Top 5 Things You Thought Were Compostable

Posted on November 11, 2017

A few weeks ago, we made a list of the top ten things that you thought were recyclable, but really aren’t. That list got a lot of people’s attention and helped answer people’s questions, especially linking up with The City of Calgary’s web resource What Goes Where? This week, we’re following up with the top 5 things you thought were compostable (but aren’t), but we’ll also be addressing some more recycling questions that came in as a result of our previous article, so here we go!

5. Sawdust from treated wood. Untreated wood can go in your green bin in small blocks or as sawdust in a compostable bag, but all other wood must go into the black bin if in small quantities/size and the landfill if bigger. This includes creosote-treated wood, pallets, pressure-treated wood, plywood, particle board, OSB, and MDF.

4. Biodegradable bags. This is just a reminder that biodegradable IS NOT the same as compostable. While compostable products are biodegradable, the reverse is not necessarily true. Biodegradable products, of any kind, degrade through biological processes (thus the name) into smaller pieces. They do not always become fertilizer like compost does, however. As much as a product might try to convince you that biodegradable products are green, they go in your black bin unless they also say that they are compostable.

3. Dryer lint & dryer sheets. These products are often made of synthetic materials, so they go into your black bin. If you need a greener solution to dryer sheets, look into dryer balls, especially ones made of wool.

2. Wax paper & butcher paper. Even though these paper products are often associated with foodstuffs, they have linings that can’t be composted. They go in the black bin. Parchment paper, however, goes in your green bin.

1. Gum. Chewing gum and bubble gum, even though they are a “food” item, most often have synthetic rubbers, plastics, and/or waxes as their bases. Even though you can find information on the internet about composting gum, if you read carefully, the item is biodegradable, not compostable. Place it in your black bin.

Those are our top 5! Did you have any other odd things you’ve found that can or cannot go in the compost? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Now, here are some items that we’ve had questions about:

Facial tissues & toilet paper: Compostable! However, put in your black bin if it is soiled with makeup, cleaning supplies, chemicals, or blood.
Aluminum Foil: Recyclable! Rinse off the foil and crumple into a ball to recycle. If it’s covered in lots of oils, stuck on foods, and so on, put it in the black bin instead.
Metal lids: Recyclable! In our previous list, we discussed how small plastic lids, smaller than 3 inches, can’t go in the blue bin. However, metal lids can, as well as aluminum can lids if you put then into the can they came from and squeeze the top of the can partially closed so the lid can’t escape.

There you are! If you have any questions like this, contact our GreenHub at or call, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, at 403-230-1443 ext 222.

Remember that #EveryActionCounts, and we're asking that all Calgarians do 3 simple things:

1. Perform an action that counts, and share your story. Share on social media by using the hashtag #EveryActionCounts and tagging Green Calgary - you can find us on Facebook and on Twitter, or tell a friend what you did and why.

2. Become a member of Green Calgary, or renew your membership.

3. Make a donation to support Green Calgary’s work in your community. 

This week’s #EveryActionCounts tips:

  • Reduce your energy usage by having houseplants. Green plants are natural air filters, reducing the need for expensive electric air purifiers. It takes one 10-inch plant to purify 100 sq. ft.
  • Use Dryer Balls. You can find these made from a variety of materials, including Alpaca wool, at local markets. These are a great replacement for chemical laden fabric softeners.
  • Use compostable pet waste bags. All pets produce waste, and the easiest way to dispose of that waste responsibly is to place it in a compostable BioBag from the EcoStore and then toss it into your Green Bin.

Thanks for reading!