What Not to Compost

When starting the process to reduce waste recycling and reusing things comes pretty easily, especially when you know what to and what not to compost!

You can recycle glass and cans easy enough, some places do waste recycling with plastic too. Some things simply have to be placed in the trash or reused. This includes inorganic garbage, plastic, metal of all kinds, glass, and ceramics. But there are more kinds of trash.

  • What do you do with the paper?
  • The vegetable trimmings?
  • The lawn clippings?


What can not be composted

What will you get from this article?

Learn about what to compost and what not to compost in your compost bin, bucket, or pile.

You will walk away from this knowing exactly what commonly used compostable materials are and what can not be composted safely.


List of Things to Never Recycle:

  • Do do put these items and materials in your recycling bin, bucket, or pile ever!
  1. Coated cardboard drink containers and juice boxes
  2. Brightly dyed paper
  3. Ceramics and pottery
  4. Aerosol cans
  5. Diapers
  6. Plastic food boxes, boxes with a plastic coat, and plastics without a recycling mark
  7. Plastic bags and plastic wrap
  8. Plastic screw on tops
  9. Medical waste
  10. Paper towels and napkins
  11. Pizza boxes
  12. Styrofoam
  13. Household glass
  14. Tires
  15. Tyvek shipping envelopes
  16. Wet paper

 What to Compost What Not to Compost

In short, what do you do with organic matter? The answer is composting.

Non Compostable MaterialThere are rules to follow though. While composting your lawn clippings, leaves, organic matter, and similar is pretty easy, there are other things you should be adding as well as quite a bit you should not.

  • Fortunately learning what not to compost and dealing with organic matter is not really all that difficult if you consider a few basic rules, and can learn about the many commonly used compostable materials and a few key compost gardening steps for success.
  • If you remember that certain toxins, diseases, and weed types can survive composting then you will be on the right track of.
  • It is just a matter of common sense. Some things do not break down- glass, metal, plastic, bone, meat, fat tissue.
  • Those things should never be added to a compost pile.
  • Some things might transmit disease organisms into other plants or through the food chain and should not be added to the compost pile either.
  • If you happen to have plant pests with hearty seeds or that spread through the roots then you might want to not compost those materials – or you will help them replant themselves.


Non Recycling and Composting Materials

In more detail, here is What not to Compost.

When determining which products, materials, items, and various chemicals should never be composted, you must look at the compost microorganisms and how they are effected by that particular thing.

  1. Adding carbon rich materials will help your compost pile.
  2. Adding chemically doused carbon-rich materials will not help it.
  3. This means avoiding wood products that are chemically treated.
  4. Not just wood chips, but sawdust (which can be good if from raw untreated healthy wood), plywood, and particle board all are filled with chemicals when they come from treated wood processes.
  5. Wood treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate is filled with arsenic, chromium, and copper, all of which are bad for plants.


Typically the arsenic is an inorganic format that is not harmful in and of itself. What makes this bad for composting is that often added CCA treated wood are mold inhibitors. These chemicals will kill off molds and fungi that are critical to the health of your compost pile.


Composting MaterialsOther types of preservatives that can be found in treated wood include creosote, or pitch oil, and ‘penta’ preservatives which can be found in utility poles and railway ties.

  • Creosote repels fungi and insects too.
  • Pitch oil and other oils make it hard to break down in the composting process. This product has over 150 chemical compounds in it and few if any of them break down.
  • Adding Creosote treated wood to your composting efforts would be like adding plastic to it.
  • Penta is also a fungi and insect repellent.
  • Also studies indicate that plants in direct contact with penta treated wood is harmed by it.
  • It is not recommended for use in greenhouses, raised beds, or around food plants.
  • Because your compost pile relies on a complex weave of creatures to help break down organic matter anything that repels part of this system should be avoided.


List of Things to Never Compost:

  • Composting MicrobesDo do put these items and materials in your compost bin, bucket, or pile ever!
  1. Hazardous waste
  2. Diseased plants
  3. Batteries
  4. Heavily coated or printed paper
  5. Human or animal feces
  6. Meat products
  7. Used personal products
  8. Rice
  9. Stubborn garden plants
  10. Milk products
  11. Sawdust
  12. Cooking oils
  13. Walnuts
  14. Bread products


What to Use in Compost

Keep in mind as you consider what to compost and What not to Compost that certain things will hinder your composting progress.

Once again, while considered safe in standard use no treated wood should ever be composted.

Things not to Compost

Another broad category of What not to Compost are organic items that are from diseased plants or contain items that will harm your composting efforts.

While composting does kill disease organisms, it is difficult to ensure that all of them have been killed. If you do compost diseased plant matter you risk reinfecting next year’s garden. Because of this it is best to simply not include these materials in your composting.

  • While treated bone meal can be a boon to composting, adding whole bones, meat products, poultry, fish, fatty food waste products, whole eggs, milk, cheese, and other dairy items should not be added to a compost pile.
  • Not only do such things attract pests like rats and local strays, but they can actually cause your composting efforts to slow progress.


There are two reasons for this.

  1. One is that breaking down fats reduce the air needed by other composting microbes.
  2. The other is that meats contain a different bacteria set that will hinder the overall composing process.

Large Compost Pile Bin

Another thing that falls under the What not to Compost label are waste products from pets and humans in the household.

Kitchen Composting Materials and ThingsThere are a wide range of reasons for this but the top one is organisms that require extremely high temperatures to kill that can cause serious disease in humans.

  • Many of these creatures can survive even in host plants thus infecting someone who eats the fruit or vegetables that the plan creates.
  • For this reason it is highly recommended avoiding composting human feces, dog feces, cat litter, soiled paper or bedding from cage pets, and the like (cat litter is also inorganic and will not break down).


Composting Fundamentals

One final broad category of What not to Compost are “pernicious” weeds.

What Not to Compost

This includes such things as morning glory, bindeweed, sheep sorrel, ivy, rhizome spreading grasses, and such.

  • Also, weeds that have gone to flower may leave behind seeds that can sprout next year.
  • It is a good idea to make sure you can either create a hot enough compost pile to kill the seeds or avoid composting them altogether.
  • If you can ensure that the weeds are truly dead by “baking” them in the hot sun for several weeks before composting then you should be safe.


Remember then What not to Compost includes chemically treated wood products, animal products, human and pet waste, weeds that tend to re-spout and all types of non-organic material.

By following these guidelines you can safely create compost for your yard, reduce the amount of trash going to the local landfills and have full, healthier, happier plants in your garden!

Recommended Composting Books: (In no particular order.)

Basic Composting Book by Eric Ebeling#: 1

By: Eric Ebeling

Description: Each technique illustrated with color photos. Details on what and what not to compost. Suggested uses for finished compost.

Year: 2003

Publishing Company: Stackpole Books

Total Pages: 83

Price: ($19.99) $9.99

Available at: Google Shopping


#: 2

Composting An Easy Household Guide Book by Nicky Scott

By: Nicky Scott

Description: Did you know that up to two-thirds of most household trash can be composted? That composting reduces the need for more landfills? Composting is fun and easy! And you can make compost even if you live in an apartment and don’t have access to a garden. This book provides all the information you need for successful composting–a satisfying way to live lightly on Earth.

Year: 2007

Publishing Company: Chelsea Green Publishing

Total Pages: 96

Price: ($12.99) $7.95

Available at: Books a Million


Backyard Composting Guide Recycling Yard Clippings#: 3

Title: Backyard Composting: Your Complete Guide to Recycling Yard Clippings

By: John W. Roulac


Over 500,000 copies of this useful book have been sold in the first nine printings. This new second edition contains new graphics, the latest information on composting and household refuse, and descriptions of the most current tools available to help readers get started with their own composting program.

Year: 1997

Publishing Company: Harmonious Technologies

Total Pages: 96

Price: ($7.99) $3.09

Available at: Barns and Noble



A+ Hand Selected Composting Articles & Tutorials

Related Composting Articles & Tutorials:

Mother Nature Network Logo Picture1. 30 Things Never to Compost– http://www.mnn.com/

  • A great segment from the Mother Nature Network (MNN) on a list and explanation on each of the 30 different things that you should never compost or recycle!


PlanetGreen.com: Planet Green Discovery Website Logo Red Pic2. What to Leave Out of Compost Bins– http://planet.green.com/

  • Are you a beginning compost gardener and just purchased a composting bin? Learn what you should keep out of the compost bin and into the trash can!


Composting 101: Composting101.com Logo Picture3. Nitrogen and Carbon List of Things Not to Compost– http://www.composting101.com/what-to-use.html

  • Learn about different plants, substances, chemicals, products, items, materials that contain Nitrogen and Carbon, and how that effects what you can use to make compost.


Veg Web: VegWeb.com Logo Picture4. List of What Not to Compost: Composting Fundamentals– http://vegweb.com/

  • One of the most technical and detailed guides and educational resources to learning composting fundamentals and overall general knowledge.


About: About.com Green Living Blog Website Logo Picture5. 7 Great Reasons to Compost– http://greenliving.about.com/

  • An excellent article from About.com’s Green Living website, this is a great tutorial.



Learning How to Compost is Family Fun 

Composting News Stories of Note, for the Month of November, 2012 United States:

Redding.com: Redding the Record Search Light Searchlight Logo Picture1. Leaf Mold is a Valuable Soil Amendment– http://www.redding.com/Summary:

“I don’t think many people consider making leaf mold. Maybe they don’t know about it,” said composting expert Kevin Marini, Master Gardener program coordinator for Placer and Nevada counties.

Bakersfield.com: Bakers Field Website Logo Picture2. Lawsuit Accuses County’s of Pulling Compost Plant’s without Having a Permit– http://www.bakersfield.com/Summary:

“Closing the plant and putting more than 130 full-time employees out of work and on the street at the height of the holiday season, and in these tough economic times, is something not even the Grinch would condone,” John Richardson, vice president of Community Recycling, wrote in a news release Wednesday November 23, 2011.

OCRegister.com Orange Countery Register Life Website Logo Picture3. Composting is a Family Affair– http://www.ocregister.com/Summary:

“It’s 100% true, composting is not an individual effort, but a group effort that starts with a single person. People who hunt and fish, don’t steal and deal.”


How to Compost with Kitchen Scraps

If you follow the list of items and materials above, in which can and cannot be composted, you will create amazing soil and then plants.

Follow us for updates to things related to what you should not put in a composter bin.


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Go Garden Guides is one of the fastest growing online resources and communities for gardening, built by gardeners everywhere. The site was founded by Whitney Segura (Louisiana, USA) and also owned by Marion Catubig (The Philippines) and Alexandru Chiuariuc (Romania). Feel free to register and submit a unique garden tutorial today!

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  1. says

    What not to compost an excellent addition to the composting discussion and quite honestly is too often overlooked.  It does get confusing at times even to those who have been doing it for a while.  Anymore when I have a doubt whether or not to put something in my compost pile, I put it in my Bokashi bucket.  That way I at least still have the benefit of the organic matter without worrying about throwing off the C:N ratio of the pile.  Very nice site, you have done a great job Whitney! I am happy to click the Facebook “Like It” Button!  Best Regards.

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