7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could (And Should!) Compost

Put these surprising household items back to work fueling your garden.

June 13, 2016
kitchen compost bin
Kang Kim

You know you can compost kitchen scraps like vegetable stems, fruit pits, and even coffee grounds, but you’re doing your garden a disservice if you aren’t adding waste from other parts of the house to your compost pile. Composting more of your personal trash lowers the size of your ecological footprint and helps you grow more fresh, organic food in the process. Here are 7 items you can start turning into compost today. 

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You probably don’t give much thought to the tiny wooden disposables, but they’re headed straight to the landfill—unless you remember to compost them, of course. Toothpicks and their cousins—skewers, wooden coffee stirrers, and even some chopsticks—are small enough to break down in your pile. (Or try these 14 ways to use chopsticks in your garden.)


Human and pet hair are all 100 percent biodegradable, so toss the dead strands from the hairbrush right in the compost bin. That said, you might want to hold off on your own hair if you don’t use natural shampoos and styling products since you wouldn’t want synthetic residues in your organic compost. 

rabbit bedding
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Rabbit Bedding

If you’ve got a pet rabbit or any other small, vegetarian mammal like a guinea pig or hamster, you can dump their used bedding directly into the compost pile (provided it's made from a natural material like wood shavings or straw, of course). Their poop is safe to compost as long as the animal is healthy, and the bedding itself will add important carbon-rich “browns” (dry materials like cardboard, dried leaves, and wood chips) to your pile, according to the UK site Can I Compost This? 

egg carton with 1 egg
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Egg Cartons

You know you can use cardboard egg cartons to start your seeds, but if your seedlings are already in the ground, just send your egg cartons straight to the compost bin. Adding cardboard to your pile soaks up excess moisture, especially if your compost is heavy on “greens” (fresh plant material like vegetable scraps and grass clippings). Tearing the cartons up into smaller pieces will help them break down quicker. 


Related: 8 More Uses For Egg Cartons

toilet paper toll
Toilet Paper Tubes

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the average American singlehandedly uses about 130 rolls of toilet paper each year. Tossing all those empty rolls into the garbage takes a toll on the environment, but you could just as easily send them to the compost bin where they’ll break down and add carbon to your pile. 


Related: How To Compost Indoors

line of urinals

Here’s your chance to Use Your Pee For The Planet: Taking a leak on your compost pile adds valuable nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium that will help fertilize your plants. Urine is sterile, so it’s completely safe unless you have a serious infection. Just be careful to not soak your pile too thoroughly, and make sure you add lots of brown material to keep it from getting too damp.  

wine corks
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Wine Corks

Cork is a natural fiber, so it’ll definitely break down in your compost heap, but be careful you only add wine stoppers made from real cork, as these days many winemakers are using imitation cork made of plastic. According to Can I Compost This?, you can easily spot the imposters by cutting the cork open with a knife. Plastic ones will have a uniform foaminess, while the natural kind have a woodier appearance with more irregularity.