How to Sort Out Food Waste for Composting


Composting food waste reduces the amount of garbage your community must dispose of and enriches the soil in your garden. Even in a small yard, you can maintain an odor-free compost pile.

Step 1

Sort food scraps according to whether they contain animal products or not. Fats, dairy products, meat, poultry and fish need to be disposed of in conventional garbage. Your compost container can accommodate fruit- and vegetable-based waste, including biodegradeable paper products.

Step 2

Sort compostable items as you refrigerate food from the market. Peel off tired or excess outer leaves from lettuce, cabbages and cauliflower, and remove carrot tops. These items can go into compost. You'll save room in your refrigerator as well.

Step 3

Keep a covered bowl or small compost bin within easy reach when preparing meals. Add fruit and vegetable peels and cores, egg shells, heels of stale bread, drained canned fruit and vegetable juices, and leftover dry cereals and grains to your compost pile container.

Step 4

Sort further scraps for compost as you clear the table. Cereal without milk, cooked pasta (without sauce) and the last inch of orange juice or dab of applesauce are all compostable. Add milk-free tea and coffee, tea bags, coffee grounds and even the paper napkins used at the meal to your container.

Step 5

Rinse cans and bottles that held fruit, vegetables and juices into the compost container or pile. Adequate water speeds organic deterioration and helps keep the compost pile "working," or decomposting. You'll be glad to have your can-and-bottle container odor-free until the recycling truck comes.

Tips and Warnings

  • Even the odor of rotting apple peels or cabbage can draw curious visitors like raccoons and skunks to your compost pile. Keep odor down by watering and stirring your compost pile frequently. Moisture and aeration speed decomposition and reduce odors.

Things You'll Need

  • Fruit and vegetable peels, cores and leftovers
  • Coffee grounds and coffee filters and tea bags
  • Egg shells
  • Stale bread, cereals, grains
  • Covered bowl or indoor compost container
  • Water
  • Pitchfork or compost stirring tool


  • Rethink Recycling: Food Waste
  • King County, Washington: Backyard Food Composting
Keywords: how to sort, food waste, for composting

About this Author

Janet Beal holds a Harvard B.A. in English and a College of New Rochelle M.S in early childhood education. She has worked as a college textbook editor, HUD employee, caterer, and teacher. She is pleased to be part of Demand Studios' exciting community of writers and readers.