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    Centralized Composting

    Diversion Potential:
    5037K Tons

    Economic Value Per Ton:

    GHGs Reduced:
    2605K Tons

    Jobs Created:
    9000 Jobs


    Composting is the process of transforming organic waste into humus, a critical component of healthy, fertile soil. In rural areas, this can be accomplished by periodically turning large piles, or windrows, of organic waste over themselves using specialized equipment. In more urban areas, Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting is generally preferred, where piles can be covered and mechanically aerated in order to minimize the site’s footprint and odors.


    There are 5,000 composting facilities nationwide, yet it is a highly fragmented market, with only 500 facilities accepting food scraps. according to BioCycle magazine.

    A relatively large facility — processing up to 40,000 tons per year — is expected to cost $5 to $9 million in upfront capital and $17 to $28 per incoming ton to operate. Most existing compost facilities are much smaller, lacking economies of scale — the national average is closer to 5,000 tons per year, according to BioCycle. For example, a 50,000 ton-per-year facility incurs nearly half the capital cost of a 10,000 ton-per-year facility on a per-ton basis. Since contamination is a critical issue in large-scale composting, the Roadmap modeling assumes state-of-the-art depackaging and screening equipment is used despite the higher capital costs incurred. From a system perspective, higher costs of screening feedstocks will most likely be offset by higher market value of cleaner compost.

    In the near term, adding new compost facilities is expected to be most successful in the Northeast and the Northwest due to high market values for compost and high costs of disposal. Given the mandate to divert commercial food waste in California, the Roadmap also assumes an increase in composting facilities, despite slimmer profit margins.


    • It is difficult for compost to compete on price with synthetic fertilizer, which benefits from cheap oil and large production economies of scale driven by industrial agriculture.
    • Food waste, high in nitrogen content, requires additional carbon sources to reach an optimal mix necessary for healthy compost piles. Availability of carbon-rich feedstocks to balance the food waste, such as yard waste, is limited in some regions. Competition for carbon sources from other buyers, such as biomass power plants, has driven costs higher in recent years.
    • Climatic conditions can greatly impact composting operations and processing time. In northern geographies, winter conditions can turn windrows dormant for part of the year.

    Stakeholder Actions

    • Investors and project developers should target areas with diversion mandates for project investigation and investment. Populous regions lacking those mandates need consistent effort from industry to support progressive policies.
    • Facility operators and municipalities should focus on revamping existing compost facilities that process only yard waste to accept food waste, in conjunction with the proper training for handling and processing this source-separated material.
    • Municipalities, haulers, and facility operators should pay particular attention to the recommended actions in the "Overcoming Barriers to Recycling" section in the Roadmap report, particularly to pathways for developing end markets for compost and reducing contamination to drive the economic viability of facilities.

    Examples & Resources

    • Filtrexx International is the inventor of SiltSoxx™, the original compost filter sock and silt fence alternative. Applications include storm water filtration, soil erosion and storm water reduction, vegetation establishment and sustainability applications, gardening and agriculture, and gardens in education.

    Related Solutions

    Community Composting

    Transporting food from homes by truck, car, or bicycle to small, community, or neighborhood-level compost facilities that process 2,500 tons per year on average

    $-34 /ton
    in financial benefit

    167 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    163 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    jobs created

    Learn How >

    Home Composting

    Keeping a small bin or pile for on-site waste at residential buildings to be managed locally; also known as "backyard composting"

    $149 /ton
    in financial benefit

    97 K tons/yr
    in diversion potential

    0 M meals/yr
    meals recovered

    53 K tons/yr
    in GHG reduction

    0 B gal/yr
    in water conservation

    jobs created

    Learn How >
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