Organics Management photo identifier

Organics Management

Compost & Healthy Soil

Soil can be improved by amending it with compost, mulch mowing (see "grasscycling" below), and other practices such as "no-till farming".

Composting is an important component of "closed loop" recycling. By composting organic residuals, we can transform "wastes" such as yard debris, food scraps, manure, and crop residues into valuable products. According to a 2009 statewide waste audit, over 35% of our state's garbage was compostable material. For more data, visit Ecology's Solid Waste and Recycling Data site.

There are many benefits to making and using compost. It reduces waste, saving landfill space. It reduces production of greenhouse gases by diverting food scraps from landfills. Compost can help build healthy soil and plants by:

Andy Bary (WSU Puyallup) holding compost
Photo courtesy of Dan Corum

  • Increasing soil organic matter
  • Improving soil structure and fertility
  • Increasing soil drainage and resistance to erosion by wind and water
  • Increasing soil water and nutrient holding capacity
  • Moderating soil pH, which improves nutrient availability for plants
  • Supporting beneficial soil microbes that recycle nutrients and protect plants from disease
  • Saves time and money by reducing the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides
According to the U.S. EPA, compost also helps clean up contaminated soil and helps prevent pollution by:
  • Avoiding the production of methane and leachate formation in landfills.
  • Preventing pollutants in stormwater runoff from reaching surface water resources.
  • Preventing erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers.
  • Preventing erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, playing fields, and golf courses.


Grasscycling
Composting at Home
Non-Residential Composting and Data
Tools & Other Resources



GRASSCYCLING

Leaving grass clippings on your lawn adds nutrients back into the soil. Review these web sites and flyers to learn more.

COMPOSTING AT HOME

According to a 2009 statewide waste audit, 33% of residential garbage was compostable material. Most of the backyard compostable material consisted of vegetative food (17%) and leaves/grass (9%). Turn this "waste" into a beneficial resource by composting at home in a bin or a pile. Keep vegetable scraps separate to feed red wiggler worms. They'll make good use of those scraps and give you rich vermicompost (worm compost) to use in your garden. When materials are composted correctly, they will smell earthy and will not attract unwanted critters to your bins. See the Tools & Other Resources section to learn how to compost in your backyard and what to look for when buying compost.

Buying Compost and Other Soil Products

Before buying compost, read Ecology's "Buying and Using Compost" focus sheet. The following compost facilities list and map include some of the compost facilities in our state.

NON-RESIDENTIAL COMPOSTING AND DATA

Non-residential is large scale composting, including the processing of feedstocks that are picked up curbside or community collection. Commercial production is for institutions, agencies, compost facilities, agricultural businesses.

Organic material recovery data can be found at Solid Waste and Recycling Data. View the Compost Facility section below for compost facility data.

Compost End-Use

Compost facilities around the state are busy turning what was once considered waste into compost. To complete the cycle, finished compost needs to be purchased and used. There are a variety of situations in which compost can be used, including new construction, landscaping and roadside applications.

For more about how compost is used:
Soils for Salmon - In Washington State, there are soil "Best Management Practices" (BMPs) for using compost when soil is disturbed on developed land. Washington Organic Recycling Council (WORC) developed this Soils for Salmon website for builders, developers and landscapers to learn about:
  • Preserving site topsoil and vegetation where possible.
  • Reducing compaction.
  • Amending disturbed soils with compost to restore healthy soil functions.
Best Management Practices (BMP) for soils - Soil BMP Guide. This publication provides guidance for landscape designers, builders, planners, and inspectors to implement soil quality BMPs, in order to protect and restore soil functions. The guide describes techniques for construction site soil handling, reducing soil compaction, and amending site soils with compost to meet BMP T5.13 "Post Construction Soil Quality and Depth" in Ecology's Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington. This guide includes field inspection techniques, WA suppliers of compost and soil testing laboratories, and specification language in APWA and CSI formats.

U.S. EPA's Greenscapes - Review this site to learn how to use compost in a variety of applications, including erosion control.

Compost Facility

Washington State compost facilities are regulated under the Composting Facility Standards (WAC 173-350-220). For those thinking of starting a facility, see the focus sheet "Organics Management Facilities: Do I need a Solids Waste Permit?". Also, the Good Management practices and the Solid Waste Permit Application Checklist may be useful. See the Tools & Other Resources section for more information.



Farm/Agriculture

Composting on a farm and at other agricultural locations make it possible to manage certain resources on-site. For agricultural composting operations, our state has several exemptions from solid waste handling permitting. See the Law and Rule page to learn about these exemptions.

View these agricultural composting publications and websites to learn more: See the Tools & Other Resources section for more information.

Institution & Agency

Local solid waste agencies have Solid Waste Plans, which may include how they manage their organic materials. These are often written based on environmental needs and available funds, including Ecology grants. View these Solid Waste Plan examples for ideas when writing or reviewing a solid waste plan:

Ecology's Lacey building cafeteria staff preparing food

Managing Food Scraps at Institutions and Agencies (Ecology) - Use this guide to help develop food scrap management programs.

See the Tools & Other Resources section for more information.



TOOLS AND OTHER RESOURCES

Review the following resources to learn how to make compost, how to use it, and more. For home composting workshops and bin sales, check with your local solid waste or public works department. Obtain additional resources by visiting Ecology's Information Clearinghouse.

Open these brochures/guides to learn the basics: Educate others with these compost resources:

Red Wiggler Worms

Large- scale composting resources: Learn more about composting through these organizations: Use these calculators when making and using compost. Also includes Greenhouse Gas calculators. Use these graphics and brochure for food waste collection programs. They were developed for Ecology's food waste program (see Garbage to Garden brochure). Permission is not required to use these.

4x6 Food, Trash, Bottles and Cans sign
7x4 Food and paper towels sign
8.5x11 Desktop YES and NO
Compost Logo 1
Compost Logo 2
No
Yes
Food Prep
Salad
Paper Towels