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FAQ: Composting

Compost Site
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

FAQ: Composting

Do you throw away your kitchen scraps, toss leftovers, or dispose of yard waste? 

If so, composting may be for you! 

Composting is good for the environment. Unlike landfills that can release methane, a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change, composting breaks down organic material without releasing methane into the atmosphere.

Composting produces what gardeners call "black gold," a nutrient rich soil supplement that holds moisture and will help your garden grow.

There are many ways to compost - you can find a composter or community garden near you that takes food scraps and organic materials, or you can even compost in your own backyard!

  • There are many ways to compost. You can find a composter or community garden near you to take your yard waste. You can order a curbside composting bin from a local recycler. You can even compost in your own backyard. To learn how to compost at home, see our Home Composting Guide. To find local collection locations and drop off locations, see the Michigan Recycling Directory and search for the items you would like to recycle. For curbside pick-up, try contacting your current trash vendor too.

    Composting FAQs for Residents

    Composting FAQs for Composters

  • Links to the composting regulations and other composting information is available on the EGLE Composting Web site. Act 212 of 2007 (PA 212) amends Part 115, Solid Waste Management, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA). The statute and administrative rules are available at the EGLE Solid Waste Statutes and Rules Web site. All of the Parts of the NREPA can be found at the Michigan Legislature Web site and state administrative rules can be found at the State Office of Administrative Hearings Web page.

  • "Yard clippings" means leaves, grass clippings, vegetable or other garden debris, shrubbery, or brush or tree trimmings, less than 4 feet in length and 2 inches in diameter, that can be converted to compost humus. Yard clippings do not include stumps, agricultural wastes, animal waste, roots, sewage sludge, or garbage. Yard clippings are defined in Section 324.11506(14) of Part 115.

    Garbage means rejected food wastes including waste accumulation of animal, fruit, or vegetable matter used or intended for food or that attends the preparation, use, cooking, dealing in, or storing of meat, fish, fowl, fruit, or vegetable matter. Garbage is defined in Section 324.11503(17) of Part 115.

    Sewage sludge means any solid or semisolid waste that is generated from a municipal, commercial, or industrial wastewater treatment plant. Sludge is defined in R 299.4105(e) of the Part 115 Administrative Rules promulgated pursuant to Part 115.

  • Composting facilities are locations where composting of yard clippings or other organic materials occurs using mechanical handling techniques such as physical turning, windrowing, or aeration or using other management techniques approved by the EGLE Director. Both private and governmental entities may operate composting facilities. Composting facility is defined in Section 324.11502(17) of Part 115.

    Some composting facilities may be required to register with the EGLE or Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development(MDARD).

  • No, facilities composting organic materials other than yard clippings do not need to register. Also, not all composting facilities managing yard clippings have to register per Section 324.11521(1) of Part 115. See the flowchart for help determining if a composting facility needs to register with EGLE or MDARD and see the following EGLE and MDARD registration sections for some common questions and answers.

    Registration is not required when yard clippings are:

    • Composted on the property where the yard clippings are generated. This would include homeowners operating their own composting piles and other entities that maintain their own grounds such as cemeteries, hospitals, parks, apartment complexes, and industrial complexes that have their own composting operations that do not create a nuisance or violate the NREPA.
    • Temporarily accumulated at a site not designed for composting if it meets the following limitations:
      • Does not create a nuisance or violate the NREPA. Not mixed with other compostable materials. This would be other organic materials that can decay that are not yard clippings.
      • Is 1,000 cubic yards or less unless a greater volume is approved by EGLE before the larger amounts are brought onto the site.
      • Moved to another location within the following timeframes in any given year where it is managed under one of the listed options in Section 11521(1) of Part 115:
        • If yard clippings were placed on the site on or after April 1 but before December 1, it must be moved within 30 days after being placed on site
        • If yard clippings were placed on the site on or after December 1 but before April 1, they must be moved by April 10. 
        • If a longer time period is needed, the facility needs to demonstrate why that is necessary and obtain approval from EGLE.
      • The site owner or operator must maintain records that demonstrates these requirements are being met and make the records available to EGLE upon request
    • Composted at a facility that has less than 200 cubic yards of yard clippings and is not creating nuisance conditions. This limitation on the amount includes all materials at all stages of the composting process, except the finished compost.
    • Decomposed in a controlled manner in a closed container that is used to create and maintain anaerobic conditions, and operated in accordance with Air Quality Division regulations, or otherwise approved by EGLE. This management option is for anaerobic digesters. It does not apply to a bioreactor landfill (one that collects and uses methane gas for energy production) because a landfill cell is not a "closed container." Search for keyword "digester" at Michigan Environmental Quality Publications Center for the Environmental Regulations Affecting Anaerobic Digesters guidance.
    • Composted and used by a municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill under specific conditions. An MSW landfill is defined in Section 299.4104 (d) of Part 115 and may also be called a Type II landfill. An MSW landfill may be publicly or privately owned and receives household waste or municipal solid waste incinerator ash. It may also receive construction and demolition waste, sewage sludge, commercial waste, nonhazardous sludge, industrial waste, and hazardous waste from conditionally exempt small quantity generators. The conditions for an MSW landfill to not register with EGLE include:
      • Composting takes place on property described in the landfill construction permit.
      • Composting operations of any amount must be described in and are consistent with the landfill operation plans. (For clarification, this includes landfills composting less than 200 cubic yards on property described in the landfill construction permit.).
      • Landfill is in compliance with NREPA. MSW landfills accepting yard clippings under the provisions of Section 11521(1)(g) of Part 115 must ensure that the composting and use is described in the landfill's operation plans. At a minimum, the operation plans must include the following information:
      • Procedures to ensure that nuisance odors are minimized by addressing anaerobic degradation.
      • Procedures to prevent the pooling of water by maintaining proper slopes and grades.
      • Procedures to properly manage storm water runoff.
      • Procedures to ensure that the compost will not attract or harbor rodents or other vectors.
      • Compost pile management techniques and the equipment that will be used.
      • The testing procedures, frequencies and lab analysis of finished products to ensure that the compost is finished (e.g., Dewar self-heating method).
      • Description of the use of the finished compost and any screening rejects.

    EGLE Material Management Division's Policy Guidance 115-10, "Sanitary Landfill Alternate Daily Cover Approval Requirements and Procedures" and Policy Guidance GEN 13, "Use of Yard Clippings Compost as Landfill Cover" provides additional information on acceptable use of yard clippings at landfills. This information is available on the EGLE Solid Waste Operation Memos Web site.

    If you compost and use yard clippings at your landfill and your operation plans do not include the information described in this letter, please submit revised operation plans that have the necessary information to the appropriate Material Management Division (MMD) District Office. EGLE will review the revised operation plans and either approve them or work with you to gain compliance with these new provisions.

  • Organic materials are those capable of decaying into humus. Common examples besides yard clippings include fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, nutshells, paper, wood wastes including sawdust and wood chips, coffee grounds, hair clippings, feathers, bone meal, blood meal, and waste generated in the production of livestock and poultry, including manure and used bedding materials. See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Web site on organic materials for more information. Polymers and plastics, unless designed to be a compostable material, are not usually considered organic material due to their poor ability to decompose.

  • Nuisance means there are conditions that unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life and property, such as noise, blowing debris, odors, vectors, or pest animals. Nuisance is defined in R 299.4104(h) of the Part 115 administrative rules.

  • No. At this time, only diseased or infested plants, or plants that were collected through an eradication or control program can be landfilled or incinerated. Examples of invasive plants include, but are not limited to, garlic mustard, purpose loosestrife, and spotted knapweed.

  • Composting facilities are locations where composting of yard clippings or other organic materials occurs using mechanical handling techniques such as physical turning, windrowing, or aeration or using other management techniques. Larger composting facilities must register with EGLE and they all have operating requirements under EGLE's solid waste, water, and air regulations. See EGLE's Compost Website and Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about composting and facility operating requirements.

  • Check with your local city or township, or check the Michigan Recycling Directory to find the facilities nearest to you. A list of registered composting facilities is posted at Michigan.gov/EGLECompost.

  • There are various organizations and agencies with specific programs in Michigan that target the control and removal of invasive species. Many of these groups are part of Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) across Michigan. For more information on CISMAs and invasive species, visit Michigan.gov/Invasives.