Residential compost tips

A woman stands in front of her house emptying a kitchen compost container filled with food scraps into a large green compost roll cart.
How to keep your green bin clean, tips for choosing a kitchen container, allowed bin liners, and why you should include food but not items labeled “compostable.”
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Kitchen containers

Three different types of countertop compost containers are shown: a stainless steel round container with lid, a beige plastic container with a white lid shown lined with a green compostable bag, and a large plastic yogurt tub with lid. Next to the containers are two of the approved container liners: a paper bag and a BPI-certified compostable bag.

Choose a container that’s easy to empty and clean. Reuse a large yogurt tub or Tupperware™-type container with a lid. Or purchase a countertop compost container from your local hardware or home goods store.

Line your container with paper or use a BPI-certified compostable bag to reduce mess. If using bags, the 2-3 gallon size should fit countertop containers.

Empty & rinse regularly. Empty food scraps from your kitchen container into your outside bin throughout the week.

Some people empty daily, others may only empty every few days without it getting smelly - it depends on the type of food scraps. But even if there are only a few scraps in the container, don’t let them sit for more than a few days to prevent smells and avoid fruit flies. Or store your container in the freezer and empty whenever you like.

Wash weekly (at least). Give your container a quick rinse every time you empty it, and then give it a good scrub with soap, or run it through the dishwasher, at least once a week.

Keep your green bin clean

A green residential compost roll cart is shown next to a small stack of newspaper and a bottle of dishsoap.

Set your bin out every week. Even if your bin’s not full, food waste should be picked up every week to avoid smells.

Line the bottom of your bin with paper or leaves. Placing a sheet of newspaper or a paper bag at the bottom of your bin will prevent wet food from sticking to the bottom of your bin. Or put leaves or other yard waste in the bin first, then add food waste.

Wrap messy food in paper, or bag food in BPI-certified compostable bags, before putting it in the bin also helps.

Drain liquids from food before putting in your bin. If you’ve got soup that’s gone bad, pour the liquid down the sink and then put the remaining noodles, vegetables, etc. into your compost bin (or in a paper bag that then goes in your bin).

Clean your bin with soap and water as needed. Just make sure to pour dirty water onto gravel or grass, not down the storm drain.

Store your bin in the shade during warm weather to reduce unwanted smells.

Request a clean bin from your garbage company for around $15. They’ll swap out your bin for a freshly cleaned one.

Include the food

You can – and should! – put food scraps in your green roll cart along with yard waste. All types of food scraps are welcome, including peels, pits, bones, shells, plate scrapings, leftovers, and spoiled food.

Food scraps add nutrients to the finished compost that farmers and backyard gardeners add to their soil. Nutrient-rich compost keeps soil healthy, and healthy soil grows healthy plants with less water and fewer chemical fertilizers.

Plus, when you throw food in the garbage, it goes into a landfill where it creates methane gas, which worsens the climate crisis. That’s why it matters that all your food waste gets into the compost bin, from carrot peels and sandwich crusts to long-forgotten leftovers hiding in the back of the fridge.

See the full list of what goes in your compost bin

Don’t include “compostable” items

Cups, to-go boxes, and other items labeled “compostable,” “biodegradable,” or “made from plants” belong in the trash.

The labels are well-intentioned but not always accurate. In fact, they make it harder for our local compost facilities to produce clean, nutrient-rich compost. Learn more.

The only exception is BPI-certified compostable bags used to bag up food scraps before putting them in your bin. These bags are available at local and online retailers: Look for the label that says BPI-certified compostable.