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9 Non-Food Household Items You Can Compost That Might Surprise You

Did you know that you can compost many non-food household items in your backyard home compost bin? Just about any organic material can be composted, and you might be surprised by the types of items that will break down into rich nutrients for a garden. Read on to check out these compostable household items that you don’t have to send to a landfill. We bet you’ll be surprised!

I’m a big fan of composting. It might seem an odd thing to love, but I’m embracing my nerdy passion. I just think it’s so darn cool watching trash break down and turn into perfectly crumbly, sweet-smelling (seriously!) dirt for my garden.

You probably know that you can compost food scraps, leaves, and other flowers. But there are many more items you can throw in your backyard compost bin that might surprise you. Here are nine household items you can compost at home that we think are pretty stinkin’ neat.

Pela Phone Case

Did you know that Pela makes compostable phone cases? How cool, right?! Pela cases are made from Flaxstic®, a material that won’t break down in your purse or pocket but will decompose over time in a compost bin with the help of the microorganisms living in the lovely dirt.

Pela cases have a great soft but not slippery feel and offer a cushion to protect against damage to your phone from everyday wear and tear. They have a bunch of options for various brands and models of phones, and the cases come in tons of colors.

Pela offers a variety of traditional cases. Also, the company partners with environmental advocacy organizations to donate a portion of its profits to causes like animal conservation, water conservation, and more. If you have a particular cause you’d like to support, you can choose a phone case accordingly to ensure the donation supports your cause.

Egg Cartons

Eggs come in a variety of packaging such as plastic, foam, recycled cardboard, and pulp paper. Opt for eggs in recycled cardboard or pulp paper containers because they can be composted. Remove the stickers and then tear up the egg cartons into small pieces that are about an inch square.

You can also let the egg carton soak in water. After several hours, any stickers or shiny paper glued to the board should come right off.

If you don’t bring your compost out each day, collect the egg carton pieces in a reusable bag in your kitchen. Take the egg carton pieces to the compost bin when you empty the countertop bin that holds your food scraps.

Cardboard Packaging Boxes

Cardboard, like the packaging for a Pela phone case, makes a perfect carbon addition to compost. Compost needs carbon and nitrogen (along with water and oxygen) to break down properly. Food scraps provide nitrogen and the cardboard adds plenty of carbon. Remove stickers and tape, tear the cardboard into small squares, and add it to the compost bin.

If your compost bin doesn’t need additional cardboard, fold it up flat and store it against the wall in a closet. When the compost needs an extra carbon boost, tear up some of the cardboard and toss it in the bin.


Gross, maybe, but it’s perfectly safe to add to your home compost bin. Just about any organic material can be composted. When cleaning out hair brushes, add the hair to a countertop compost bin with the food scraps until it’s full and ready to be discarded in the bin in your garden.

Hair takes a bit longer to break down than cardboard and food scraps. If you’re keen to turn your waste into compost quickly, consider having a separate compost pile for things that take longer to decompose.

Coffee Grounds & Coffee Filters

Coffee grounds are one of the best sources of nitrogen for the soil. They do not act as a nitrogen fertilizer but encourage the growth of the microorganisms that break down the components of your compost into rich humus (i.e. dirt).

Coffee grounds have a nearly neutral pH, which is good for compost, and they help build the structure of the soil. Some evidence suggests coffee grounds might also help keep bugs and slugs at bay in your garden. While you’re at it, toss your coffee filters in the compost bin as well to add carbon.

Some coffee shops will give away their coffee grounds for free. Stop by your coffee shop and ask the barista for their coffee grounds to save them from the trash.

Used Paper Towels

You may not use paper towels, but they can be perfect for certain types of messes… like a raw egg that accidentally ended up on the floor. If the mess you’re cleaning is comprised of all compostable items, throw the entire dirty paper towel into your countertop compost crock.

Here’s an entire post with more information about how to compost paper towels.

Flour and Sugar Packaging

If you don’t buy baking ingredients like flour and sugar in bulk, buy them in paper packaging and compost the packaging. Depending on how the ingredients are transferred to the store (i.e if they are transferred in plastic to the bulk bins), buying in individual paper packaging might be just as good as the bulk alternatives. Buying baking supplies in paper packaging is a great way to move toward zero-waste baking.

Wine Corks

So long as the wine corks are real corks and not plastic, you can toss them right into your compost bin. Cork is a natural material and will break down in the bin. Beware, however, of plastic stoppers made to look like trash. Unfortunately, these have to go head to the trash as they are not compostable.

Bamboo Bristles

Do you have a toothbrush or hairbrush with bamboo bristles? Bamboo is a natural material as well, so it can definitely find a home in the compost bin. Pull the bristles out of the brush and add them to your compost bin to reduce your waste and build up healthy soil.

Want To Know What Else You Can Compost?

For even more information about what you can compost in your backyard compost bin, check our interactive Can I Compost…? tool. We’ve compiled a large list of things you can compost and things that should be left out of the bin. We regularly add to it, so check it out and save it for later.

Break It Down

Some of these items take longer to break down than others. To speed up the decomposition process, you can break up all the components into smaller pieces if you’re up for the task.

Composting food scraps and yard waste are easy steps just about anyone can take to limit their waste. Many items that are compostable don’t break down properly in traditional landfills, so it’s important that we remove them from our municipal waste streams not only to create compost but also to limit the toxic gases they release when left in landfills.

As companies like Pela creatively develop more everyday products made from biodegradable and compostable materials, you can further reduce your waste and easily make more environmentally-responsible choices. If you haven’t taken a look at their products, I highly recommend them.

Complete Guide To Composting At Home

For more information about how to compost at home, check out our Complete Guide To Compost At Home with loads of articles to answer all your questions about how to compost at home. We have resources, FAQs, interviews with everyday families who compost at home, and more!

Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and advocate for sustainable living for modern families. To find her latest work, subscribe to her newsletter, Stepping Stones.

In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.

You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.

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