The Most Surprising Things You Can Compost (In Other Words, Stop Feeling Guilty and Just Compost These!)

published Apr 21, 2020
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illustrations of items okay to compost

So, you want to turn your food scraps into compost to complete the cycle of life? Excellent news. By composting at home either in your own backyard (a project!) or through a service (easy-peasy!), you’re doing your part to reduce landfill waste, increase soil health, and contribute to a more sustainable food system. You’ve done the hard part, which is just starting to compost, and you know the easiest way to do it, but, uh, maybe you have one last question: What should you actually be composting?

I spoke with Brian Luton, the owner of Stone’s Throw Farm in Upstate New York and a professional composter, to cut through the sh*t (excuse the pun), and discover what you should always, always toss on the pile. There were some surprises in here and if you’re still on the fence about starting to compost, one of these may change your mind.

Learn more: Why Everyone Should Compost (Even If You Never Garden). But Good News: It’s Much Easier than You Think.

Before we get to the specifics, a note to always check with your specific composting service. If you’re composting through a citywide service (we recommend this! It’s so easy!) then make sure to check their specific list. Often services have a higher capacity and more resources to compost things you would find tricky at home (meat, bones, fat, etc.). Take this list as a starting point and always defer to your particular service.

First, here are a few surprising things you might not have realized you can compost!

  1. Used paper towels: Yes! Paper towels and any compostable paper product can go straight into your compost, not the landfill.
  2. Used paper coffee filters: Another paper product that never has to go into the trash again. Dump it all (coffee grounds included) into your compost container.
  3. Wine corks: True corks, not the plastic ones. If you don’t have a big cork collection, donate them back to the earth.
  4. Houseplant trimmings: They are organic matter, so throw them in!
  5. Crumbs from your kitchen counter: You know all that stuff you sweep off your counters and off your floors? Mostly organic matter (except for a stray LEGO or two, amirite, parents?). Pop that straight into the compost bucket.

And then, a reminder of all the other things that can also go into your compost bucket.

  1. Vegetable scraps and peels
  2. Fruit scraps, peels, and pits
  3. Rotting or moldy produce
  4. Tea leaves and coffee grounds
  5. Eggshells
  6. Bread
  7. Stale crackers
  8. Stale cereal
  9. Cooked, plain pasta
  10. Cooked, plain rice
  11. Cooked beans
  12. Tofu
  13. Seaweed, kelp, and nori
  14. Old dried spices (that have lost their potency and are no longer useful when cooking)
  15. Nutshells (but not walnut shells)

Basically, if you can eat it, the earth can use it too. Why put any organic (as in, living and edible, not, you know, certified organic) into the trash and landfill when instead you can donate it back to the earth to become nourishing soil for growing?

This list is just to get you going. We’d love to know: What surprising things have you learned to compost?