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What can I put in my backyard compost bin?

Backyard composting of yard waste and kitchen scraps is popular. People are excited to take practical steps to reduce waste and make a wonderful product for their indoor or outdoor plants. Often, there is confusion about what can be safely placed in your backyard compost bin. For more information on backyard composting, go to Living Green 365.

Here is a list of what we do (and do not) recommend.

Materials that work

  • Coffee grounds and filter paper Compostable food and yard waste
  • Tea--loose or in bags
  • Uncooked vegetables or fruit
  • Egg shells
  • Plant trimmings
  • Weeds that have not gone to seed or have seed pods on them.
  • Non-recyclable paper--like tissues and napkins--and items with a compostable label may take longer to break down than plants, but can be placed in a backyard bin.

Materials that don't work

  • Meat, fats, dairy, or cooked vegetables. These items may attract animals or cause odors.
  • Paper. Recyclable paper should be recycled.
  • Biodegradable plastics.
  • Pet waste. Feces may introduce pathogens that will not be killed in the compost process.
  • Weeds that have seed pods or have gone to seed. The backyard compost process will not kill the weed seed, and you'll spread weeds all over your garden when you use the compost!

What can I recycle?

In order to assure effective recycling in St. Louis County please follow these simple directions.


  • Recycle all #1 and #2 plastic bottles, jars and tubs. Remove and throw away the caps and lids. Rinse, drain, flatten and store in a paper grocery bag or a bin.
  • Recycle aluminum, tin and bi-metal food and beverage cans. Rinse, drain and flatten and store with the plastics or separately in a paper grocery bag or bin.
  • Recycle all glass food and beverage bottles and jars. Remove and throw away the lids. Rinse, drain and store separately in a paper grocery bag or bin.
  • At the drop-off bin place the cans, jars and bottles in the appropriate bin and the paper grocery bags in the paper bin. If you have curbside collection, place filled bags out on your recycling day.


Recycle all newspaper, magazines, “junk” mail and boxboard. Divide catalogs and phone books into 1/2 inch thick parts. Place mixed papers into a paper grocery bag or loosely into a bin. Put mixed papers into the paper bin at the drop-off site along with your paper bag.

If you have curbside collection please make sure that your materials won’t blow down the street when you put them at the curb.


Cardboard is not allowed in the blue County recycling drop-off bins. All available curbside programs pick up cardboard which has been cut or flattened into 2’x2’ sections. NO PIZZA BOXES OR WET OR PLASTIC COATED CARDBOARD PLEASE! 

View Brochure

Is there curbside pick up where I live?

Curbside recycling programs are available in the following cities within the St. Louis County Solid Waste Management Area:

Where can I drop-off my recyclables?

The Environmental Services Department has 47 recycling drop‐off bin locations throughout the Solid Waste Management Area.

List of Recycling Drop-Off Locations

Where do our recyclables go?

2019 Recycling in the St. Louis County Solid Waste Management Area:

1488 tons to mills to make new cardboard

Mixed Paper / Newsprint:
1151 Tons to end markets to make paper, or insulation

#1 (PET) Plastics:
202 Tons to a plastics brokers

#2 (HPDE) plastic:
142 to plastics brokers

Aluminum cans:
66 Tons to Metals Brokers

Mixed metal cans:
88 Tons to Metals Brokers

625 tons collected to be used as ‘Glass-5’ gravel at the Regional Landfill and other County sites

Why can't we recycle #3-#7 plastics?

The number one reason is we do not have a market for them. In order to complete the recycling circle we need to have a place to send collected material that will make something new from it. There must be a market for a material to be recycled. Right now, there are no regional markets for #3-#7 non-bottles and bags. Most #3-#7 plastics are actually going to China to be remanufactured. The bad news is that China does not have human and environmental regulations like we do in the U.S. and there are few ways to track what really happens to recycling. They are working on establishing regulations, but for the time being they have greatly restricted the amount of waste materials they are accepting at their ports. The responsible thing to do is to use regional markets and develop local markets, not to ship our resources overseas. The reason that corrugated cardboard, newspaper, #1 and #2 plastic bottles, etc., are commonly collected materials, is that there is a recycling infrastructure—processors and manufacturers—who want these materials and make them into products that are sold for profit and sold locally. Without this infrastructure—or market—recycling cannot be sustained.

You can make a difference by telling manufacturers to take responsibility for their unrecyclable plastics and packaging.