Anything that has recently been living or is the product of something recently living is compostable!

  • scrapsAll food scraps (remove stickers from peelings!)
  • Even meat, bones, grease, oils and dairy products* – only small amounts of oils and grease are accepted at the Community Compost Drop-off due to making the bins hard to clean. Please mix them with more solid compostables.
  • Ashes from the fireplace, grill or fire pit: wood ash (no charcoal ash)
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Cardboard (tear them into smaller pieces first)
  • Cereal boxes (tear them into smaller pieces first)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Compostable plastics including bags, utensils and drinking cups, must be BPI certified compostable **
  • Cotton balls, cotton swabs (with cardboard sticks)
  • Crepe paper streamers
  • Crumbs from the counter and floors
  • Dead houseplants and their soil
  • Droppings and bedding from rabbit/gerbil/hamsters*
  • Dryer lint
  • Eggshells
  • Feathers
  • Flowers
  • Fur from the dog or cat (if not treated with insecticides)
  • Hair
  • Leaves trimmed from houseplants
  • Masking tape
  • Melted ice cream
  • Moldy cheese
  • Nail clippings
  • Natural fiber string and rope
  • Natural holiday wreaths, garlands*
  • Natural potpourri
  • Newspapers (shredded or torn into small pieces)
  • Newspaper and droppings from the bottom of bird cages
  • Nuts and shells
  • Old condiments from the fridge
  • Old herbs and spices
  • Old loofahs and natural sponges
  • Paper bags, either ripped or balled up
  • Paper cupcake or muffin liners
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Paper labels from jars and cans
  • Paper napkins, paper towels
  • Paper tablecloths (tear them into smaller pieces first)
  • Paper towel rolls, ripped up
  • Parchment paper*
  • Pencil shavings
  • Pet food and treats
  • Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces
  • Popsicle sticks*
  • Raffia
  • Rawhide dog chews (abandoned)
  • Shredded paper, paper scraps
  • Soap slivers
  • Sticky notes
  • Tea bags (if not synthetic)
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Toothpicks
  • Unpopped popcorn
  • Used paper plates if not plastic lined as indicated by a slick, shiny surface
  • Waxed paper*
  • Wheat, pine or other plant-based cat litter*- Pet wastes are NOT ACCEPTED at the Community Compost Drop-off
  • Wine corks (natural cork, not plastic)
  • Wooden coffee stirrers*
  • Wooden disposable chop sticks*

*These materials are most successfully composted in an industrial composting facility like Black Bear Composting. The high heat required to safely and/or completely break them down cannot be achieved through backyard composting.

BPI.label.crop**BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) certification for plastic compostables is essential because ” … not all plastics made from plants or marked as biodegradable reliably decompose during the composting process.” – Black Bear Composting

Most fully compostable plant-based plastics will have the symbol at right somewhere on them. Other acceptable symbols indicating complete compostability in a commercial facility include those below, as well as “ASTM D6400.”


Please note the #7 recyclable symbol must have “PLA” under it and NOT “other.”

For food items that are still edible but unwanted, consider donating them to a homeless shelter. If they are no longer suitable for human consumption, consider using as animal food. If that is not feasible, composting is a better option to landfilling or sending to a waste-to-energy facility, in terms of positive environmental impact. (see graphic below)

Clean paper products are best recycled if they cannot be reused. Once soiled or not recyclable, composting is a great option.

What NOT to Compost

  • plastic lined paper products (like almost all paper cups, paper milk cartons, frozen food containers, paper plates with a shiny surface, paper from sugar packets, microwave popcorn bags, and many raisin boxes)
  • rubber and latex items including chewing gum
  • treated wood
  • string and twine
  • cash register (thermal) receipts, due to their BPA content they should not go into the paper recycle stream or be composted. BPA-free receipt paper is available and acceptable for paper recycling or composting.
  • herbicide treated plants and manures from animals fed these plants
  • baby wipes
  • dryer sheets
  • fabrics of any kind, including burlap. Although many contain natural fibers they are often treated with chemicals that prevent decomposition.
  • Although fine to compost at home, the Community Compost Drop-off program can not accommodate yard wastes due to its limited capacity. These can be brought to Harrisonburg’s Recycling Convenience Center to be used as part of daily cover of the landfill along with crushed glass.
  • Pet wastes are compostable but not accepted at the Community Compost Drop-off bins.
  • Compostable baby diapers are also not accepted at the Community Compost Drop-off bins but can be composted at Black Bear Composting by subscribing to their curbside pickup service.

If in doubt, leave it out!


From the Food Waste Reduction Alliance Best Practices Guide 2015