paper bags, just throw the whole bag in)
34. White glue (check the ingredients to make sure it’s not toxic, most school glues are just fine)
35. Masking tape
As you might expect, some items will require you to turn your pile right away (used feminine hygiene products and old dairy top the list) not only from the gross factor but you don’t want to attract critters that will tear the pile apart. Consider having a second trashcan in your house and use it for compost worthy items. Also let the rest of the family know what’s compostable and what’s not so you’re not retrieving and moving things.