Composting improves soil health

By Brandie Piper

May 29 is Compost Day, a time to remind everyone what is and is not compostable to help improve soil health.

Why compost?

Composting is a way to dispose of certain types of waste without sending it to landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, composting is important because it has the ability to enrich and clean contaminated soils; help prevent pollution; decrease water, fertilizer and pesticide usage; and eliminate heavy metals, oil, grease and solids from storm water runoff.

Farmers compost, too

Farmers are composting more and more on cropland across the world as they utilize the benefits of conservation tillage and cover crops. In a conservation tillage system, after a crop is harvested, the stalks and leaves from the plant are left in the field, where they decompose and build organic matter in the soil. When farmers plant cover crops, they minimize soil erosion and also return nutrients to the soil.

How to compost

One of the ways the EPA recommends composting is by creating a compost pile in your yard. The process is pretty simple, but if dropping materials off at a composting facility is more your style, you can easily find the nearest location by plugging in your ZIP code at

What to compost

  • Human hair and pet fur
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Eggshells
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust and wood chips
  • Dryer lint

Not compostable (and why)

  • Coal and charcoal ash: There may be materials that could harm plants.
  • Fats, oils, and grease: They attract rodents and flies by the odors they give off.
  • Eggs and dairy products: The shells of the eggs are compostable, but the yolk and white give off odors that attract rodents and flies. Dairy products like butter, milk, sour cream and yogurt are also not compostable for the same reason.
  • Insect-infested plants: These cannot be composted because they could infect other plants.
  • Pet waste: Parasites and viruses could be present and harm humans. This includes cat litter.
  • Animal bones and food scraps: Odors given off by these can also attract rodents and flies.
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs: These release materials that could harm plants.

Published May 29, 2015 on

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