Composting in Charlottesville


Composting at the City Market & at Home

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Why Compost?

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 at the City Market

Composting logoAlways 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?

The new City Market Composting Program is here to help!


The City has partnered with GreenBlue, Better World Betty, and Black Bear Composting to provide a drop-off location at the City Market for community members to compost their food scraps at Black Bear's industrial composting facility instead of sending them to the landfill. This pilot program (which is only planned for this season) will be available to all interested residents and run during the Saturday City Market starting April 4th and concluding September 26th.

Residents can bring their household food scraps for drop-off. Accepted compostable materials include:

  • all food and plant items (i.e. fruit and veggie remains, bread scraps, eggshells, meat/bones; coffee grounds and filters; household plant remnants; cooking oils)

  • uncoated paper not otherwise recyclable (i.e. napkins, food-soiled newspaper and pizza boxes, paper towels, wax paper)

  • certified compostable products (i.e. corn-based plastic cups).
    Certified Compostable Label
Image of Handout of City Market Pilot Image showing location of Compostion Station (corner of 2nd St SE and Water St)

Download the PDF handout for a summary of the City Market Composting Program.

If you're interested in participating, pick up a free compostable bag at any of our convenient locations:

This pilot program is offered through a one-time grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. It is intended to divert compostable waste from landfills by collecting compostable material from residents and from the City Market. At this time, the pilot program does not include the option for residents to pick up garden-ready compost.

More information will be available at the City Market Composting Drop-Off Station.  Thank you for being part of this program!

Questions or comments? Email

Tell us more about what you think here:

GreenBlue Logo Black Bear Composting Logo Better World Betty Logo
NOPE logo

Thank you to Nature-Tec for your donation!

Logo of Nature-Tec

 Thank you to World Centric for your donation!

 World Centric Logo


Want to Help Expand the City Market Composting Program?  Volunteers Welcome!

To provide a higher level of service and offer satellite composting locations around the City Market (in addition to the main Drop-Off Composting Station), GreenBlue is accepting volunteers. 

Volunteers will play a vital part in making this new initiative a success by:

  • Setting up recycling stations
  • Assisting community members to properly dispose of their food scraps and market waste
  • Monitoring compost bins and replacing bins once full
  • Taking down the composting station and storing the day's bins

Volunteers would work in 3 hour shifts (6:30am-9:30am or 9:30am-12:30am) during the Saturday City Market and must feel comfortable being on their feet for prolonged periods of time. Volunteers can work a single market day or for as many market days as they would like. If you are interested in volunteering, please email


Composting at Home

Image of Handout of Composting at HomeIf you have access to a garden or yard, you can compost at home. If you don't have outdoor space or don't want to create your own compost pile/bin, commercial curbside pick up services are available in the Charlottesville area. You could also consider participating in the free City Market Composting Drop-Off program (or look into other drop-off locations are available in your area).

For backyard composting: you can buy a compost bin or build your own. There are numerous containers on the market for making a compost heap, although perfectly satisfactory ones can be constructed from scrap timber, bricks or wire mesh, although do try and use a bin with a lid to keep out the rain. Improve drainage by breaking up the soil underneath the compost bin.

The compost bin should be placed in a well-lit and well-drained area of the garden, preferably out of the wind.

Download the PDF of the Handout - Composting at Home

What to add to your backyard compost pile:

  • Raw fruit and vegetable trimmings  
  • Shredded paper
  • Straw and hay
  • Animal bedding and sawdust
  • Good foods to compostCrushed egg shells (these help to control acidity, so are great for your compost pile)
  • Hair and fur 
  • Horse manure
  • Leaves
  • Coffee grounds and teabags
  • Cereals
  • Bread

What to avoid adding to your backyard compost pile:

  • Meat, fish or dairy products (these will all putrefy, causing odors and attracting flies)
  • Charcoal ash
  • Animal waste (dog and cat feces will encourage parasites)
  • Diapers 
  • Colored or treated paper
  • Chemically treated wood
  • Diseased plants
  • Persistent weeds
  • Grass in large quantities (grass heats up and gives off ammonia, which can kill worms)

 All that is left to do is turn the compost regularly with a pitch fork or a spade, and look forward to using your natural organic compost! 

How Composting Works

Avoid adding dairy to your compost pile

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 below 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.  


Q: What happens to the material the Composting Station collects?

A: Black Bear Composting will process the material we collect at their commercial composting facility (permitted by the VA DEQ). See to learn more.

Q: How will you make sure everything breaks down fully, and that the final compost product is free from things like E Coli or Salmonella?

A: Black Bear Composting monitors and rotates the composting piles to ensure that they reach the temperatures required to prevent dangerous bacteria and to fully break down the material. It’s all part of the process their facility needs to be permitted by the VA DEQ. See to learn more!

Q: Will we be able to get garden-ready compost back at some point?

A: Not as part of this program. This pilot aims to divert compostable materials from the landfill and to collect input on what composting services/program models Charlottesville residents are interested in. Share your thoughts by answering this survey: If there’s something the survey didn’t cover, email

Q: When is the Composting Drop-Off Station available? Is this a permanent location?

A: The Composting Station will be set up and able to accept material only on Saturdays during the City Market (7am – Noon). Collected materials will be moved to an off-site commercial composting facility to be processed (

Q: Aren’t animal products, like bones and dairy, bad for composting?

A: While several items (like animal products and compostable plastics) are not suitable for a home compost pile, Black Bear Composting can accept these items at their commercial facility. Because they use high heat not attainable by home compost piles and special machinery to turn their compost, they can process almost any organic material. The only organic items not accepted by Black Bear are pet waste, diapers, and cigarette butts. See to learn more!

Q: Does it cost money to participate in this program?

A: Nope! This program is free to use. We even provide free compostable bags for participants to collect their compostables in to make participating that much easier.


Q: I have filled up one of my compostable bags, but it’s only Wednesday and I can’t drop it off until Saturday! I am worried about the smell. What should I do?

A: An easy fix for this is to tie off the filled bag and stick it in your freezer. This will contain any smells and make it easy for drop-off once market day rolls around. If you find that one bag isn’t enough to get you through the week, be sure to ask for a couple extra at the City Market Composting Station. We will be happy to provide as many bags as you think you need!

Q: The compostable bags are too small to fit in my trash can. Is there any way I can get a larger bag?

A: Yes! We now have both 3 gallon (grocery store sized) and 13 gallon (kitchen trash bin sized) bags available. Just specify which size you would like at the City Market Composting Station.

Q: Why are my compostables being weighed when I drop them off?

A: We are tracking the total weight and type of compostables dropped off by participants each week to gauge interest and program growth over the market season. This information will help inform the future of this program and other future composting programs in Charlottesville.

Q: Where will I be able to compost once the City Market ends?

A: This has yet to be determined. If you want to see more composting options in Charlottesville, take our survey and let us know: If there’s something the survey didn’t cover, email