Skip to Content

Make Amazing Compost By Omitting These 22 Things

This article may contain affiliate links. We get paid a small commission from your purchases. More Affiliate Policy

Traditional composting is the managed decomposition of organic matter that mainly consists of food waste, brown plant material, and fresher green plant material.

While all organic matter will eventually decompose, we must carefully consider what we add to our compost pile. Organic materials that will attract rodents and pests should be avoided, as well as infected materials and those that contain weed seeds that need higher temperatures.

Table of Contents

What Not to Put in Compost and Why

Inert Materials

These materials are not biodegradable and will merely pass through the process unchanged, eventually polluting the soil to which the compost is added.

  • Chemical-synthetic residues, adhesives, solvents, petrol, lubricants, paint
  • Non-degradable materials (glass, metals, plastics).
  • Foil wrappers Styrofoam (plates, cups, etc.)
  • Plastic utensils (forks, spoons, knives, plates, cups, stir sticks, lids, etc.)
  • Single-serve containers (ketchup, butter, jelly, jam, cream, etc.)

Contaminated Organic Materials

Wood is commonly chemically treated to extend its durability, mainly the onslaught of organisms that will cause its decay.

When added to compost, these same preservation materials scupper the growth and development of essential composting microorganisms.

  • Agglomerate or plywood
  • Painted wood
  • Sawdust from treated wood
  • Transport pallet wood
  • The timber used in mining operations
Picture of wood chips
Sawdust from treated wood

Materials That Contain Biocides

Some organic materials have biocidal properties to defend them against natural microorganic threats.

Then there are also the chemicals we’ve developed to fight bacteria (sometimes nothing more than a perceived risk).

  • Tobacco since it contains a potent biocide such as nicotine and various toxic substances.
  • Cedarwood
  • Detergents, chlorinated products, antibiotics, and drug residues.
  • Flowers sold commercially – treated with antibacterial preservatives
  • Walnut shells and Black Walnut leaves
  • Equine or bovine manure from farms that treat their feed crops with Aminopyralid
  • Lawn clippings if you use a broadleaf herbicide that contains Clopyralid
  • Herbicides from the Bipyridyliums family also have low microbial decomposition rates. Gramaxone and Diquat are examples.
  • Persistent Herbicides
Walnut shells and leaves

Animal Products

Animals should be incinerated or sent to special facilities for decomposing animal carcasses.

  • Any animal carcasses
  • Cooked leftovers, specifical meat
  • Feces of carnivores

My Book Composting Masterclass Is Available Now!

So many people struggle to make compost. It either takes an eternity to break down or becomes a smelly mess. I wrote this book so that you can learn what happens in your compost pile at the microscopic level and the fundamentals. Knowing this will allow you to understand at what stage your compost is, solve problems, and find solutions when making compost. Check out what others say about the book!

Composting Masterclass By Tony O'Neill

The most comprehensive book on composting I have ever read!

I thought I knew something about composting organic materials to use back in my garden as “black gold.” Still, Tony’s breaking down (pun intended) composting principles and methods has given me a better understanding of the whole process.

If you want to know everything about composting and becoming a Compost Master – read this book! 

Mark Valencia (Self-Sufficient Me)

How to Deal with Pathogens and Weed Seeds

Human, canine, and feline waste should not be added to the compost pile as it may allow disease transmission.

The compost pile should not contain sick plant matter or weeds that have gone to seed.

We can achieve temperatures as high as 170 degrees Fahrenheit if water, air, insulation, pH, carbon, and nitrogen elements are closely managed.

Most disease pathogens and weed seeds are destroyed at temperatures above 150⁰F (65⁰C).

Sadly, most residential compost piles seldom reach temperatures where pathogens and weed seeds are destroyed.

These temperatures will be achieved only in insulated compost bins where batches are close to a 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen, kept moist, and turned regularly.

Picture of Tony O'Neill adding a thermometer to a large compost pile
Checking the Temperature of Compost

As a result, the composting process does not eliminate disease germs and weed seeds.

If unhealthy plant components are composted, the finished product should not be used in the same spot in the yard as it was created.

Since animal fats and bones are difficult to compost and can attract dogs, rodents, and other animals, they shouldn’t be included in the compost pile.

What Can be Composted

The vast majority of organic materials are compostable. Below there is a list of materials that can be composted:

Gardening Waste

Grass clippingsShrub Trimmings
Leaves (shredded)Tree Trimmings (Mill thicker branches)
WeedsPotted plants
FlowersYard Debris
Picture of wheelbarrow full of grass clippings
Grass Clippings

Kitchen Scraps

Vegetable scrapFreezer-burned vegetables and fruits
Expired fruitDregs from juice, beer, wine
EggshellsNutshells (excluding Walnut)
Coffee groundsBread, tortillas, pitas
Tea leaves (not the teabag)Cereal and crackers
Peels (Including Citrus)Chips (tortilla, potato, etc.)
Spoiled foodCooked pasta, rice, and other grains
Wine corksAlmond, Soy, Rice, and Coconut milk

Household Waste

Vegetable Scraps
Hair and furDead blossoms
Dryer lintBamboo skewers
Vacuum contents & floor sweepingsPotpourri
Pencil shavingsBeer and wine-making leftovers
Loofahs (the organic type)Evergreen garlands and wreaths
Cotton, wool, linen, silk, hemp, burlap, feltJack-o-lanterns
Used matchesDry dog, cat, and fish food
Indoor plant trimmingsCrepe paper streamers
Nail clippingsYarn, thread, string, rope, twine
Aquarium water, algae, plantsCork Board
Spent potting soil 
Plant Trimmings

Paper Products

Shredded paperUncoated paper cups & plates
Food-soiled paper or cardboardCompostable bags made from plant starches
CardboardPaper baking cups
Plant starch compostable containers, dishware & utensilsPaper table cloths
Paper bagsCereal boxes
Paper towels and toilet paper coresPaper egg cartons
Tissues, paper napkins, and paper towelsPizza boxes
Wrapping and tissue paper (no ribbons, foil, or tape) 
composting for beginners
thin strips of paper

Wood Product (from untreated wood)

Wood shavingsShredded wood

Manures (Herbivores)

Bovine (Cattle) – see exclusion list aboveSheep
Equine (Horse) – see exclusion list aboveAlpaca
RabbitsAll herbivores
ChickenTurkey Litter
GoatSwine Manure
Picture of chickens on compost pile
Chicken Manure

Acquired Farm Products

TeffCorn Silage

In Conclusion

Many more materials are permitted in a compost pile than those not. Some of these are inert and unable to affect the outcome, and others will ruin the batch and should be avoided at all costs.

If you found this article helpful, pop your email address in the block below, and I’ll send you the newsletter with all the new articles and special offers.

[mailerlite_form form_id=5]