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Best States for Composting - Composting Facts

Graphic reading

Who would have thought that piles of garbage could be so important in changing the world? Composting food waste is becoming more popular in the United States in recent years. With this growing popularity comes a ton of benefits for communities and for the overall health of our planet.

So what exactly is composting? According to the Environmental Protection Agency's guide, composting is the process of combining food scraps and yard waste with water and dead plant parts to create organic material. The resulting organic material can be used to help plants grow and help reduce methane emissions from organic waste in landfills.

While there's some pretty interesting science behind composting, the process is actually incredibly simple. With some simple tools like compost bins and compost starter and a bit of reading on how to combine organic components, anyone can reduce waste and add nutrition to a home garden.

Based on how simple and effective composting can be, it's easy to wonder why everyone isn't doing it. One factor limiting the popularity of composting across the U.S. is the availability of support systems through local policies and programs. That made us think: if policies and programs can support composters in their green goals, which places in the U.S. are the best for composters overall?

We decided to conduct a study to rank the best U.S. states for composting. To do so, we ranked states based on six factors, which focused on availability and requirements around composting, as well as local motivators to compost, such as the presence of landfills and the percentage of state land dedicated to growing crops.

Our analysis assumed that states with the most landfills have the most to gain environmentally and health-wise from composting. Additionally, we assumed that the states with the most farmland have the most to benefit from a robust, publicly-owned compost collection available for farmers. Then, we weighted these rankings for significance and added scores to create a total possible state score out of 50.

The factors included were:

  1. Number of Statewide Composting Facilities
    1. Source: EPA Maps
    2. Weight: 1
  2. Presence of a State Mandate for a Special Organic Food Waste System
    1. Source: Composting Council
    2. Weight: 1
  3. Number of Years Since Composting Policies were Last Updated
    1. Source: Composting Council
    2. Weight: 1
  4. Number of Landfills per 10,000 People
    1. Source: EPA
    2. Weight: .75
  5. Percentage of Cropland per Total Land
    1. Source: USDA
    2. Weight: .75

Altogether, we collected some notable insights for all interested in making composting a part of their life. We found some interesting details about the best places in the country for composting.

The Top U.S. States for Composting

Map of the U.S. depicting the top U.S. states for composting
Map of the U.S. depicting the top U.S. states for composting

Overall, based on a combination of factors, the top state for composting was Ohio, scoring 34.1 out of 50 points. What makes Ohio's organic waste management stand out? First, the state has over 370 composting facilities, the most overall for any state in the country. This makes it easy for self-motivated Ohio residents to compost their scraps. And that's important, because not only would the state benefit tremendously from composting (over 40% of the state's land is used for cultivating crops) but also there's no state mandate for Ohio residents to participate in composting.

We noted that there wasn't a major regional center for composting in the U.S., but none of the top 20 states were located in the South. Given the prevalence of farming in the South, community-sourced compost could be a very impactful environmental program to explore by leaders there.

We especially noticed a lack of statewide mandates for composting. Only five states, including Massachusetts, California, and Rhode Island, had state mandates for special treatment of organic goods. However, they vary in their specific details. For instance, Massachusetts banned "the disposal of commercial organic wastes by businesses and institutions that dispose of one ton or more of these materials per week," while California limits businesses to limiting organic waste within a threshold of two cubic yards.

On the other hand, the states with the lowest scores included North Carolina, Hawaii, and Nevada. Interestingly, each of these states presents different opportunities for green waste management, including the management of crop and livestock waste in North Carolina, food waste from Nevada's dining centers, and agricultural waste from Hawaii.

The States with the Most Composting Facilities

Map of the US showing states with the most composting facilities
Map of the US showing states with the most composting facilities

Before concluding, we wanted to note the top ten states with the most composting facilities. In each of these top states, there were at least 110 composting facilities available for residents to bring their waste. This just goes to show that, even for individuals or businesses not using composted material in a home garden, there are so many centers in many states that make composting a feasible possibility.

Overall, there is so much potential for Americans to become composting experts. With benefits including methane gas reduction and stronger crop yield, composting presents an incredible opportunity for homes, businesses, and communities to get in on the green action. If you want to make composting a part of your daily life, check out our guides and tools. Then get out there and turn your trash into treasure!

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