Ohio – Composting Rules

In the Midwest, Ohio’s composting regulations (OAC Chapter 3745-560) are a great model for the region and other parts of the country. Officials have designed rules to suit various land uses (i.e. rural, suburban, urban) and made special effort to adapt to contemporary community needs via permit exemptions.

Ohio’s revised rules went into effect on October 1, 2018. These updated regulations allow a registration (i.e. permit) exemption for any composting operation under 500 square feet. This is largely “to accommodate community gardens and urban farms,” explains Angel Arroyo-Rodriguez, an environmental planner and composting specialist for the Ohio EPA.

Facilities over 500 square feet must register and obtain a license (essentially permit-by-rule) which requires an annual fee based on the daily amount of tonnage handled, a plan of financial assurance, and a daily maximum amount of materials to be indicated by the operator. The “allowed daily maximum” waste receipt prevents the facility from receiving any more material then it can handle in 24 hours, giving the operator a baseline to avoid material back-up and related long-term issues.

For the purpose of monitoring potential risks to human and environmental health from improper materials management, Ohio’s compost facilities are divided into four categories, based on types of feedstock materials.

Compost Facility Category

Ohio Admin. Code

Class I: Mixed solid waste  3745-560-100
Class II: Source-separated yard waste, agricultural plant material, animal waste, dead animals, raw rendering material, and food scraps 3745-560-200
Class III: Source-separated yard waste, agricultural plant material, and animal waste, dead animals, and raw rendering material  3745-560-300
Class IV: Source-separated yard waste, and agricultural plant material 3745-560-400


The Performance-based Route

Performance-based regulations are a flexible model — used by Ohio as well as Pacific Northwest states — which require levels of quality to be met, but does not dictate the exact way to achieve those standards. Operators of registered composting facilities in Ohio are responsible for determining their own capacities and abiding by them. For example, citizens can bring in off-site material (i.e. yard waste, animal waste, agricultural waste, food scraps, bulking agents, and additives) to community gardens or larger urban farms, then use the finished product anywhere, as long as there are no odors and no air or water pollution from the composting process.

Even in the case of larger facilities (defined as over 500 square feet) that require an on-site material limit, Ohio has avoided constrictive thresholds for the most part, and thus allows the operator to indicate this amount, based on facility capacity. Arroyo-Rodriguez of the Ohio EPA likes this approach because the amount “is not an arbitrary number; they designed the facility to handle an amount of material, so we’ll hold them to that.” He explained the ease of the process, saying: “At any time they can make the necessary changes to accept more material. They just need to update their registration and license.”

Such performance-based standards foster innovation and take into account different site qualities, such as local climate and soil type. Performance-based rules thereby acknowledge that no one model is the best option for every facility.


More Information

Original post from July 31, 2012
Updated July 26, 2021