25 Things You Should Start Adding to Your Compost Pile

Woman scraping food scraps onto a compost pile

Francesco Vaninetti Photo / Getty Images

If you’ve already started composting, you’ve probably got the basic idea of what goes onto the pile. You’re already dumping your peels, cores, leaves, clippings and coffee grounds. You’re already thinking about your browns and greens, gathering them from your kitchen and yard. If you want to take composting to the next level, and reduce your household waste even further, here’s a list of some less-discussed items that can also get tossed in your composting bin or tumbler.

1. Shredded newspaper
Glossy magazines don’t make for good compost, but thin printed paper can go on the pile. Help it break down faster by shredding it. According to composting guidelines from the Cornell University Waste Management Institute, most newspapers today are printed with non-toxic inks and pose no health risk.

2. Paper towels and napkins
But only if you’re cleaning up food with these items—if you’re sopping up anything that might have chemicals don’t put them in the compost to avoid any possible contamination.

3. Wine and beer
If your wine has gone vinegary or your beer has gone flat, don’t fret—just pour it onto the pile.

4. Expired spices

5. Bedding from hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs

6. Cotton and wool fabrics

7. Jam, jellies and fruit preserves

8. Used matchsticks

9. Leftover brine or canning liquid
If you’re not using those juices to cook with, you can add them to your compost bin.

10. Jell-O (gelatin)

11. Expired yeast
You might not want to risk a bad batch of bread with a packet of yeast that’s past its expiration date, but it may still have some microorganisms that can help your compost along.

12. Dry pet food
If that old bag of cat food is hopelessly stale, or your puppy refuses to taste a new brand of kibble, you can throw dry pet food into the compost bin.

13. Bamboo skewers

14. Wooden chopsticks
They may take a long time to biodegrade, but it will eventually happen. Consider breaking them up a bit to speed the process. Although, it's better to hang onto reusable chopsticks, and ask for the disposable kind to be left out of your take-out order.

15. Wood ash

16. Tea bags

17. Candy

18. Hair
Yours or your pet’s.

19. Feathers

20. Nail clippings
Your pet’s or your own, as long as they’re polish-free.

21. Cotton balls

22. Tooth picks

23. Natural wine corks

24. Saw dust

25. Eggshells
I have seen several articles that recommend against composting egg shells, but I don't know why. Eggshells will break down in most compost systems. According to “Compost City” by Rebecca Louie (a great guide for beginners), you can even add them to worm bins.

Do you have any other uncommon additions to the list of compostables? Tell us in the comments!