Composting is a free and simple process that you can do with or without a backyard. Garden waste and fruit and vegetable scraps can be composted at home to improve your garden's health. 

Compost ingredients

Compost is the soil-like material that is created when plant and vegetable matter breaks down. It can be used as a potting mix, soil enhancer or as mulch.

This table includes matter that may be composted.

Table describing what type of materials can be composted.
Type Ingredients
Nitrogen products (greens) Fruit
Fresh grass clippings
Carbon products (browns) Dried leaves
Grass clippings
Paper towel and cardboard
Shredded paper
Twigs and sticks (no thicker than your thumb)
Vacuum cleaner bag contents
Vegetable plants

Do not add the following ingredients to compost:

  • dairy products
  • manure from carnivores (e.g. cats and dogs)
  • meat scraps
  • plants that are diseased or have been sprayed with pesticides
  • plastic
  • treated timber
  • vegetable fats and oils
  • weeds.

Composting methods

There are a few different composting methods you can use. The best one for you depends on:

  • the size of your garden
  • the amount of kitchen and garden waste your household produces, and
  • how much time and money you want to spend.
Table showing compost methods, costs, ingredients, maintenance time required and time for material to compost.
Compost method Ingredients Notes



Garden waste only

Pile lawn clippings and prunings in a heap. To speed up breakdown of garden waste, turn regularly

Compost bin


Garden waste and food scraps Works well for people with a backyard
Compost barrel or tumbler


Garden waste and food scraps Require regular rotation
Worm farms


Garden waste and food scraps Suitable for small spaces (e.g. balcony or garage)

How to make compost in a compost bin

For the initial set up, collect enough compost ingredients to half-fill the compost bin. Include a mix of carbon and nitrogen materials (see compost ingredients table above for guidance).

  1. Place a five to 10 centimetre layer of small twigs at the bottom of the compost bin for aeration and drainage.
  2. Add a layer of soil or finished compost to add microorganisms to kick-start the decomposition process. Other activating materials include comfrey leaves, manure, coffee grounds and/or worm juice.
  3. Add carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) materials in alternating five to 10 centimetre layers.
  4. Sprinkle layers with water to ensure all materials are damp.
  5. Continue to add kitchen and garden scraps daily or on a regular basis. Ensure there is a mix of carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) materials.
  6. To speed up break down of materials, turn regularly with a fork or compost screw. Ensure materials remain damp and add water if necessary.

You compost is ready when the finished product resembles a rich, dark, soil-like material.

How to solve compost problems

Table describing how to solve compost problems.
Problem Cause Solution
Compost smells Compost is too wet Add carbon materials to dry compost mix out
  Not enough air Turn the pile more regularly to improve drainage and aeration.
Add coarse material (e.g. twigs) to create air pockets.
Sprinkle with garden lime and turn


Slow to break down Not enough active ingredients Add more active ingredients to compost mix (i.e. comfrey leaves, food waste, manure, soil, compost)
  Not enough air Turn more regularly
  Compost too dry Add more water until compost is damp all the way through
Maggots or cockroaches
(Both maggots and cockroaches are beneficial to the breakdown process, so if you can tolerate them, they will help your materials to break down faster.)
Ingredients such as meat or fats added to bin Avoid adding meats or fats to bin
Cover maggots with garden lime
Cover each layer of food waste with carbon materials
Turn more regularly to prevent food waste rotting before it breaks down
Mice and rats Excess bread or grains  Put fine wire mesh under the bin/heap
Turn heap more regularly
Cover each layer of food waste with carbon materials
  Compost is too dry Add more water until heap is damp all the way through

More information

Council is making purchasing your organic recycling system easier with our compost rebate program. The program provides eligible Brisbane residents a rebate of up to $70 off the purchase of eligible composting equipment. The program involves an education component to ensure you become a successful composter or worm farmer.

Last updated: 2 July 2020