75 Things You Can Compost, But Thought You Couldn't

By: Colleen Vanderlinden  | 

surprising compost items
Of course you can use assorted fruit and vegetable scraps, yard clippings and grass, but there are so many other things you can toss into the compost pile instead of sending them to the landfill. RyanJLane/Getty Images

The basics of composting are simple. Most people know they can compost fruit and vegetable peels, leaves, and grass clippings. But what about that tea bag you used this morning? Or the fur that collects in the brush when you groom your cat?

The following list is meant to get you thinking about your compost possibilities. Not every item on the list is for everyone, and that's fine. Imagine how much trash we could prevent from going into the landfills if each of us just decided to compost a few more things.

Here are 75 ideas to get you started.

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From the Kitchen

1. Coffee grounds and filters

2. Tea bags

3. Used paper napkins

4. Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces

5. Paper bags, either ripped or balled up

6. The crumbs you sweep off your counters and floors

7. Plain cooked pasta

8. Plain cooked rice

9. Stale bread

10. Stale saltine crackers

11. Paper towel rolls

12. Stale cereal

13. Used paper plates (as long as they don't have a waxy coating)

14. Cellophane bags (be sure it's really Cellophane and not just clear plastic — there's a difference)

15. Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which can be toxic to plants)

16. Old herbs and spices

17. Stale pretzels

18. Pizza crusts

19. Cereal boxes (tear them into smaller pieces first)

20. Wine corks

21. Moldy cheese

22. Melted ice cream

23. Old jelly, jam, or preserves

24. Stale beer and wine

25. Paper egg cartons

26. Toothpicks

27. Bamboo skewers

28. Paper cupcake or muffin cups

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From the Bathroom

29. Used facial tissues

30. Hair from your hairbrush

31. Toilet paper rolls

32. Old loofahs

33. Nail clippings

34. Urine

35. Cotton balls — just make sure they're 100 percent cotton

36. Cotton swabs — just make sure they're 100 percent cotton with cardboard (not plastic) sticks

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Personal Items

It might be a good idea to bury these items in your pile. Just sayin'.

37. Cardboard tampon applicator

38. Latex condoms, as long as they're paraben- and chemical-free

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From the Laundry Room

39. Dryer lint

40. Old/stained cotton clothing — rip or cut it into smaller pieces

41. Old wool clothing — rip or cut it into smaller pieces

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From the Office

42. Bills and other documents you've shredded

43. Envelopes (minus the plastic window)

44. Pencil shavings

45. Sticky notes

46. Business cards (as long as they're not glossy)

47. Receipts

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Around the House

48. Contents of your vacuum cleaner bag or canister

49. Newspapers (shredded or torn into smaller pieces)

50. Subscription cards from magazines

51. Leaves trimmed from houseplants

52. Dead houseplants and their soil

53. Flowers from floral arrangements

54. Natural potpourri

55. Used matches. Unused matches, however, contain chemical components that can harm your plants.

56. Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, or outdoor fire pit

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Party and Holiday Supplies

57. Wrapping paper rolls

58. Paper table cloths

surprising compost items
Compost can be made of some surprising components, but anything containing natural materials will work. Just make sure to stay away from plastics and chemicals of any kind.
Catherine McQueen/Getty Images

59. Crepe paper streamers

60. Wrapping paper, as long as it's not glossy and doesn't have a waxy, plastic or metallic coating or contain elements such as glitter

61. Raffia

62. Excelsior (those fine curled wood shavings used for packing fragile items) or other natural packing materials

63. Jack o' Lanterns

64. Those hay bales you used as part of your outdoor fall decor

65. Natural holiday wreaths

66. Your Christmas tree. Chop it up with some pruners first (or use a wood chipper, if you have one...). Of course, your artificial tree has no place in your compost bin.

67. Evergreen garlands

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Pet-Related

68. Fur from the dog or cat brush

69. Droppings and bedding from your rabbit/gerbil/hamsters, etc.

70. Newspaper/droppings from the bottom of the bird cage

71. Feathers

72. Alfalfa hay or pellets (usually fed to rabbits)

73. Rawhide dog chews

74. Fish food

75. Dry dog or cat food

I know that the longer I've had a compost pile, the more likely I've been to take a second look at something I was preparing to throw in the trash. "Hmm. Can I compost this?" is a frequent question in my house. And, as you can see, it's surprising how often you can answer "Yes!"

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Originally Published: Jan 11, 2012

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