12 things that it’s best to avoid in your home composting pile

Illustration of things not to compost, including bones, a cupcake, a croissant and milk.
(Kelly Malka / For The Times)

If you’re baby-stepping into composting for the first time, the do’s and don’ts of what goes into the bin might seem daunting. To flatten the learning curve, we’ve compiled two reference lists — one of things that should never go in the compost pile and another of items that should only go in “hot” compost piles (more about that below) — to help guide you.

Compost no-nos

The following items should never be placed in any compost pile (or organic waste bin, for that matter):

  • Plastic anything — including “compostable” plastics
  • Poop from meat-eating animals like dogs and cats (this includes kitty litter)
  • Fresh manure from animals such as racehorses treated with steroids, antibiotics or other medications
  • Magazines or other glossy paper products
  • Hygiene products (think soiled diapers and wipes)
  • Charcoal barbecue ashes

A new law requires Californians to recycle food scraps and leftovers. What is composting? What can you — and can’t you — compost? We’re here to help.

March 21, 2022

For ‘hot’ compost only

Hot composting needs the compost pile to reach an internal temperature of 130 to 150 degrees (to kill the pathogens that meat, dairy and diseased plants produce), so if you’re trying this at home you’ll need to invest in a compost thermometer and more time than you’d need with casual composting. The items below can go into a hot compost pile at home or most municipal food waste/organic waste bins, where they will be sent to facilities that use hot composting techniques. (Note that rules vary by city or town, so check with your jurisdiction to make sure these are items they will accept.)

  • Diseased or moldy plant trimmings and weeds with seeds
  • Food-soiled paper (including broken-up pizza boxes)
  • Cheese and other dairy products
  • Meat (including fish) and bones
  • Cooked foods like grains or pastas
  • Cooking oils/grease

Get composting

A guide to everything you need to know about getting rid of those table scraps.