Compost pot full of kitchen scraps. ATTRIBUTION: Steven Depolo (Flickr)

Compost pot full of kitchen scraps. ATTRIBUTION: Steven Depolo (Flickr)

Food scraps, yard waste, fruit and vegetable peels, and many other items can be composted for your garden. Making compost at home keeps many of these materials out of landfills, where they take up space and release dangerous greenhouse gases. A basic compost pile should consist of three primary ingredients: “browns,” “greens,” and water. Brown materials can be found outdoors and include items like branches, twigs, and dead leaves. Greens include grass clippings, fruit scraps, and vegetable wastes. Water is necessary for compost development. While composting allows you to turn leftovers into nutrient-rich fertilizer, not all items can be used in compost. Let’s look at what you can and can’t compost.

Things You CAN Compost:

1. Dryer Lint

Lint from your dryer breaks down easily and quickly in your compost bin. Dryer lint also enriches the soil and helps to reduce unpleasant smells that may come from food scraps.

2. Bills and Junk Mail

Junk mail, bills, magazines, and other waste paper can be shredded and added to your compost. These paper products can be especially handy during the spring and summer months, when dried leaves may not be plentiful.

3. Stale Snacks

Old crackers, cookies, doughnuts, noodles, pizza crust, and anything else made with flour can be used as compost in your garden. All starchy bread products can benefit soil even after they’ve gone bad.

4. Hair and Fur

Clean out your hair brush (and your pets’) and throw the balls of hair and fur into the compost pile. Both human hair and pet fur are full of nitrogen, one of the main components that a compost pile needs.

5. Pet Cage Waste

Soiled animal bedding from guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, rabbits, and other household critters is deemed safe to compost. Droppings from these pets, mixed with natural bedding material such as wood chips or straw, contain a high carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and are high in moisture.

Things You CAN’T Compost:

1. Plastic Bags

Plastic-coated paper boxes, plastic bags, and some food packaging materials have petroleum-based coatings that are not biodegradable. If possible, clean and reuse plastic bags instead of throwing them away.

2. Sawdust

Sawdust, wood chips, and small wood scraps should never be composed unless you know for sure that the wood has not been treated. Treated or pressure-treated sawdust or wood chips contain toxic chemicals.

3. Meat and Bone Scraps

While meat and bone scraps will biodegrade and turn into usable soil for your garden, they will also attract harmful insects and rodents. As meat and bones decay in your yard, these pests will begin to feast on your stockpile.

4. Oily Foods

Avoid adding any oily foods, cooking oil, grease, or oily salad residues to your compost. Oil-based foods and residues can coat minerals in the pile, causing the degradation process to slow down.

5. Colored/Glossy Paper

While most paper products are suitable for composting, colored or glossy paper should not be used. Due to their high chemical content, both colored and glossy paper are better off being recycled than composted.