General gardening topics

What to put in a compost bin and what not to compost

Last updated on March 16th, 2022

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Compost bins are a wonderful way to recycle and starting the process is relatively simple. However, differentiating between what can and cannot be put in the compost bin is not as simple. 

What to compost – a quick guide

Some of the most common materials you can compost include green waste such as grass clippings, annual weeds, fruit and vegetables, and even pet waste from none meat-eating animals like hamsters and rabbits.

This should make up 25-50% of your green waste and should be mixed with brown waste which includes hedge trimmings (which composts better when shredded), leaves from trees, wood chips and even newspaper and cardboard. Colour magazines will rot down but we recommend shredding them first because they often have a protective waxy layer that can stop them from composting as well.

What not to compost – a quick guide

Don’t compost perennial weeds, these are best burned and not put in the green bins the council supply. We also don’t recommend putting meat into your compost bin because this doesn’t rot down as well and can also spread diseases so it’s best just to avoid composting this. Finally, don’t recycle any diseased plant growth as this can also spread diseases to other areas of your garden where you spread the compost.

The Gardener’s Guide to What you can Compost

At its base, compost is organic matter. This means you are clear to include all organic matter such as grass clippings, tree leaves gathered from pruning or collected in autumn and winter, vegetable food scraps from your kitchen like banana or potato peels and even coffee grounds, animal manure from animals that don’t eat meat such as hamsters, rabbits and horses, disease-free garden waste from your weekly weeding round, and printer paper/black and white newspaper. 

What you can compost and cannot compost

Why shouldn’t you put certain manure into your compost

There are a few considerations to be made with these. For example: with manure that comes from animals that are not vegetarians (i.e., cats, dogs, pigs, or even humans) the faeces can contain pathogens that result in diseases. In order for the compost pile to kill off any of these microbes, it must get very, very hot. So you need to keep an eye on the temperature to be sure it gets hot enough if you want to toss some non-vegetarian manure into the mix, literally and figuratively. With this in mind, we usually recommend just avoiding including the types of waste even though they can be composted because it’s not worth the risk for most people, especially the less experienced.

Don’t add perennial weeds into your compost

Noxious weeds from perennial weeds can be tossed into your mix, but more often than not these invasive weeds will resume their life cycle and even the tiniest of plant material can start the spread of new weeds. This means they won’t harm the compost or any part of your garden on which you toss the compost, but they could invade and spread, which most will agree you want to avoid. After all, most of us would prefer not to be planting more weeds in our garden. 

Composting green kitchen waste

Preventing Pests such as Mice and Rats

Food scraps with small amounts of dairy, oil, and even eggs can attract animals like mice or rats. While eggshells are good for a compost pile, if you don’t have a lock on the compost bin, you might generate a pest problem. 

How to avoid attracting mice and rat to a compost bin

See our recommended compost bins and tumblers

To help prevent attracting pests we recommend you always cover these types of waste with a good layer of manure or other green waste.

Composting Coloured Newspapers and Magazines

Black and white newspapers are fine and will rot down quickly and are good for adding to a compost bin, most colour newspapers use a soy-based ink that can be composted just fine, the problem is they are often coated with wax and this interferes with the composting so we recommend shredding them first. If you don’t it might take much longer than intended if you throw your colour newspapers and magazines into the mix without shredding them first.

What not to Compost

Do not compost diseased plant growth

What not to compost is actually very straightforward, do not add any diseased garden waste to your compost bin. This will spread to other plants and corrupt the compost. It’s just not worth the trouble, either burn it in a garden incinerator or put it in the general waste bin.

Do not compost meat, bones or dairy

Do not add meat, fat, bones, or dairy in pure form. This includes oil and butter. Pure meat, bones and fat bring disease problems if they aren’t composted correctly because it takes a lot of heat to do this correctly and subsequent pest problems. 

There is very little that you need to alleviate from your compost pile. More important is maintaining a proper ratio of carbon-based items, brown items like wood or branches to nitrogen-based items or green items like grass clippings. As long as you maintain the proper ratio of two parts brown to one part green and you regularly turn your compost pile with a compost aerator every few weeks to provide better aeration, you will have a successful compost pile you can integrate into all areas of your garden.

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