Zoning for Community-Scale Composting

Widespread lack of compost-specific zoning regulations poses a major challenge to community-scale composters across the country. Because many local zoning codes do not include specific language on land use for composting, it gets classified as solid waste, subjecting composters to certain steps that, while necessary for landfills or incinerators, may be unnecessarily prohibitive for small- or medium-sized composting operations. 

Zoning code that includes specific language for composting enables composting operations to get up and running more efficiently while also promoting composting that follows best management practices, produces high-quality compost and zoning that protects public and environmental health. Each local jurisdiction determines its own zoning regulations, but local codes should ideally align with any existing state-wide composting requirements to promote regulatory transparency and avoid confusion. 

Listing composting as an accessory agricultural activity is one way to ensure the composting may happen on farms across the state or locality regardless of the existence of zoning code explicit to composting. 

Featured Resource

  • The Ohio EPA provides adaptable model zoning code language that incorporates composting as an acceptable activity at urban farms and community gardens
  • ILSR’s Composting for Community map features local and state zoning policies for composting
    • (the map automatically selects community composters and all state policies, to see only zoning policies, de-select all categories except “Zoning Policies” under Local Policies and Programs and “Model Zoning Language” under State Policies and Programs)
  • Coming Soon: Model zoning ordinance for community composting


Model Policies

California – San Diego Zoning for Community Composting

San Diego County updated its zoning code in 2022 to specifically support community composting activities. The new ordinance promotes community composting by removing large facilities as the sole option and making organics processing more accessible to local compost sites on farms, in backyards, and at community gardens.… Read More

Maryland – Montgomery County Ag Zoning Amendment

In February 2021, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Montgomery County Ag Reserve Zoning Amendment, which addresses limitations on the amount of materials farmers can source from off their farms for producing compost or mulch. This zoning amendment makes it easier for farmers in the county to mulch and compost by allowing more material to be sourced from off their farms.… Read More

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Sophia Jones

Sophia Jones is the Policy Lead with ILSR’s Composting for Community initiative, where she researches, analyzes and supports the building of US policy that advances local composting. Her background in sustainable development and agriculture reflects her interest in solutions-based, community-led development initiatives.