More than half of the solid waste generated in Virginia (and the US) is organic material that could potentially be composted. As environmental concerns, costs and difficulty in siting landfills have increased, efforts to expand recycling and composting as solid waste management alternatives have increased. Yard wastes, typically grass and leaves, are by far the most common large scale compost material. Most landfills do not accept grass clippings or leaves and make mulch from woody debris. In urban areas where the collection is deemed necessary, yard waste composting facilities are common while in rural areas it is the landowner’s job to manage these materials along with other compostables. Both large scale compost facilities and backyard composting have become important solid waste management tools. Large scale composting costs are often more than the market value of the composts but a reduction in solid waste to be landfilled can result in major savings. Backyard composting means the material never needs to be collected and can result in “free” organic materials and nutrients for the homeowner’s use. Backyard composting can be particularly important in rural areas where centralized composting is not viable and locations suitable for home composting are usually more available.
The role of large scale composting in solid waste management will be discussed as well as the benefits of home composting. Home composting methods, mixes, processes and uses will be reviewed including the pros and cons of “hot” versus “cold” composting. We will end with a discussion of current composting activities in the Blue Ridge Highlands and the potential for expanding home or centralized composting and compost use in the region.