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What Permits Do I Need To Start a Composting Business in America?

compost turner working on large pile at a compost site

<div id="compost-permits">What is composting and when do I need a composting permit?</div>

Composting is the process of breaking down organic matter, such as food scraps and yard waste, into a nutrient-rich material called compost. Compost can be used in gardens and landscaping to improve plant growth and soil health. It can also help reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

There are two types of composting: backyard composting and commercial composting. Backyard composting can be done at home with a backyard composter or bin. Commercial composting facilities accept food scraps and other organic waste from businesses, institutions, and events. This type of composting requires special permits and permissions.

3 pile of compost on site covered in black plastic. The piles are in a rural location surrounded by tall trees
Compost piles

<div id="Do-I-need-a-compost-permit">Do I Need a Permit to Start a Composting Business?</div>

The answer to this question depends on the type of composting business you want to start. If you want to start a backyard composting business, you probably won’t need a permit. However, if you want to start a commercial composting business, you will need a permit from your state. Each state has different composting laws and regulations, so it’s important to do your research before applying for a permit.

Permits depending on compost feedstock

Composting animal mortalities, or composting any type of animal by-product, will have more government regulations than composting food scraps. This is due to the higher risk of disease and other contaminants that may come from the animals. It's important for composters who are composting animal mortalities to get a permit before composting. The permit will mean that you are meeting legal requirements for proper composting techniques. It will also help keep your community safe from potentially hazardous materials. The regulations may feel like extra work, but they will make sure that you are doing things the right way.

compost bin made out of wood that is filled with lots of different kinds of compost feed stocks inclusing pink flowers, leafy greens, orchids, leaves and vegetables
Vegetables, flowers and food scraps make great compost feedstocks

Size of your composting site

Some states will require composting permits when compost is being made in large amounts. This allows local authorities to make sure that the compost is being safely managed and monitored. Permits provide us with an extra layer of security and can help encourage composters to produce compost responsibly. This reduces the risks to the environment.

woman in personal protective equipment - ppe on site at a compost facility with a clipboard
Site inspection at a compost facility

Compost site location

Compost site locations are closely regulated due to health and environmental considerations. Before buying a site for your compost business, you need to make sure that it is not near any open water or close to a residential area. The location of your compost site can impact water supplies, air quality, and the health safety of those living nearby. If compost sites are too close to water sources, it’s possible for contamination to get into the environment. If your site is near a town, the air pollution from compost may cause residents breathing problems.

Contact your local zoning office

All businesses must comply with local zoning ordinances, which look after the land use in specific areas. You’ll need to find out if there are any restrictions on running a composting business in your area. For example, some local governments have setback requirements that say how close a commercial business can be located to residential properties.

Other composting licenses

You may also need other permissions and licenses to start your business. This could include a solid waste hauling license, construction or environmental permits. Again, it depends on the type of business you want to start and where you want to operate. The best way to find out what permits and permissions you need is to contact your state or local government office.

construction application permit with a red ball point pen
Ask your local government what permits you need for your compost business

Get insured

No matter how well you run your business, accidents can happen. It’s important to have liability insurance in case someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of your composting operations.

<div id="advice-on-permits">Our advice on composting permits and permissions</div>

Starting a composting business is a great way to help the environment while also earning an income. It’s important to do your research first so that you understand all the permits and permissions that are needed to operate legally and avoid costly fines or shutdowns. With a little bit of planning, you can turn your passion for composting into a thriving business venture! To find out why you should get into composting or how you can start your own compost business check out out blog.

<div id="get-in-contact">Get in contact with the experts</div>

You can get more advice on starting a compost business from our friends over at the US Composting Council. If you need information on permits and permissions for your compost business it’s best to contact your local council or state office.

Our Machinery Partner experts are also on hand to answer any questions or queries you have on composting machinery and tools. We have a full range of excavators, trommels, and conveyors available to ship directly to your site. Just give us a call today!