Industrial/Commercial Composting vs. Home Composting

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022
large compost windrows at an up-close angle

No matter where it is made, compost can help the environment and strengthen the soil. It uses organic waste that would otherwise be piled in dumps to create nutrient-rich materials for gardening and farming. Though there are similarities between industrial and commercial composting when compared to home composting, there are many differences that composters should know.

The basics of industrial/commercial composting

Both industrial and commercial composting require specialized equipment, more space, and better monitoring systems. Bigger facilities can handle larger volumes of material, as well as more types of waste, including things that should never be used in home composting. This is because composters must prepare each type of material before placing it in the windrows. Here’s how commercial composting facilities work.

Receiving and storing organic waste

The commercial composting process starts with the arrival of organic waste. This can come from restaurants, grocery stores, food processors, farmers, ranchers, and even individuals. The waste is then stored in a holding area until it’s time to be processed.

Pre-processing organic waste

Once the organic waste is collected, it needs to be pre-processed. This involves separating out any non-compostable materials, such as plastic or metal. The usable materials are then chopped up into small pieces (so that they will break down more easily in the composting process) and organized into types.

Creating compost windrows

After the organic material is pre-processed, it’s time to create compost windrows. These are long rows of organic material that are turned to aerate the material and help speed up the composting process. Windrows are usually about 3 to 12 feet high and 9 to 20 feet wide, though they can be larger or smaller depending on the size of the facility.

Turning the compost windrows

Compost piles need to be turned regularly to aerate the material, keep the mixture healthy, and help speed up the process. This is usually done with a machine called a compost turner. The turner aerates the material throughout the pile and mixes it so that all of the organic waste breaks down evenly. The frequency at which you turn your piles depends on the size of your operation, what is in the mixture, and where you are located.

Monitoring the compost

The composting process generates heat as the microorganisms break down the organic matter. The temperature of the pile needs to be monitored to make sure that it’s hot enough to kill any harmful pathogens but not so hot that it destroys the beneficial microorganisms. Be sure to watch out for contamination, pay attention to weather conditions, and watch oxygen levels, as these factors can affect the process.

Using the right ingredients

In commercial composting, there are fewer restrictions on what can go into the pile. This is because the composting process is better monitored and more controlled. However, there are a few things that should never be used in commercial compost piles, including

  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Grease and oils
  • Charcoal or ash
  • Diseased plants
  • Weed seeds
  • Human waste

Commercial composting facilities can accept a wide range of organic waste, including

  • Animal manure
  • Food scraps
  • Green waste
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Wood chips and sawdust

Some commercial composting facilities can also accept non-recyclable plastics, as well as other materials like textile fibers or hair.

The basics of home composting

This type of composting is done on a much smaller scale because there simply isn’t room for large piles of compost on most properties. This is especially true in cities. Home composting doesn’t require special equipment, though you should purchase bins or tumblers to make the process easier and less invasive to neighbors. You can also build your own bin out of wood or wire mesh. The process for this method looks similar, but here are the differences.

The basics of home composting

This type of composting is done on a much smaller scale because there simply isn’t room for large piles of compost on most properties. This is especially true in cities. Home composting doesn’t require special equipment, though you should purchase bins or tumblers to make the process easier and less invasive to neighbors. You can also build your own bin out of wood or wire mesh. The process for this method looks similar, but here are the differences.

Pre-processing organic waste

Just like commercial composting, home composting requires organic matter to be chopped before adding it to a compost pile or bin. This will help speed up the composting process. There are many things that cannot be composted at home, so the sorting process is usually much faster.

Creating compost piles or bins

Home composting requires the organic waste to be placed in a bin or pile. These can be as small or as large as you’d like, though most people don’t have the space for commercial-sized piles. You can build your own bin out of wood or wire mesh, or purchase one from a specialty store online. Some bins turn compost automatically while others do not.

Turning the compost

Home composting doesn’t usually require a machine to turn the pile. This is because the bins are small enough to be turned by hand. Simply use a pitchfork or shovel to aerate the mixture and help it break down evenly.

Monitoring the compost

As with commercial composting, you’ll need to monitor the temperature of your home compost pile. This is important to make sure that the process is working correctly. Composters can do this by sticking a thermometer into the center of the bin. The ideal temperature range is between 120 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Other things to consider are oxygen levels, weather conditions, and moisture levels.

Using the right ingredients

The main difference between commercial and home composting is what can be added to the bin. Home compost bins are smaller, so there is less room for a variety of organic waste. There are also stricter regulations In general, you should only add:

  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Nutshells
  • Shredded paper
  • Uncontaminated yard waste like leaves, grass, and twigs

You should avoid adding meat, dairy products, grease, oils, or diseased plants to your home compost bin. These items can attract pests or introduce harmful pathogens into the mixture.

Looking for an industrial or commercial compost turner?

At SCARAB International, we understand the value that turning your compost can bring to your product. That’s why we offer New, Used, and Refurbished compost turners in a variety of sizes. Our products come with various options including four-wheel drive, drum styles, engines, and more. Give us a call at (806) 883-7621 or Send Us an Email to learn more.