Soil in cupped hands

Compost is a nutrient rich soil amendment that enhances plant growth.

A handful of healthy worms coming out of coffee compost; vermicomposting
Image by Shanegenziuk

Vermicomposting is a great way to manage food waste when you have limited outdoor space

food waste / compost
Image by Ben Kerckx

Composting can reduce your household waste by as much as 30%


There are many ways to compost. Choose the method of composting that suits your lifestyle.


Home Composting FAQs

Cornell Cooperative Extension offers research based knowledge about home composting methods and best management practices. Please visit our library of Fact Sheets here: compost resources.

Why Compost?

Composting is recycling!

  • Composting isn't just something that gardeners do. Composting is the next step to becoming a better recycler! Composting reduces solid waste sent to the landfill, while creating a useful lifecycle for the water, energy, and nutrients that would otherwise be wasted if plants or food were discarded. 

Composting prevents pollution.

  • Under anaerobic conditions (in a landfill) organic materials break down and produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide. These gases contribute to the pollution that's causing climate change, so composting is one of the best ways to reduce your footprint on the planet!
  • Using compost reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, which reduces pollution.

Compost is a valuable soil amendment.

  • Compost is nutrient-rich organic matter that can be added to soils to grow vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants.
  • Compost supports healthy plant growth by buffering pH, increasing moisture retention, breaking up compacted clay soils, and by supplying humus to nutrient deficient soils.
  • Compost is filled with beneficial insects and microbes that aid in preventing diseases and plant pathogens.
  • Compost can be used as a heavy mulch to aid in soil erosion and reduce weeds in lawns and gardens.

Composting saves money.  

  • The average American family spends $1500 per year on food that goes to waste! Once you start collecting your food scraps, you'll be surprised by how much waste you create. This insight could change the way you shop for food or plan your meals. Less wasted food means fewer wasted dollars! 
  • Composting is a form of waste reduction. If you reduce the volume of waste you create, you may be able to reduce the volume of waste you pay to get rid of! This is especially true for businesses in the food service industry. 
  • Making compost means you no longer have to purchase other bagged soil products because you make your own! 

What can be composted?

  • Vegetable skins, cores, ends, shavings etc.
  • Fruit peels and seeds
  • Starches like cooked rice, bread, pastas, grains
  • Eggshells
  • Nutshells
  • Coffee grounds, coffee filters, teabags
  • Food soiled paper, shredded cardboard, shredded paper bags
  • kitchen paper towels, paper napkins
  • Paper egg cartons
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Landscape Vegetation, grass clippings
  • Holiday trees, plants, flowers
  • Leaves, brush, trimmings, branches, wood chips
  • Rabbit, chicken, cow, horse manures

For backyard composting as well as worm-composting, it’s not recommended to compost meat, fish, and dairy products. These materials can be composted in large scale commercial composting operations. 

Last updated October 19, 2021