What Not To Compost or Recycle: 30 Items to Avoid

What Not To Compost or Recycle: 30 Items to Avoid

Julia Brenner
Mar 22, 2013

Composting and recycling seem like straightforward systems, but as with most processes, there are shades of gray to the black and white designations of "plastic", "paper", and "glass".  

I found this list on Mother Nature Network and thought it was a nice refresher for those of us who've ever stood over a recycling bin with an item and wondered if we were helping the process or muddling it up, since not all paper, glass, and plastic can be recycled equally. 

Here are a few non-compostable/non-recyclable items to be aware of. Head on over to Mother Nature Network for the full list. 

Non-Compostable Items:

  • Bread products, as they will attract pests.
  • Meat products, which will also attract pests and bacteria in a general compost pile. There are, however, specially designed composting bins that can be used to compost meat and dairy. 
  • Heavily coated or printed paper. The printing chemicals will leak into your compost and cause contamination.
  • Cooking oil, which can disrupt the moisture balance in compost and also attract pests.
  • Rice, as it can become a breeding ground for bacteria that can harm the quality of your compost.

Non-Recyclable Items:

  • Brightly dyed paper, as the colored ink can leak and alter the color of other items. 
  • Juice boxes and wax-coated cardboard containers. If the containers have not been marked as recyclable, they are not suitable for recycling.
  • Napkins and paper towels are considered unsuitable for recycling due to contaminants they may have absorbed.
  • Wet paper is not recyclable because of possible contaminants and damage to the fibers.
  • Plastic screw-on tops. While plastic bottles are recyclable, the tops are not considered suitable for recycling. 
*While this list also contains items like batteries and household glass as items to avoid adding to general recycling bins, these types of items can often be recycled in targeted recycling programs. Earth 911 has a useful search engine that allows you to type in an item along with your zip code to locate an appropriate recycling center.

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