Abstract In this paper, the evolution of organic matter (OM) during composting of different mixtures of various organic wastes was assessed by means of chemical analyses and CPMAS 13C NMR spectroscopy measured during composting. The trends of temperatures and C/N ratios supported the correct evolution of the processes. The CPMAS 13C NMR spectra of all composting substrates indicated a reduction in carbohydrates and an increase in aromatic, phenolic, carboxylic and carbonylic C which suggested a preference by microorganisms for easily degradable C molecules. The presence of hardly degradable pine needles in one of the substrates accounted for the lowest increase in alkyl C and the lowest reduction in carbohydrates and carboxyl C as opposite to another substrate characterized by the presence of a highly degradable material such as spent yeast from beer production, which showed the highest increase of the alkyl C/O-alkyl C ratio. The highest increase of COOH deriving by the oxidative degradation of cellulose was shown by a substrate composed by about 50% of plant residues. The smallest increases in alkyl C/O-alkyl C ratio and in polysaccharides were associated to the degradation of proteins and lipids which are major components of sewage sludge. Results obtained were related to the different composition of fresh organic substrates and provided evidence of different OM evolution patterns as a function of the initial substrate composition.