Whether you’re new to composting or a total veteran, you’ll be shocked to know there’s a surprising amount of biodegradable items you can throw in the compost. And no, we’re not just talking about food.
Anything that breaks down organically—with the right mixture of oxygen and nitrogen—can be composted, and that includes much more than banana peels. In fact, lots of zero-wasters have a compost bin in their kitchen and the bathroom. After all, many items—from hair to nail clippings—can be tossed in there, too.
Composting is great for the planet because it turns organic matter back into soil, which saves it from sitting in a landfill where it won’t break down. So, what can you compost, exactly? Here are seven things that might surprise you.
7 Surprising Things You Can Compost
1. Paper Packaging from Your Mail
So long as it’s natural and unbleached paper, you should be able to compost most of the paper packaging that makes its way into your mailbox. This includes envelopes and even some cardboard. Just note that plastic can’t be composted. If your envelopes have plastic windows, be sure to remove them before tossing them in the pile.
2. Coffee Filters and Grounds
Good news, coffee lovers: Both coffee filters and coffee grounds can be composted. In fact, coffee grounds can actually be beneficial, as they provide a great source of nitrogen.
3. Pet Hair
After brushing your pet, you probably wind up with a lot of hair that winds up in the garbage. But here’s a surprise: You can remove it from the brush and compost it.
If you have a pet bird or find feathers in the yard, you can compost them the same way you would pet hair. They break down super easily (we’re talking in just a few short months!), and are an excellent nitrogen-rich addition to your pile.
5. Dead Plants and Their Soil
We’ve all had to have a planet funeral. (But psst—if you need some easy plants to take care of, these options make the cut.) The next time a plant doesn’t make it, give it a proper burial in your compost. Then, sooner rather than later, the plant—and its soil—will decompose and become part of the earth once again.
6. Nail Filings and Clippings
They need to go somewhere, right? When clipping or filing your nails, collect them and add them to the compost. Just like hair, pieces of your skin and nails will biodegrade, too.
7. Your Hair
Just like pet hair, human hair breaks down naturally. Important note: This only applies to natural hair. If your hair is colored or chemically-treated, avoid composting it, as it could introduce toxic chemicals to the pile.