Green to Gold: Surprising Items You Can Compost to Enrich Your Garden and Reduce Waste

Green to Gold: Surprising Items You Can Compost to Enrich Your Garden and Reduce Waste

Composting is a rewarding and eco-friendly way to reduce waste, enrich your garden soil, and contribute to a healthier planet.

By recycling organic materials into nutrient-rich compost, you can create a sustainable cycle that benefits both your garden and the environment.

In this blog post, we'll explore a wide range of materials you can compost, turning your "green" waste into "gold" for your garden.

Please note that if you live in an area that you have a compost bin provided and picked up, the list of items that can and can not be composted may vary. When a discrepancy is seen between the below list and the one provided by your compost bin provider, default to the guidelines provided by the compost bin provider.

The below list is a guide for people with their own compost piles.

1. Fruit and Vegetable Scraps:

The peels, cores, and leftovers from fruits and vegetables are excellent additions to your compost pile. They're rich in nutrients and help create fertile soil.

2. Coffee Grounds and Filters:

Used coffee grounds are a fantastic source of nitrogen for your compost, and coffee filters can be composted too, as long as they're unbleached.

3. Eggshells:

Crushed eggshells are a valuable source of calcium for your compost and can help balance the pH of your soil.

4. Yard Waste:

Leaves, grass clippings, weeds (without mature seeds), and small branches or twigs can all be composted, but they may need to be shredded or chopped for faster decomposition.

Note, when composting weeds, "to avoid spreading more weeds throughout your garden, make sure these have no flowers or seed heads and are completely dried out and dead." (Source: Garden Betty)

5. Plant Trimmings:

Pruned branches, dead plants, and spent flowers can go into your compost pile. Just avoid diseased plant material.

You can also of course compost natural holiday wreaths and real Christmas trees (artificial Christmas trees cannot be composted).

6. Shredded Paper and Cardboard:

Uncoated, plain cardboard and paper can be composted, as long as they're not glossy or heavily inked. Shredding them helps speed up decomposition.

This includes:

  • used paper napkins
  • pizza and cereal boxes (ripped into smaller pieces)
  • paper bags (either rip into smaller pieces or ball up
  • paper towel, toilet paper and wrapping paper rolls
  • paper egg cartons
  • paper cupcake or muffin cups
  • used paper plates (without wax coating)
  • used facial tissue
  • shredded documents
  • envelopes (without a plastic window)
  • sticky notes
  • business cards (as long as they're not glossy)
  • receipts
  • newspapers (ripped into smaller pieces)
  • paper table cloths
  • parchment paper
  • microwave popcorn bags
  • butcher paper

7. Straw or Hay:

These materials are great for adding carbon to your compost pile, balancing the nitrogen-rich materials like kitchen scraps.

8. Tea Bags (Without Staples):

Used tea bags can be composted, but be sure to remove any staples if they are present.

9. Nut Shells:

Shells from nuts like peanuts and almonds can be composted, but they take longer to break down. Avoid composting walnut shells as they contain a compound which is toxic to some plants. (Source: Treehugger)

10. Fireplace Ash (In Moderation):

Wood ash from your fireplace or wood-burning stove can be added to your compost in small amounts to help raise the pH.

11. Natural Fabrics:

Worn-out cotton or wool clothing and fabric scraps can be composted, but be sure to cut them into small pieces for faster decomposition.

12. Hair and Pet Fur:

Human and pet hair, as well as fur from grooming, can be added to your compost pile.

13. Manure (From Herbivores):

Manure from vegetarian animals like cows, horses, and rabbits is rich in nutrients and beneficial for compost.

14. Seaweed and Aquatic Plants:

If you live near the coast or have access to freshwater plants like algae, they can be added to your compost pile.

15. Soap Scraps

16. Houseplant Trimmings:

Pruned leaves and stems from your indoor plants can also be composted.

17. Old Potting Soil:

Used potting soil can be rejuvenated in your compost pile, helping to break down any residual organic matter.

18. Stale Bread and Cereal:

Stale or expired bread, cereal, and other grains can be composted, but be mindful of attracting pests. For this reason, some recommend not composting bread and cereal.

19. Wooden Items 

You can recycle wooden items such as:

  • popsicle sticks
  • toothpicks
  • bamboo skewers

20. Natural Cork:

Corks from wine bottles and other natural cork products can be composted.

Remember, a successful compost pile requires a good balance of "green" (nitrogen-rich) and "brown" (carbon-rich) materials.

To view more items that can be composted from your bathroom, personal items, pet-related and more, check out this article from How Stuff Works on 75 Things You Can Compost, But Thought You Couldn't. Surprisingly, urine is included on the list of things you can recycle, and, according to Gardening Know How, "its use can improve your organic garden’s growth at no cost."

And, remember, when composting, the 30%/70% rule:

Green materials provide nitrogen for the composting process, while brown materials provide carbon and help maintain a healthy balance. Regularly turning and aerating your compost pile will speed up decomposition and create nutrient-rich compost for your garden.

If you need help with your compost pile, then check out our Compost Starter - ESCS. Our Composter Starter initiates and accelerates the composting process by stimulating the aerobic biomass present in the composting environment. It is: 

  • Convenient to use 
  • Safe for the environment 
  • Non-toxic to animals, plants and humans 
  • Controls flies and insects by creating a poor breeding substrate 
  • The resulting compost is odourless and hygienic and can be safely applied to any soil

Learn more about Compost Starter - ESCS here.

For a list of items NOT to compost, check out our blog, "Composting Cautiously: What Not to Add to Your Compost Pile and Why".

By composting these materials instead of sending them to the landfill, you're not only reducing waste but also nurturing your garden and contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. So, start composting today and watch your garden flourish with the benefits of this "black gold."


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

Ocean Wise, 16 Surprising Things You Can Compost in Your Green Bin

Gardening Know How, What Is Urea: Tips On Feeding Plants With Urine 

Treehugger, 12 Things You Should Never Compost


Please note that this list is not inclusive. There are likely more things that can be composted that are not listed.