Composting is a process that breaks down organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. It is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of food waste and other organic materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. Composting can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create healthy soil for plants. However, not all food waste is compostable, and it is important to know what can and cannot be composted.

Cooked food, meat, fish, dairy, grease, most animal products, and food packaging should be left out of the compost bin. Adding cooked food to a traditional compost pile or bin can attract pests, negatively affect the composting process, and create unpleasant odors. Small amounts of cooked vegetables (cooked without oil) may be okay in a well-balanced compost set-up that reaches high enough temperatures. Specialized bins, such as the Green Johanna or bokashi bin, can handle all types of food waste, including cooked food, meat, fish, and dairy.

Kitchen composting green materials that can be composted at home include fruit and vegetable scraps, corn husks and cobs, non-acidic fruit peels, fruit pits, fruit seeds, spoiled plant milk, moldy cheese (in small amounts and buried in the pile), beans and other legumes, herbs and spices, tea leaves and natural paper tea bags, coffee grounds, liquid filling from canned fruits and vegetables, expired jams and other preserved food, symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), soured organic beer, liquor, and wine, old condiments (in small amounts), and tofu.

Kitchen composting brown materials that can be composted at home include stale bread, tortilla shells, and leftover pizza crust, stale cereal, oatmeal, and granola bars, stale crackers, cookies, pretzels, and chips, dry rice and pasta, crumbs, grape and other fruit stems, nutshells (except walnut shells), popcorn (leftover, unpopped, or burnt), eggshells (rinsed and crushed), cardboard egg cartons, unbleached coffee filters, real wine corks (chopped into small bits), brown paper shopping bags, paper lunch sacks, cardboard food boxes, used paper napkins and paper towels (non-grease-soaked), corrugated cardboard pizza boxes (only parts that aren’t saturated with grease), parchment paper (unbleached and unwaxed), cupcake and muffin paper wrappers (without waxy linings), non-coated paper plates (can have some food stains but should not be saturated in grease), paper cups without a waxy or plastic lining (no Dixie Cups), wooden chopsticks, and bamboo skewers.

Composting is an easy and effective way to reduce waste and support the planet. By knowing what can and cannot be composted, individuals can help create healthy soil and reduce their carbon footprint.