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Recycling & Composting

What Goes in a Compost Bin

Team Compost Connect, 14 November 2023
What Goes in a Compost Bin

Composting is like nature’s version of recycling.

It transforms food scraps, garden waste and other organic materials into a nutrient-rich fertiliser that can benefit soil and plants.

The best part? It’s incredibly simple once you know what goes in a compost bin (and also, what not to put in a compost bin).

With a few simple tips, you’ll be on your way to creating beneficial compost for your garden.

Woman composting food leftovers at home. Female recycling organic waste in a bokashi bin. Person put cabbage leaves in a compost containter for fermentation

What To Put in a Compost Bin

‘Organic materials’ refers to anything that was recently living. This includes leaves, garden waste, food scraps, paper and even certified home compostable packaging.

A healthy compost will balance ‘greens’ (nitrogen-rich materials like fruit, vegetables and grass clippings) with ‘browns’ (carbon-rich materials like leaves, twigs, shredded paper and packaging, provided it’s certified home compostable).

The ideal ratio of green to brown materials in a home compost bin is typically around 1:2. This means for every one part of green materials, you should add two parts of brown materials. This mix provides the best conditions for decomposition and helps maintain a healthy compost pile, ensuring proper aeration and moisture retention.

In saying that, composting can be somewhat forgiving, so there’s room for flexibility in this ratio. It depends on the specific materials and conditions in your compost bin.

Let’s look a bit closer at what goes in a compost bin.

What Goes in a Compost Bin?

Garden Waste

Any organic matter you can find in or around your garden. Things like:

  • Leaves
  • Grass trimmings
  • Sticks and twigs
  • Weeds that haven’t gone to seed
  • Houseplant trimmings
  • Dead flowers
  • Pinecones
  • Fallen bird’s nest
Composting of cut grass and fallen leaves to enrich soil. Gardener's hands holding compost mulch

Food Waste

Most waste from the kitchen. Things like:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Vegetable peels and rind
  • Chilli, onions, garlic and citrus*
  • Eggshells
  • Tea bags (if they’re not made of plastic, always check the label)
  • Nutshells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Corn cobs
  • Pits (for example, mangos and avocados)
  • Herbs and spices

*Chilli, onions, garlic and citrus are suitable for a backyard compost bin, although it’s recommended not to add too much if you have a worm farm – the acidity can negatively impact your worms!

Organic leftovers, kitchem scraps, waste from vegetable ready for recycling and to compost.

Other Organic Material

Things like:

  • Hair
  • Fingernails and toenails
  • Unlined paper with minimal printing
  • Paper towels
  • Wood chips
  • Cardboard (broken into small pieces)
  • Egg cartons (remove the label)
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Pet bedding (for example, hamsters and rabbits)
  • Wooden toothpicks
  • Corks
  • Pet fur
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Certified home compostable packaging, like brown paper lunch bags, coffee cups, bowls and cutlery (always look for the correct home compostable certification – learn more about the certifications here).
Worm farm with lots of food scraps and a home compostable cup

What Not To Put in a Compost Bin

  • Fossil-based plastic products
  • String
  • Aluminium foil
  • Dryer and washing machine lint and dust from the vacuum cleaner (this might contain micro-plastics and harmful chemicals)
  • Waxed or lined paper and cardboard
  • Large twigs and branches
  • Pet droppings (especially dogs and cats)
  • Cooking fat and oil
  • Charcoal ash (BBQ briquettes are often infused with chemicals)
  • Dairy products*
  • Meat*
  • Animal products*
  • Dog or cat waste
*Animal and meat products can be composted, but it’s not always recommended or you should limit the amount you compost as it may attract pests.
Mixed wastes are thrown in a trashgarbage such as vegetables, plastic bags, bottles, and fruits at street market.

Want To Know What Can Be Composted at a Glance?

It’s simple – download our PDF poster and hang it up around your home.

Dos and Don’ts With Your Compost Bin

Composting Dos

  • Have a healthy balance of ‘browns’ and ‘greens’. As a general rule, your compost should be two parts browns like hay, straw, sawdust and woodchips, and one part greens like fruits and vegetables, tea leaves and grass clippings.
  • Turn the compost regularly. This promotes proper air circulation, makes sure moisture is evenly spread around, and prevents the compost from becoming too compacted.
  • Add moisture if necessary. Particularly if you live in a dry area, you may need to add moisture. This will make sure the compost is moist, but not soggy.

Composting Don’ts

  • Overload your compost bin with meat and animal products. While some meat and animal products are ok, adding them in excess can cause odours and attract pests and rodents
  • Add chemical or plastic-based waste. This won’t break down and will contaminate your compost. If possible, follow moist kitchen scraps with brown materials. After you add a lot of moist kitchen scraps, it’s a good idea to have a pile of leaves or other brown materials at the ready so you can add these in and correctly maintain the green and brown ratio. 
  • If possible, follow moist kitchen scraps with brown materials. After you add a lot of moist kitchen scraps, it’s a good idea to have a pile of leaves or other brown materials at the ready so you can add these in and correctly maintain the green and brown ratio.

Can Compostable Packaging Go in Your Home Compost Bin?

Compostable packaging can only go in your home compost bin if it’s Certified Home Compostable under the Australasian Bioplastic Association. The only source of truth in Australia. Look for this logo and the company’s specific licence number.

The certified home compostable (AS5810) and industrially compostable (AS4736) logos under the Australasian Bioplastics Association.

Starting a Compost Bin

First of all, it’s a good idea to put your compost bin in a convenient corner of your garden close to your veggie patch or plants if possible.

When starting, lay down a base layer of sticks or mulch. This encourages good air circulation and drainage. Once that’s done, you can layer your green materials (grass, fruit, veggies) and brown materials (leaves and paper).

And just like that? You’re on the way to turning your food waste into nutrient-rich compost.

Many councils in Australia add discounts and even free workshops for households looking to start composting in their backyard. Get in touch with your local council to see what initiatives they have in place.

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