What is Compost?

Composting is the natural process of decomposition and recycling of organic material into a humus (which is a rich soil amendment known as compost).

Why Compost? Benefits of Composting and Compost Use

  • Compost enriches the soil and has the ability to help regenerate poor soils. The composting process encourages the production of beneficial micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) which in turn breakdown organic matter to create humus. Humus, a rich nutrient-filled material, increases the nutrient content in soils and helps soils retain moisture.  Compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers, and promotes higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Compost helps cleanup (remediate) contaminated soil. The composting process has been shown to absorb odors and treat semi-volatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It has also been shown to bind heavy metals and prevent them from migrating to water resources or being absorbed by plants. The compost process degrades and, in some cases, completely eliminates wood preservatives, pesticides, and both chlorinated and non-chlorinated hydrocarbons in contaminated soils.
  • Compost helps prevent pollution and erosion. Composting organic materials that have been diverted from landfills ultimately avoids the production of methane and leachate formulation in the landfills. Compost has the ability to prevent pollutants in storm water runoff from reaching surface water resources. Compost has also been shown to prevent erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers, and prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, playing fields, and golf courses.
  • Using compost offers economic benefits. Using compost can reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides.  The organic matter in compost holds 10-1,000 times more water and nutrients than the same amount of soil minerals.  Composting also extends municipal landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills and provides a less costly alternative to conventional methods of remediating (cleaning) contaminated soil.
  • Processing compost creates jobs. Processors of organics (the feed stocks for compost "recipes") create 4 times as many manufacturing jobs as landfilling these materials.
  • Composting benefits the environment. Over 30% of the waste stream in the United States is comprised of organic material. These materials can easily be recycled (composted) at home instead of landfilled. Composting also saves money! It lessens the need for store-bought soil amendments and reduces your garbage bill. Composting also helps your garden grow. It improves clay soils by adding bulk and nutrients. Plus, it’s fun!

The above information provided by the Georgia Recycling Coalition.

Do you want to learn more? 

Athens-Clarke County Compost Drop-Off Program

The Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department is now offering drop-off for food scraps and compostable products (paper plates, napkins, clamshells) for composting. This program offers the public the opportunity to divert their compostable material from the trash and turn it into beneficial, beautiful compost.

No charge for Athens-Clarke County residents.

Compostable material must be loose or in a compostable bag.

Drop-off Locations

1005 College Ave.
Athens, GA 30605
Rollcarts are located outside the gate 24/7
Solid Waste
Administrative Office

725 Hancock Industrial Way
Athens, Ga 30605
Rollcart located outside to the right of the entrance
County Landfill

5700 Lexington Road
Winterville, GA 30683

*NEW* Location- Athens Farmers Market
Bishop Park, 705 Sunset Drive
Saturdays: 8am to noon (March 24th–Dec 15th)

What goes in the compost cart?

  • Anything that used to be alive. Really.
  • Food scraps, including meat, cheese, yogurt
  • Dirty paper – Pizza boxes, paper plates, paper napkins
  • Cardboard, sandwich wrapping paper
  • Wax-coated cardboard is ok
  • Compostables can be pretty gross – hair, vacuum ‘dirt,’ laundry dryer lint, beverages, spoiled meat, rotten fruit/vegetables
  • BPI-certified products

NOT these items:

  • Plastics that are not BPI certified
  • Paper cups
  • Roadkill/dead wildlife
  • Just the food – not the containers
Drop off Compost Program

Are your wares actually compostable? Check with BPI before purchasing!

Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) Certification
The BPI is a non-profit association with the largest certification program for compostable products and packaging in North America. Their compostable logo verifies that products and packaging have been independently tested and verified according to scientifically based standards. BPI promotes best practices for the diversion and recovery of compostable materials through municipal and commercial composting.

2019 Georgia Master Composter Program

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2019-2020 Master Composter Program!

UGA Athens-Clarke County Extension
2152 West Broad Street
Athens, GA 30606

Established in 2011 as a partnership between Athens-Clarke County Extension and the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department, the Georgia Master Composter Program is an adult education course and Extension Volunteer program.  Master Composters complete a nine-week training course that covers all aspects of the composting process.  Classes are taught by UGA faculty, Athens-Clarke County and US Forest Service staff, and small and commercial business owners.  Topics include the chemistry and microbiology of composting, types of and reasons for composting, composting techniques and teaching tools.  As Extension volunteers, Master Composters then use this information to share composting basics with their family, friends and the community.  

The 2019 Georgia Master Composter Program application is now available.  The classes will be held at 5:30 to 8:30 pm weekly on Wednesday evenings from February 20 to April 24.  A special field trip is scheduled for Saturday, March 23.  Classes are held at the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department training room at 725 Hancock Industrial Way, Athens.  To learn more about the Master Composter Program please email or call (706) 613-3640.