Compost–What’s In and What’s Out

I’ve had a Mantis twin barrel composter for several years now, before that we used a couple of old tires stacked on top of each other to form a compost bin.  I’ve really enjoyed having a composter because it helps to reduce landfills and of course is “free” assuming you take care of your compost.  Interestingly the EPA says something along the lines of 27% of the US waste stream consists of yard waste and food.  Imagine if that went back into the soil!  we would reduce our land fill consumption by one fourth and of course have vibrant, healthy soil!  It is important when composting that you know what you should and should not put into your compost pile, here is  partial list of “good” stuff:

  • Cardboard rolls
  • Clean paper
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cotton rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Eggshells
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Wood chips
  • Wool rags
  • Yard trimmings

And of course, a list of what not to put into the compost pile:

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    • Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    • Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs*
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    • Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils*
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps*
    • Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)*
    • Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    • Might kill beneficial composting organisms


Want to learn about how to get started at home?  Cornell has a pretty good PDF here: