COMPOSTING OF ORGANIC WASTES OFFERS BENEFITS TO SOIL NUTRITION, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, AND THE STATE ECONOMY
Compost is a dark, crumbly, and earthy smelling material made up of decomposed organic matter. Compost is generated by a biological process in which naturally occurring microorganisms and bacteria break down organic materials such as food scraps, animal manures, leaves, grass clippings, and wood chips. Composting is a way of speeding up Mother Nature's decomposition process and a natural form of recycling. In addition, the process produces a valuable organic material that can enhance plant growth in lawns and homes.
There are many benefits to composting. It is a simple and inexpensive way to dispose of and recycle food scraps, animal manures, and yard waste that would otherwise enter the waste stream and be disposed in landfills. According to the 2010 United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Municipal Solid Waste Generation Report, organic materials were the largest components of municipal solid waste generated in 2010. Food scraps account for 13.9% of these wastes while yard trimmings and paper and paperboard represent 13.4% and 28.5% respectively. The majority of these materials can be recycled into compost. This practice will reduce the volume of household garbage and other wastes going into our landfills therefore reducing disposal costs and the amount of methane gas generated from landfills.
The resulting compost product has many benefits as well. Compost enhances the overall health and quality of the soil to which it is added by enriching and adding nutrients to the soil, improving soil structure and porosity for better root growth, balancing the acidity and alkalinity (pH) of the soil, suppressing disease and harmful pests, and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and other commercial soil additives.
Considering all the environmental and economical benefits described above, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Solid Waste Policy, Planning, and Grants Branch has developed the Composting Program in an effort to promote and encourage composting practices of all scales and types in the State. As part of this program, MDEQ has begun the process of revising the Mississippi Nonhazardous Solid Waste Management Regulations to streamline the permitting process for composting businesses and operations. During this revision process, interested persons may request approval from MDEQ to operate under the agency’s interim Pilot Composting Program. This program was designed to allow new, start-up composting facility operators ample time to locate feedstock sources, develop a successful compost recipe, and determine the viability of the facility, while implementing siting and management practices that protect human health and the environment.
After the formal revisions to our State composting regulations are finalized, each composting facility operating under pilot project status will be evaluated and the need for a more formal permit from MDEQ will be determined at that time. In order to apply for authorization as a pilot composting facility, interested parties may access the Guidance for Pilot Composting Facility Operations. This document provides guidance for composting facility planning and operation, and instructions on how to apply for authorization to operate a composting facility as a pilot project. Please see the guidance document and other important program links above including information concerning home or backyard composting and large scale community or commercial composting facilities.
For additional information regarding the MDEQ Composting Program, please contact Jennifer Milner at (601) 961-5739.