Solid Waste Management Program fact sheet
Division of Environmental Quality Director: Ed Galbraith

This technical bulletin addresses the permits, approvals and site selection guidelines for centralized yard waste composting facilities. For information about composting municipal solid waste, food waste, sewage sludge, agricultural waste, industrial waste or other materials, please contact the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP). Contact information is listed at the end of this technical bulletin.

In 1990, the Missouri Legislature passed Senate Bill 530 which amended the Missouri Solid Waste Management Law, Section 260.250 RSMo, to encourage county cooperation and local responsibility in order to achieve a 40 percent reduction in the amount of solid waste disposed of in Missouri landfills by 1998. This was to be accomplished through recycling, resource recovery, waste reduction and market development for recovered materials. Since yard waste comprises such a large percentage of the volume of solid waste being generated, and because it has an available beneficial use, it is prohibited from being disposed of in Missouri landfills after Jan. 1, 1992. More recently, Section 260.250 RSMo, was amended to allow owners of sanitary landfills to accept yard waste for disposal provided the department has approved the landfill, or the portion of the landfill where the yard waste will be disposed, to operate as a bioreactor and the methane gas produced by the bioreactor is used as fuel for the generation of electricity.  However, as of the date of this technical bulletin, there is only one bioreactor landfill operating in the state of Missouri.

Regardless, the net result of the yard waste disposal ban has been to encourage yard waste composting on an unprecedented scale in Missouri.


Yard Waste
- Leaves, grass clippings, yard and garden vegetation and Christmas trees. The term does not include stumps, roots or shrubs with intact root balls. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources interprets the definition of yard and garden vegetation to include shrubs, vegetable and flower garden waste, brush and trees produced by plant nurseries, greenhouses and similar operations that grow or produce plants, trees, flowers or shrubs. Yard waste also includes the plant waste generated or collected by private, public or commercial lawn care, landscaping, tree-trimming and plant-care services. Compost produced from yard waste is also considered to be yard waste and may not be disposed of in a landfill.
Excluded - Yard waste does not include waste generated in the production of decorative or ceremonial items such as wreaths, flower arrangements, corsages or casket sprays or the decorative items themselves. Tree trunks or limbs, which have a diameter greater than six inches, are not regulated as yard waste at this time.

Department Approvals and Permits

Solid Waste Approval:
The Missouri Solid Waste Management Regulations, include provisions for a solid waste permit exemptions [10 CSR 80-2.020(9)]. The exemption listed below applies to yard waste composting, among other types of composting. Owners of yard waste composting facilities are not required to obtain a solid waste permit provided that pollution, a public nuisance or a health hazard is not created.

10 CSR 80-2.020(9)(A)9 - The composting or co-composting of waste materials, other than municipal solid waste, generated by agricultural and domestic activities on property owned or lawfully occupied by the generator, or the composting or co-composting of yard waste, wood waste, paper waste and/or poultry waste as long as such activity has a permit or approval from the Missouri Clean Water Commission.

In the past, the department did not require owners of yard waste composting sites to contact the department or provide any site-specific information concerning the composting operation.  However, due to recent situations in which problems have developed at composting sites, the department now asks that owners contact the SWMP prior to beginning development of a yard waste composting site. Owners of existing yard waste composting sites are urged to contact the department as well. While yard waste composting does not require a solid waste permit, the SWMP may require you to submit basic information in writing explaining where your site is located, the type and source of material you accept or plan to accept, and your general operating procedures. If the department requires you to submit information, we will also respond in writing to ensure you have something in your files demonstrating that you went through the proper channels to gain approval. There is no permit fee; nor does the information you submit need to be prepared by a licensed engineer.

Home and farm composting does not require a permit or prior approval of any kind from the SWMP. Homeowners and residents may compost any organic materials provided the materials are generated and composted on the property where the residence is located. In addition, farm owners or residents may compost organic materials, including agricultural waste, generated on the farm, without a solid waste permit or prior approval from the SWMP.

Also keep in mind that, should a problem develop at the site, such as odors or contaminated stormwater runoff, that is not remedied in a reasonable period of time, the department has the authority under these regulations to require you to cease the activity or obtain a site-specific solid waste processing facility permit for the composting operation. The site-specific permitting process is very formal. The permit application must be prepared by a professional engineer licensed in the state of Missouri. There are one-time permit fees required and the department is reimbursed for its staff’s review time.

Yard waste composting may also be done within the property boundary of a permitted solid waste disposal area with written approval in the form of a permit modification issued by the department. Generally speaking, the department discourages composting directly over an area where solid waste has been deposited, or in areas of the site that are critical to solid waste operations.  As long as these limitations are observed, permit modifications for composting are not burdensome to obtain.

Water Quality Permits:
We should point out that yard waste composting is exempt from the solid waste permitting requirements, but may not be exempt from the permitting requirements administered by the department’s Water Protection Program. Permits under the Missouri Clean Water Law, Chapter 644, RSMo, and regulations, 10 CSR 20-6, may be required for centralized yard waste composting operations. Water quality permit requirements are based on the surface area of the yard waste composting site and the type of material you will be composting. Owners of facilities that already have individual (site-specific) operating permits, such as owners of operating landfills, may obtain a modification of their existing discharge permits to include yard waste composting.

If you are considering operating a yard waste composting site, please contact the department’s Water Protection Program at the number listed below, in addition to contacting the department’s SWMP.

The size of the site described above is measured by calculating the area that is within the composting perimeter including unloading, storage and handling of composting materials and finished compost. It does not include buffer zones, parking lots, maintenance facilities and storm water control basins. An individual (site-specific) permit may be required if sewage sludge, agricultural wastes or other solid wastes are intended to be composted at the site, regardless of the size of the site.

Additional information may be obtained from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’, Water Pollution Control Program, P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102, or by calling 573- 751-1300.

Air Quality Permits
If you intend to grind material or process material in a way that may generate airborne particulate matter (dust), you may need to obtain a permit from the department’s Air Pollution Control Program (APCP).  Please contact the APCP at P.O. Box 176, Jefferson City, MO 65102, or by calling 573-751-4817.

Other Permits or Approvals:
Depending on how it is labeled, composted yard waste may be regulated under the provisions of the Fertilizer Law (Section 266.291, RSMo) or the Soil Conditioner Law (Section 266.361, RSMo). More information on this subject may be obtained from the Fertilizer/Ag Lime Control Service of the Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211,

or by calling 573-882-3891 or 573-882-4891, or from the Plant Industries Division of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, 1616 Missouri Blvd., Jefferson City, MO 65102, or by calling 573-751-2462.

Local Permits:
Local requirements may apply as well, including city or county ordinances, rules, regulations, or standards governing zoning or land use.  Approvals, permits, or licenses may be required at the local level. For more information, contact the appropriate local city or county agency.

Site Selection Guidance:
Selecting the most appropriate location for a composting facility is extremely important and should be done only after careful consideration of the factors outlined below. Since each situation is unique, this information is offered for general guidance and is not intended to be all-conclusive.

Potential sites may be evaluated and compared based on the following information:


Public acceptance and support for a compost site is critical to program success. Consideration must be given to public concerns in selecting a site. Active citizen involvement in the siting process and an effective public information campaign will enhance public acceptance of the facility. Problems such as odors, flies, runoff, complaints from the public, as well as potential health and environmental impacts, should be anticipated. Adequate buffer zones may help minimize problems until they can be corrected.

Further Information:
Detailed information on yard waste composting is available on the SWMP’s website at http://dnr.mo.gov/env/swmp/composting/index.html.

You may also contact the appropriate department Regional Office. A map of regional offices is available on the Web at http://www.dnr.mo.gov/regions/regions.htm.

A summary and assessment of yard waste composting programs is included in the Environmental Protection Agency publication, Yard Waste Composting: A Study of Eight Programs (EPA530-SW-89-038). The booklet is available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) as publication #PB90-163-114, 1-800-553-6847.

Don’t Bag It Lawn Care is available from the University of Missouri Extension service.  Please visit http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g6959 or contact the extension office in your region of the state.