Compost OperationsSmall composting facilities receiving off-premises food/yard waste at a rate of less than two tons per week are exempt from obtaining a solid waste permit provided the following is met. 

  • The composting facility is to comply with 105.3 (455B, 455D) and 105.5 (455B, 455D) which are outlined below.

Composting Less Than Two Tons Per Week 

  • Yard waste and food residuals may be received from off premises at a total rate of two tons or less per week for composting either singly, in combination, or with agricultural waste.
    • The two tons per week limit does not apply to bulking agents (clean wood waste free of coating and preservatives, or other carbon source).
  • Facilities composting over two tons of food residuals and yard waste per week in any combination from off premises must obtain a permit.
    • This rule does not apply for the following.
      • If only agricultural wastes are collected and composted, or if only yard wastes are collected and composted.
      • Food/yard waste is collected on-site, is being composted on-site, and the compost is being used on-site.

Notification to Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 

Before a compost facility commences operation, the Iowa DNR shall be notified in writing.  The Iowa DNR recommends using form 542-8014 (Annual Composting Facility Report) as the initial notification form.  The following information is required when notifying the Iowa DNR prior to commencing operation of a compost facility utilizing the less than two tons permit by rule.

    • Location of the composting facility
    • Legal description of the facility
    • Landowner’s name, telephone number, and address
    • Responsible party’s name, telephone number, and address
    • Annual capacity of the facility
    • Method of composting to be employed
    • Source of feedstock and bulking agent


The facility must have a permanent sign posted at entrance specifying the following.

  • Name of operation
  • Operating hours
  • Materials accepted or statement, “All materials must have prior approval”
  • Telephone number of 24-hour emergency contact person

Annual Reporting 

The Annual Composting Facility Report (form 542-8014) for previous year beginning July 1 and ending June 30 shall be submitted to the Iowa DNR by July 31 of each year.  These records shall be maintained by the facility for three years.

Site Selection 

  • The composting facility shall be 500 feet from any existing inhabited residence, not including the residence of the person owning/operating the compost facility.
  • Composting must be done outside of wetlands (sediment ponds, engineered wetlands, or other constructed waterways for pollution control are excluded from this requirement).
  • Composting must be at least 200 feet from public wells and 100 feet from private wells.
  • Composting must be 50 feet from property lines.
  • Composting must be 100 feet from flowing or intermittent streams, lakes, or ponds.
  • Composting done within the 100-year flood plain requires prior approval by Iowa DNR.
  • Composting must be done on an all-weather surface of compacted soil, compacted granular aggregates, asphalt, concrete or a similar impermeable material that will allow for accessibility during inclement weather and will prevent contamination of surface water and groundwater.   


  • Composting shall be performed in a manner that minimizes the formation of compost leachate by the facility.
  • Measures shall be taken to prevent water from running onto the facility from adjacent land and to prevent leachate and runoff from leaving the composting facility.
  • Facility must be constructed to minimize the ponding of water or liquids. Any ponding that occurs shall be corrected through routine facility maintenance within 48 hours after the termination of the event causing the ponding.
  • Solid waste that cannot be composted must be disposed of properly. Infectious waste shall not be accepted for composting unless approved by the Iowa DNR.
  • Conditions such as odor, dust, noise, and litter which may create nuisance conditions or public health hazards should be minimized.
  • Finished compost can only be stored for 18 months.  An extension may be granted with prior written approval from the Iowa DNR.
  • Sale of the finished compost as a fertilizer or soil conditioner must be registered by the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship under Iowa Code chapter 200.  Sale shall be in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and local ordinances and regulations.
  • Human-made inert material composted, such as plastic, metal, and glass concentrations must be less than 1.5% by dry weight if compost is to be applied to land, sold or given away.  Also, the human-made inert material is to be less than 13 mm (0.512 inches).

This fact sheet was developed by the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at the University of Northern Iowa. It is intended to be a basic guide. For a complete listing of Iowa regulations for composting facilities, see IAC Chapter 567-105 Organic Materials Composting Facilities. For further information or questions contact the Iowa Waste Reduction Center at 319-273-8905 or the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Section at 515-281-6807. Please note that Iowa Code Chapter 657 nuisance regulations must be followed in accordance with the law.

The Iowa Waste Reduction Center and the University of Northern Iowa are equal opportunity providers and employers.

This material is based upon work supported under a grant by the Rural Utilities Service, United States Department of Agriculture.  Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Rural Utilities Service.

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Additional Links


  • Annual Composting Facility Report (542-8014)(DOC)