What's the strangest thing you've ever put in your compost bin? I once composted fireplace ashes, which isn't unusual, but the fact that it set my compost bin ablaze was, um, noteworthy. Chalk that experience up to my compost education. Over the years of that education I've compiled a list of 20 odd (and often gross) things that I didn't initially think could go in my compost bin but totally can. The bottom line: You can compost more things than you think you can.
1. Animal fur. The last time I gave my dog a bath it seemed like there was more dog fur left in the tub than on her. If you find yourself in a similar situation, scoop up all that wet fur and deposit it in your compost bin.
2. Clothes dryer lint. You diligently clean the lint trap after each load of clothes you dry; now put it in your compost bin.
3. Dog poop. Yes, you can compost dog poop, but there are some important caveats. I've written more extensively about it here.
4. Marijuana. Whether you are a medicinal or recreational user, marijuana is plant so it can safely go in the compost bin.
5. Dead bees from hive. You had the very best of intentions when you started bee keeping, but, sadly, your hive has not survived. Lay those once busy bees to rest in your compost bin.
6. Old clothes. If the clothes are made of all natural fibers such as cotton or wool, then cut them up into small pieces and put them in the compost bin. That florescent pink lycra leotard circa 1982? Because Lycra isn't an all-natural fiber (it was invented by a chemist, not Mother Nature), it needs to go in the trash. Good riddance!
7. Human waste (i.e. feces and urine). If you have a composting toilet you're well on your way to composting this waste. Otherwise, in my opinion, the risk of improper handling and spreading viruses and disease is too high, so keep it out of the bin.
8. Feminine hygiene products. Tampons are made of cotton so they can be composted (the plastic applicators, however, can't be). Sanitary napkins can be composted if they're all cotton, but many have plastic as well.
9. Algae and aquarium plants. When you're cleaning out Dory and Nemo's tank feel free to compost any algae and plants you have.
10. Human hair. Compost all the hair that you collect from your brush, shower drain, and bathroom floor. Don't forget about men's beard trimmings.
11. Paper towels. Whether or not you can compost paper towels depends on what the towels were used for. If they wiped up something like water, juice, or coffee, then throw them in the compost bin. If they wiped up cooking grease, put them in the trash.
12. Tissues. If you used the tissues to dry your tears or blow your nose due to seasonal allergies then they can be composted. If you're blowing your nose because of the flu or a sinus infection then put the tissues in the trash to avoid spreading germs.
13. Old bills. Any paper can be composted, but it will decompose faster if it's shredded first. Avoid composting coated paper, paper with colored ink, and those envelopes with the plastic address windows.
14. Dust bunnies. The final resting place for dust bunnies can be in your compost bin.
15. Contents of your Dust Buster. You used the Dust Buster to clean up after your toddler had lunch. Now, as long as you didn't suck up meat or grease, the contents of the vacuum can be composted.
16. Shoe dirt. Are your favorite soccer player's cleats caked with grass and mud after practice? Shake them off in the compost bin.
17. Crustaceans (lobster/shrimp shells). Your lobster bake was a success, but now you have a bucket full of shells. Compost them! (Note: Other animals may be attracted to your bin if it contains these shells, so make sure the lid is securely fastened.)
18. Feathers. Found a dropped feather on your walk to the park? Bring it home and put it in your bin.
19. Sheepskin condoms. Given that sheepskin is all-natural, these condoms can go in the compost bin.
20. Animal cage bedding. All of that shredded paper (or wood shavings) that you clean out of your hamster or guinea pig's cage can be composted.
lead image of compost bin in garden via Shutterstock