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The time is right for composting: do’s and don’ts

With warmer weather here, gardeners are readying their garden plots, and many are starting to compost as well.

Composting has come a long way since the mid-1990s, when Michigan’s first composting law was enacted banning yard wastes from entering Michigan landfills. Before that leaves and grass comprised over 30% of all household solid waste going to landfills and incinerators.

Food decomposing in a compost bin. Courtesy of Kent Walters.

Food decomposing in a compost bin. Courtesy of Kent Walters. 


Sending yard waste to landfills creates a few problems.  It takes up valuable landfill space which is costly to build and maintain.  Since yard waste is organic, it decomposes in a landfill, creating methane and other air pollutants.  According to EPA, methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere making it is a significant contributor to climate change.  So, the more we compost, the better we help fight climate change.

Michigan law also prohibits the open burning of grass clippings and leaves in municipalities that have a population of 7,500 or more, unless allowed by a local ordinance that authorizes it.

Enter composting. It’s a great method to utilize leaves and grass. Composting is nature’s way to turning these materials into a valuable soil conditioner.

The benefits of composting are many:

  • Saves money by reducing the need for expensive bags and commercial soil additives.
  • Improves the fertility and health of soil.
  • Saves water by helping soil hold moisture and reducing water runoff.
  • Recycles valuable organic resources back into the soil.

Ready to get started? Here are some do’s and don’ts:

Do compost:

  • Grass Clippings
  • Leaves
  • Non-invasive Weeds & Garden Debris
  • Small brush, twigs
  • Clean wood ash
  • Sawdust and wood chips
  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Food Waste


Don’t’ compost:

  • Whole branches, logs
  • Pet or human waste
  • Charcoal briquette ash
  • Sawdust from treated wood
  • Meat or dairy

For more composting tips, check out EGLE’s home composting guide.