Backyard Composting | Composting | US EPA
Backyard or Onsite Composting
photo: man with backyard compost bin

Man Digging in Compost Bin

Backyard or onsite composting can be conducted by residents and other small-quantity generators of organic waste on their own property. By composting these materials onsite, homeowners and select businesses can significantly reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of and thereby save money from avoided disposal costs. Learn how to create your own compost pile.

Types of Waste and Waste Generators
Backyard or onsite composting is suitable for converting yard trimmings and food scraps into compost that can be applied on site. This method should not be used to compost animal products or large quantities of food scraps. Households, commercial establishments, and institutions (e.g., universities, schools, hospitals) can leave grass clippings on the lawn—known as "grasscycling"—where the cuttings will decompose naturally and return some nutrients back to the soil. Backyard or onsite composters also might keep leaves in piles for eventual use as mulch around trees and scrubs to retain moisture.

Climate or Seasonal Considerations
Climate and seasonal variations do not present major challenges to backyard or onsite composting because this method typically involves small quantities of organic waste. When conditions change—for example, if a rainy season approaches—the process can be adjusted accordingly without many complications.

Environmental Concerns
Improper management of food scraps can cause odors and also might attract unwanted attention from insects or animals.

Backyard or onsite composting requires very little time or equipment. Education is the most critical aspect of backyard or onsite composting. Local communities might hold composting demonstrations and seminars to encourage homeowners or businesses to compost on their own properties.

The conversion of organic material to compost can take up to two years, but manual turning can hasten the process considerably (e.g., 3 to 6 months). The resulting natural fertilizer can be applied to lawns and gardens to help condition the soil and replenish nutrients. Compost, however, should not be used as potting soil for houseplants because of the presence of weed and grass seeds.

Contact Information

Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (5305P)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
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