(User-friendly URL: This webpage can be reached at www.charlottesville.org/composting)
Always wanted to start composting but...
... don’t have the space? ... don’t know how to get started? ... worried about the smell? ... not sure what you can compost?
Local composting drop-off programs and our 'Composting at Home' guide are here to help! See below for:
Drop-Off Services: These services collect compostable items at drop-off locations and process it at certified commercial composting facilities.
Drop-off composting service and advice/assistance at the Composting Station
Saturdays 7am to Noon, April through October, at the City Market
Provided by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, a composting drop-off service is being offered at the McIntire Recycling Center (every day except for Tuesdays - Summer Hours: 8:30AM-6:30PM - Winter Hours: 8:30AM-5:30PM). Same Do's and Don'ts as the City Market program.
If you have access to a garden or yard, you can backyard compost at home. It can be as easy as layering your food scraps with tree leaves and letting the pile sit. Depending on what yard waste you have, this could be a good option for disposing of it.
Learn more on our Backyard Composting webpage.
Curbside Pick-Up Services
Curbside pick-up services are available as a contract service in the Charlottesville area. In the fall and winter, the City offers free curbside pick-up for leaves, which are taken to a local farm and composted.
Composting at Home Guide
Tips on how to collect compostable materials at home, what materials to collect, and whether backyard composting or a drop-off program are best for you.
Composting is an excellent way to recycle kitchen and garden waste. It is very easy to build your own compost bin and use the compost to help your garden grow, without resorting to the use of additional fertilizers which can have a detrimental effect on the environment.
Composting is the decomposition of materials that originated from animals and plants. These organic materials can be things such as plant trimmings, vegetable cuttings, eggshells and teabags.
The end result of composting is a dark, crumbly organic matter that can be used as fertilizer in garden soil.
The composting is performed by various bacteria, fungi and insects which naturally inhabit soil - they break down the material in aerobic conditions, which means it is a process which occurs with little oxygen present. These organisms generate heat as they decompose the organic matter you have added, and break it into fine particles. Composting is nature's own method of waste disposal and soil fertilization.
Applying compost to soils provides an excellent conditioner and mulch, which fertilizes and provides soil structure, retains moisture and can restrict weed growth. Making your own compost from organic waste is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to the peat based compost extracted from wildlife sites. Composting also saves food waste from going into the landfill, or from going into the waste disposal.
The stages of composting:
- Firstly, add organic materials to your compost bin - see above for a list of recommended (and not recommended!) items.
- The various bacteria and fungi quickly work to break down the soft material.
- This process causes the inside of compost pile to heat up - to around 140oF (60°C).
- Once a lot of the initial work is done by these micro organisms, the compost pile will cool down, to around 80oF.
- Small creatures such as worms then break down the tougher material.
- The whole composting process usually takes between 3 – 9 months, and results in a nutrient-rich fertilizer to use in your yard.
- The compost that is ready to use is best taken from the bottom of the pile, which allows the rest of the pile to continue to be worked upon by the worms and other insects.