What Not To Put In A Compost Pile: 10 Composting Don’ts

What Not To Put In A Compost Pile: 10 Composting Don’ts

When people talk about composting, they are often not aware that some things are inappropriate to put into compost bins. Some people even add them without knowing their suitability to the pile. You would think that any table scraps or items found in the kitchen after cooking could be put into a compost bin, but this is not a great idea.

While there are a lot of things you can use to compost, there are many things that you shouldn’t. Here are the main things you should not put into your compost pile:

1. Certain animal droppings

Some animal droppings are a no-no. Now you may ask why, and that is a fair question since we all know about cow manure, pig manure and so on being used by farmers for fertilizer. The issue is, the animal must be a vegetarian for the droppings to be used. So some of the good ones you can use include: cow, horse, rabbit, goat, and even hamster, etc. But stay away from animals like wild birds, dogs, and cats, etc because they contain harmful organisms.

2. Animal waste

Any kind of animal waste is bad news. So things like bones, fish waste and leftover meat are not to be used in a compost pile. These items can not only make your compost pile smell bad, but they can also invite unwanted pests to your pile. Some people grind bones down to small pieces and compost it, but this is something I do not promote.

3. Barbecue ashes

For the backyard barbecue, ashes should not be added. While ashes from a wood fire can be used, they should only be used sparingly as they can make your pile more alkaline than desired.

4. Weeds still in seed

You may also want to consider adding weeds and other natural items you find around your garden. But when doing so, you want to make sure the weeds are killed during the composting process by the heat generated. If they are not, then when you use the compost, they may grow back again. An excellent precaution is to dry them out before you include them in the pile, ensuring they are not going to re-grow later on.

5. Chemically treated wood

Woodchip and sawdust from stained/painted/treated wood are not suitable for the pile because they contain toxins like arsenic that are not good for your compost. These paints and wood finishes have synthetic chemicals that are not good for the pile and should never be added.

6. Meat, dairy, and fatty foods

These foods do decompose, but when they do, they attract some wild animals and other pests that are harmful to the pile. The fatty foods break down slowly, which hampers the pile aeration. In case you are using a large hot pile, try to bury the dairy and meat in the center of the heap, but this is a lot of work if you are composting this type of waste regularly.

7. Cooked food

Some people encourage composting cooked food. This is something I do not encourage because it attracts pests and adds additional considerations to your composting efforts. These additional considerations include things like, what you can and can’t compost and making sure it is mixed well into your pile. Keep kitchen waste to uncooked foods, and you will be fine.

8. Colored and coated paper

Coated paper such as paper plates contains a thin film of plastic that does not decompose in the compost. Colored papers such as wrapping paper should never be added in the pile as they contain metals and other substances that are not recommended to be used in a compost pile. It is better to recycle these types of paper.

9. Clothing and other fabrics

Most clothes contain synthetic fibers, such as polyester, and finishes such as dyes and decals. These materials do not decompose, so make sure you exclude any clothing material in your compost pile. Recycle them instead.

10. Diseased plants

You should not place any plants that are infected with any disease (like soil-borne) into your compost pile. Whether you are hot composting or not, some areas in the pile may not be hot enough to kill off the pathogens making it easy to spread the disease throughout the entire compost pile and eventually on to your garden. You can either burn the plants before adding the ash to your pile or dispose of them properly, away from the pile.

So there you have it, what not to put a compost pile. As you get into it, you will find many other tips and tricks along the way to help you get greener and more organic in your gardening efforts. The best way to compost is by keeping it simple. Kitchen waste like fruit and uncooked vegetable scraps, garden waste like twigs, branches, and dead leaves, and things like shredded paper and cardboard is the way to go.

If everyone chipped in just a little bit, it would go a long way to helping out our environment, as well as provide us with excellent organic fruit, vegetables, and healthy plants.


When composting, don’t add certain animal droppings (particularly meat eaters), animal waste (meat and bones), barbecue ashes, weeds, chemically treated wood, dairy and fatty foods, cooked food, colored/coated paper, fabrics and clothes, and diseased plants. Do keep it simple and add organic waste from your kitchen and garden.

Close Menu