Composting is an important strategy for recycling organic materials that might otherwise be disposed in landfills or incinerators. The use of compost also offers numerous benefits. When incorporated into soil, it can improve soil tilth and fertility and provide a more stable form of nitrogen less susceptible to leaching into water supplies. On heavy soils, compost helps reduce compaction and increases infiltration. Furthermore, adding compost to soil stores carbon, which is vital for reducing atmospheric carbon.
State policy is important to support and encourage well-managed composting operations. Poorly operated facilities can potentially cause environmental problems, most notably to surface water and groundwater.
This April 2010 report, Summary of Select State Composting Regulations, identifies 11 states with notable regulations governing compost facilities. Oregon, Washington, and California have performance-based requirements. They along with Iowa, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania also have exemptions to facilitate on-farm operations. Maine, Florida, and Oregon recently updated their regulatory program to encourage composting by clarifying environmental requirements, exempting more small facilities, making the rules more focused and efficient and providing regulation tailored to the potential environmental harm at each facility, while ensuring all operations protect public health and the environment. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and Minnesota have bans on disposing yard trimmings, which have played an important role in spurring composting in those states.
Click here to download the pdf of Summary of Select State Composting Regulations.