Composting involves mixing yard and household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition. Composting is a biological process during which naturally occurring microorganisms (e.g. bacteria and fungi), insects, snails, and earthworms break down organic materials (such as leaves, grass clippings, garden debris, and certain food wastes) into a soil-like material called compost.

Benefits of Compost include:

•improves soil health & fertility
•increases the nutrient content of soils
•promotes higher yields of crops
• attracts & feeds diverse life in soils
• makes soil easier to work
• increases soil porosity & moisture retention
• suppresses plant diseases & pests
• can reduce the need for fertilizers,fungicides, pesticides
• encourages healthy root systems
•helps regenerate poor soils
•can prevent & manage soil erosion problems
• reduces water demands of plants & trees


Autumn leaves, Grass clippings, Vegetables and their trimmings, Fruit and their peels, Coffee grounds and filters Tea leaves and bags, Used paper napkins Cereal boxes Sawdust from deciduous hardwood trees, Bamboo skewers Paper egg cartons, Pizza boxes, Twigs Paper bags, either ripped or balled up Houseplant leaves, Paper towel, toilet paper, and wrapping paper rolls, Cotton balls and swabs Paper plates (no wax coating), Straw and hay Nut shells (no walnut shells—they can be toxic to plants)

Stale herbs and spices, Wine corks, Toothpicks, Paper baking cups, Hair and fur Dryer lint, Vacuum contents & floor sweepings, Pencil shavings, Newspaper, Loofahs, Cotton, wool, linen, silk, hemp, burlap Office paper, junk mail, envelopes (no plastic)
Used matches, Yard trimmings, Nail clippings, Freezer-burned vegetables and fruits, Aquarium wate,r Used Soiled paper Dregs from juice, beer, wine Spent potting soil Dead blossoms Manure from rabbits, cows, horses, sheep or chickens Eggshells and crustacean shells.


Meat, bones, fish, milk products (butter, milk, yogurt, sour cream), blood, eggs, grease, oils, lard (produce odors and attract animals) Pet and human feces, dirty diapers (may contain pathogens harmful to humans and plants) Plant material treated w/ herbicides/pesticides, Pressure-treated lumber (has toxic chemicals), Lime (can cause ammonia gas releases).

Diseased plants and leaves (could cause disease to spread when compost is applied), Persistent weeds (Bermuda grass, Alligator weed, Dock weed, kudzu, ivy, dandelions) Walnuts (contains juglone, a natural aromatic compound toxic to some plants) Diapers and personal care products containing feces or blood (possible pathogens) Heavily coated paper such as magazines, catalogs, wrapping paper, greeting cards with metallic inks.

Resource Compiled by Rhonda Sherman, Biological & Agricultural Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC on August 4, 2011. Revised on 12/20/12.