Not only does composting help keep recyclable materials out of our landfills, it also provides nutrient-rich soil for successful gardens and healthy yards. But what can be composted… and what should be thrown in the trash?

Below are lists of what you should & should not compost according to the Environmental Protection Agency:

What to compost

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

What not to compost & why

  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
    – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
    – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    – Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    – Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    – Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • 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

Thanksgiving leftovers

Given the above guidelines, the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls and desserts would not do well in a compost. However, the scraps left behind by vegetables used in the process of making the turkey and mashed potatoes… or fruit cores and seeds used in the preparation of desserts are a go!

Composting for beginners

Looking to set-up a compost at your home?

Find a dry, shady spot near a water source (ex. hose or water spigot) in your backyard. Start collecting and piling materials that are brown (ex. coffee grounds, dead leaves, etc.) and green (ex. vegetable waste, grass clippings, etc.) With water, wet dry materials as they are added. As the compost becomes more established, bury vegetable and fruit scraps 10″-12″ in the pile. Once the material at the bottom of the pile starts to turn dark, your compost is ready to use. This can take anywhere from two months to two years to occur.

Curbside composting collection in Austin

Looking for an easier way to compost? Check out the Austin Resource Recovery Center for information on curbside compost collection options in your neighborhood.

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