Small compost sites

State regulations have changed that allows more flexibility for composting at places such as community gardens, universities, churches, apartment buildings, and commercial properties. A small compost site bridges the gap between a backyard compost and a larger commercial compost site. 

What is a small compost site?

Defined under Minnesota Rule 7035.0300 Subp 99a, a small compost site allows for more material without having to get an MPCA solid waste permit. Additionally, materials from multiple households, community places, or businesses can be composted in the same location and more material types can be composted, they include:

Compost pile at U of M Morris

  • Food scraps
  • Yard waste
  • non-recyclable papers
  • Compostable plastics 
  • Poultry litter (only if the compost is used on-site)

Small compost sites are limited to no more than 120 cubic yards of material. This includes all food scraps, yard waste, other feedstock brought to the site, and any active or finished compost. There may be local ordinances, so check with your local government before starting. 

Finished compost pile at U of M Morris

Operating requirements

While you don't need an MPCA permit, there are some operating requirements 

  • Limited to no more than 120 cubic yards of material
  • Must avoid creating nuisance conditions
  • Must be operated that protects public health and the environment
  • Check with your local government for any local regulations

Getting started and best practices

While you don't need an MPCA permit, there are some operating requirements. Small site administrators must check with local government for any requirements that might impact operations.

  • Check with your local government for any local regulations
  • Limited to no more than 120 cubic yards of material
  • Must avoid creating nuisance conditions and control odor
  • Must operate in a way that protects public health and the environment
  • Locate compost containers should be designed so that seepage from the compost will not run off into public or private streets, storm sewers, drainage ditches, streams or lakes. 
  • Compost Sites may not be located closer than ten (10) feet to any rear or side property line, or closer than twenty (20) feet to any residential dwellings, except the dwelling on the property at which the compost pile is located.  
  • Acceptable material: food scraps, yard waste, poultry litter generated onsite, non-recyclable paper, compostable material meeting Cedar Grove or BPI standards. 
  • Do not accept: fats, oils, grease, meat, dairy, animal manure, diapers, sanitary products, pet wastes, animal carcasses
  • For basic information on how to compost, visit the backyard composting page

Model ordinance

The Minnesota Composting Council offers some guidance to local governments on updating ordinances so small compost sites do not burden communities where they operate.

Cities interesting in achieving their sustainability and quality-of-life goals should consider joining Minnesota GreenStep Cities.