What Can And Can’t Go In A Commercial Composting Pile?

Monday, March 2nd, 2020
Scarab compost turner about to turn a compost windrow

Commercial and industrial composting are different from home composting because operators must follow specific laws and regulations. These pertain to odor control as well as public safety and health. The way large operations compost and what they use matters when it comes to meeting industry standards too.

What can large operations use for composting?


Home composters don’t usually have to worry too much about using incorrect ingredients in their compost. Depending on your commercial operation, you will need to stick to a strict list of waste products that you can and cannot use.

The basic categories of compostable products are green and brown wastes. Yard waste, like tree trimmings and dry leaves, can be used in any commercial operation. Food waste can be collected in large-scale and includes eggshells, fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, and food-soiled paper.

Other materials you can use in your commercial compost are untreated wood chips, sawdust, dust, fireplace ashes, and shredded newspapers. The key to remember is to avoid anything that has been treated and know which materials affect temperature, nitrogen, and oxygen levels.

What should not go in a commercial composting pile?

Just as important as it is to know what can go into a compost pile, it is important to know what can’t go in one. Pet and human waste should never be used in any composting operation because they cause major health hazards. Bioplastics, which are labeled as recyclable, can pose problems for commercial composting operations too. Typically, facilities cannot keep piles at temperatures high enough to degrade these plastics. Here is a list of items that should also not be composted.

  • Dairy Products
  • Bones
  • Meat
  • Cooked food
  • Produce stickers
  • Glossy or coated paper
  • Treated wood
  • Fast-growing weeds or plants
  • Certain types of plant waste like black walnut leaves, as these can be toxic to plants
  • Coal and coal ash
  • Diseased or infested plants
  • Any plant matter that has been treated with chemicals

Problems you can encounter with commercial composting

If you don’t use the right mixture of ingredients, your commercial compost could fail to form. This means that you won’t have a product to sell or your compost could be sub-par. Here are some issues to look out for.

Contamination: Unfortunately, contaminants can get into your compost piles at any stage of the process. Pesticides and herbicides can enter your piles when you make them, while heavy metals and bacteria can enter later on.

Process issues: Sometimes things can go wrong with the process of commercial composting. If the acid-alkaline balance is off, it can ruin the whole mixture. If the piles aren’t turned, they will not get enough moisture or air. If you use the wrong amount of bulking agents, it can cause terrible odors.

Using the wrong method: Although this doesn’t pertain to what you do or don’t put into your compost, it is still important to know. Commercial composting operators should be familiar with the type and size of piles they are working with. They should also make sure they are using the right tools and equipment.

Commercial and industrial compost turners

If you are looking for an efficient, high-quality compost turner for your commercial or industrial operation, contact the experts at SCARAB International. We provide turners in a variety of sizes, including customizable, New, and Refurbished equipment, to meet your unique composting needs. You can reach us at (806) 883-7621 or Send Us an email for more information.