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Materials to Compost

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materials to compost
complete list of "greens" and "browns"
materials to avoid in your compost pile
how to store and add materials

indoor composting
composting equipment
composting brochures and tip sheets

Materials to Compostphoto: food scraps

All organic materials contain carbon and nitrogen in varying proportions. To create ideal conditions for composting, add and mix equal parts (by volume) of "green" high-nitrogen materials and "brown" high-carbon materials. This blend will provide the bacteria and other decomposer organisms the proper proportions of carbon and nitrogen.

Greens are fresh, moist, nitrogen-rich plant materials that still have some life in them (fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, fresh leaves, yard prunings, etc.).

Browns are dry, carbon-rich plant materials with no life in them (fall leaves, shredded paper, straw, wood chips, twigs, etc.).

Remember, you want to keep a balance between the materials in the "greens" list and the "browns" list. Without enough greens, a pile will decompose very slowly, and without enough browns the pile may smell bad. In general, it's better to err on the side of too many browns, so you should stockpile dry, carbon-rich material, such as fall leaves or shredded newspaper, to add to your bin throughout the year.

Don't forget that two other ingredients, air and water, are also needed to ensure that your compost pile transforms itself into a mound of black gold.

Contact the NYC Compost Project in your borough for additional information on organic materials you can compost.

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Complete List of Greens and Browns

(materials rich in nitrogen)

(materials rich in carbon)

From Your Garden
- green plants
- garden trimmings
- fresh leaves & flowers
- grass clippings (see leave on the lawn)

From Your Kitchen/Home
- fruit & vegetable scraps
- coffee grounds & tea bags
- manure & bedding from plant eating animals ONLY

From Your Garden
- fall leaves, twigs & woody prunings
- dry plant material
- straw & hay
- pine needles
- potting soil

From Your Kitchen/Home
- bread & grains
- egg shells
- nutshells
- corncobs
- food-soiled paper towels & napkins
- shredded newspaper

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Materials to Avoid in Your Compost Pile

From Your Garden
• pesticide-treated plants or pesticide-treated grass clippings
• diseased or pest-infested plants
• poison ivy
• invasive weeds
• weeds with seeds
• large branches (call 311 to schedule a special removal)
• non-compostable materials such as sand or construction debris

From Your Kitchen/Home
• meat or fish scraps
• cheese or dairy products
• fats, grease, or oil
• cat or dog feces; kitty litter
• colored or glossy paper
• sawdust made from pressure-treated plywood or lumber
• coal or charcoal ashes
• non-compostable materials such as plastic, metals, or glass

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How to Store and Add Materials

A convenient way to store kitchen scraps so you don't have to keep running out to the compost bin is to put them in a large zip-lock bag and keep them in the freezer. This way you avoid fruit fly problems in the summer and don't generate any odors in the kitchen.

When adding "greens," such as food waste or green garden trimmings to your compost pile, be sure to cover these food scraps with a layer of "browns" (finished compost or fall leaves) to deter possible odors, pests and flies. This will disguise the scent of the food and deter vermin. If you have the space, keep a supply of bagged fall leaves throughout the year to cover food scraps and balance out the "browns." Be sure to mix the brown thoroughly into the pile.

If you have more leaves than you can use for home composting, you can also use fall leaves as mulch in your garden. If you need to move your leaves off the grounds, check to see if and when the NYC Department of Sanitation is collecting fall leaves for composting and how to properly set out your leaves for DSNY collection. Otherwise, contact your local Compost Project Site to find out if there are community gardens near you that are accepting fall leaves for compost.

Cut up bulkier materials with hand pruners or a knife to pieces about 4 inches long, or use a mower with a bagging attachment or a chipper/shredder.

If you are primarily composting "browns," shredding items such as leaves into smaller pieces and keeping the pile moist will speed up the decomposition process.

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