Waste Management Program - Yard Waste Composting

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Guide to Yard Waste Composting



In 1995 the state of South Dakota enacted a plan to reduce the amount of wastes disposed of in landfills.  As a part of this plan, yard waste may no longer be taken to a landfill for disposal.  Instead of burying yard waste in landfills, composting has become an important way to recycle yard waste.

Benefits of Composting

Composting yard waste reduces the amount of wastes disposed in landfills and produces a useful product.

  • Composting yard waste reduces disposal costs in landfills.

  • Finished compost can be used as a low cost landscaping material.

  • Incorporating compost into soil adds nutrients and organic matter and improves water retention of the soil.

How Compost Happens

With the help of many microorganisms, a little water and a little air, yard waste turns into good, useful compost.


Diagram of composting procedures


Designing Your Compost Area


  • Design your compost area so that it is easy to manage.

  • Place your compost area in a location that will not offend neighbors.

  • Place yard waste in piles or windrows.

  • Construct berms around your compost area to control run-on and runoff.


Photo of compost windrows

Compost windrows

Operating Your Compost Facility


  • Remove plastic from the compost piles or windrows.

  • Keep piles or windrows at sizes your equipment can manage. 

  • Turn piles or windrows at least once a month to prevent foul odors and speed up the composting process.

  • Add water if the piles or windrows are very dry.

  • Allow the piles or windrows to heat up.

  • Keep finished compost separate from new compost piles or windrows.

  • Find an end use for finished compost.


Photo of turning compost with a loader
 Turning your compost

Uses of Finished Compost


  • Landscaping – compost can be used as an alternative to more expensive topsoil.

  • Mulching – placing compost around the base of plants and trees helps them retain water and provides nutrients.

  • Erosion control – spreading compost over steep slopes promotes fast vegetation cover and is more resistant to water erosion than topsoil alone.

  • Remediation – compost can be used to cover closed solid waste disposal areas or other disturbed land.


Photo showing compost used as mulch

Using finished compost

Please Note: Compost distributed to the public must be registered with the Department of Agriculture at (605) 773-3724.

If you have any questions about the composting process, state regulations, or solid waste disposal, please contact:


PMB 2020

South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Waste Management Program
Joe Foss Building
523 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501-3181
Phone: (605) 773-3153
Fax: (605) 773-6035

Composting Links


U.S. Composting Council – http://www.compostingcouncil.org/index.cfm

BioCycle, Journal of composting and organics recycling – http://www.jgpress.com/

South Dakota Department of Agriculture -http://sdda.sd.gov/


U.S. EPA municipal solid waste composting - http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/composting/


EPA information about recycling organic materials - www.epa.gov/organicmaterials.


Composting tips and newsletter - http://www.mastercomposter.com/

Animal Composting


Minnesota Department of Agriculture - http://www.mda.state.mn.us/animals/animals/composting.htm


University of Wisconsin Extension - http://cdp.wisc.edu/ppt/Compost_files/frame.htm


University of Missouri - Columbia - http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/envqual/wq0211.htm

For a printer friendly version of the yard waste composting information click here.

For additional yard waste composting information, contact the Solid Waste Program at 773-3153.