What Should You Not Put in Compost: Debunking Common Myths

Composting is more than just a trendy buzzword; it’s a cornerstone of a sustainable lifestyle. By turning organic waste into valuable soil, you’re not only reducing landfill waste but also enriching your garden in an eco-friendly way.

What should you not put in compost? Avoid adding meat, dairy, and oily foods as they can attract pests and cause bad odors. Diseased plants and chemically-treated yard waste should also be excluded to prevent the spread of pathogens and harmful substances. By being selective with your compost ingredients, you can create a nutrient-rich soil conditioner that’s beneficial for your garden and the environment.


Compost Clue: Did you know? Composting can reduce household waste by up to 30%!

So, what’s the catch? Well, not all waste is created equal. That’s where this article comes in. Our primary focus is to guide you through the maze of what should and should not find its way into your compost pile.

We’ll be diving deep into the do’s and don’ts of composting, answering common questions you may have and debunking myths that could be hindering your composting efforts. So, let’s get started and make your composting journey a successful one!

The Basics of Composting

Composting is the art and science of converting organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. It’s a win-win for both you and the planet. You get to recycle your kitchen scraps and yard waste, and in return, you get ‘black gold’—a rich, earthy compost that your plants will love.

Compost Clue: Compost improves soil structure, provides a variety of essential nutrients for plants, and helps soil retain moisture.

Why Composting is Beneficial

Composting is not just about waste reduction. It also enriches the soil, helps retain moisture, and suppresses plant diseases. Plus, it reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, promoting a healthier, more sustainable ecosystem.

Green and Brown Materials

When it comes to composting, not all materials are created equal. They’re generally categorized into ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials:

  • Green Materials: These are rich in nitrogen and include items like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and grass clippings.
  • Brown Materials: These are rich in carbon and include items like dried leaves, paper (paper bags are a great addition to the compost), and wood chips.

A balanced mix of green and brown materials is crucial for a successful compost pile.

What NOT to Compost: The Essentials

While composting is a fantastic way to recycle organic matter, not everything belongs in your compost bin. Some items can disrupt the composting process, attract unwanted pests, or even harm the composting organisms that are the heart of your home compost system.

Compost Clue: Always double-check before adding new types of waste to your compost pile. When in doubt, leave it out.


Common Items to Avoid

  • Meat and Dairy Products: These can attract pests and are not easily broken down.
  • Fats and Oils: They can cause your compost pile to become greasy and smelly.
  • Diseased Plants: These can spread disease to other plants when the compost is used.
  • Chemically Treated Yard Waste: Pesticides can kill beneficial composting organisms.

Answering Your Questions

What vegetables should not be composted? Avoid composting diseased plants or those treated with pesticides.

Can you put eggshells in compost? Yes, eggshells are a good source of calcium and can be included.

Can you put onion peels in compost? Onion peels are fine but in moderation, as they can be strong-smelling.

Is it OK to put cooked vegetables in compost? Only if they haven’t been cooked with oil, butter, or sauces.

Why can’t you compost grass clippings? You can, but only if they haven’t been treated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Can you put bread in my compost? It’s best to avoid as it can attract pests.

Can you put potato peels in compost? Yes, but avoid any that show signs of disease like green spots.


Handy Hints for Successful Composting

Composting can be a rewarding experience if you know the tricks of the trade. Here are some handy hints to make your composting journey a success.

Compost Clue: A balanced compost bin is a happy compost bin. Aim for a 50/50 mix of green and brown materials.

Balance is Key

Strive for a balance between ‘green’ materials like food scraps and ‘brown’ materials like dried leaves. This ensures your compost bin has the right mix of nitrogen and carbon.

Compost Clue: Coffee grounds and tea leaves are excellent ‘green’ materials for your compost bin.

Be Selective with Scraps

While most kitchen scraps are compostable, be cautious with onions and meat. Onions can be potent and meat can attract pests.

Compost Clue: If you do want to compost meat, consider a specialized composter designed for this purpose.

The Science Behind Composting

Understanding the science of composting can deepen your appreciation for this eco-friendly practice. Let’s delve into the role of composting organisms and the composting process.

Composting Organisms: The Unsung Heroes

Composting organisms are the microscopic creatures that break down organic matter. They include bacteria, fungi, and even larger organisms like earthworms.

Compost Clue: A diverse range of composting organisms ensures faster and more efficient composting.

The Composting Process: A Symphony of Decay

The composting process is a series of stages that transforms organic matter into nutrient-rich soil. It starts with the ‘Initial Phase,’ where composting organisms break down easily decomposable materials. This is followed by the ‘Thermophilic Phase,’ where heat-loving bacteria take over. Finally, the ‘Maturation Phase’ allows the compost to stabilize and mature.

Compost Clue: Turning your compost pile regularly can speed up the composting process.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

Composting is a fantastic way to recycle organic waste, but there are some myths that can deter people from this sustainable practice. Let’s debunk some of these misconceptions.

Myth 1: You Can’t Compost Meat

While it’s true that meat can attract pests, it’s not entirely off-limits. Specialized compost bins can handle meat without issues.

Compost Clue: If you do compost meat, make sure to turn your pile regularly to speed up decomposition and deter pests.

Myth 2: Citrus Peels Are Bad for Compost

Contrary to popular belief, citrus peels are not harmful to compost. They do take longer to decompose but offer a good source of nitrogen.

Compost Clue: Chop up citrus peels into smaller pieces to speed up the composting process.

Myth 3: Composting is Complicated

Composting is as simple as separating your waste and letting nature do its work. You don’t need a fancy compost bin or tumbler to start.

Compost Clue: A simple pile in your garden can serve as a compost bin.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, from the basics of composting to debunking common myths. Composting is not just a sustainable practice; it’s a lifestyle choice that benefits both you and the planet.

Key Takeaways

  • Composting is easy and beneficial for the environment.
  • Not all waste is compostable; be mindful of what you add to your compost pile.
  • Common myths about composting meat and citrus are largely unfounded.

Compost Clue: Start small and learn as you go. You don’t need a fancy setup to make a difference.

We encourage you to share your composting experiences and continue to educate yourself on sustainable practices. Happy composting!

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