Compost FacilityExemptions from Permit 

The following facilities are exempt from obtaining a permit: 

  1. Yard waste or household organic waste composted and used on the same premises where originated.
  2. Composting facilities involving agricultural waste, excluding dead animals.
  3. Clean wood waste free of coatings and preservatives necessary as bulking agent. Any other bulking agent requires approval from Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  4. (DNR).
  5. Yard waste, household organic waste, and agricultural waste generated, composted together in any combination, and used on the same premises where it originated.
  6. Facilities composting yard and/or organic waste from off premises that are less than 2 tons per week.

General Requirements for All Composting Facilities Not Exempt

The composting facility must be located: 

  1. 500 feet from any existing residence (not including owner/operator residence)
  2. Outside of wetlands
  3. 200 feet from public wells and 100 feet from private wells
  4. 50 feet from property lines
  5. 100 feet from streams, lakes or ponds
  6. If inside the 100-year floodplain, other regulations apply (567-71.5 (455B))

The following management practices must be followed: 

  1. Leachate must be minimized.
  2. Water must be prevented from running onto the facility from adjacent land to prevent compost leachate and runoff from leaving the composting facility.
  3. Runoff must be properly managed.
  4. Facility must be designed, constructed, and maintained to minimize ponding of water or liquids.
  5. Any ponding of liquids must be corrected within 48 hours after the termination of the event causing ponding.
  6. Composting must be done on an all-weather surface to prevent groundwater and surface water contamination but to also allow for access during inclement weather.
  7. Solid waste that cannot be composted must be properly disposed.
  8. Infectious waste such as contaminated sharps, cultures, blood or blood products, pathological waste, or contaminated animal carcasses from hospitals / research labs cannot be accepted for composting unless approved by the Iowa DNR.
  9. Nuisance laws must be followed to reduce odors, dust, noise, litter or public health hazards (Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 657).
  10. The sale of compost as a soil conditioner or fertilizer must be registered by the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship under Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 200.
  11. Contamination must be less than 1.5% by dry weight and less than 13mm in size. Examples of contamination includes glass, metal, and plastic.

Permit Application Requirements 

A permit application for a new facility will need to include a completed Composting Facility Permit Application Form (542-1602) - Download DOC / Download PDF.

Operating Requirements 

  1. Access to the facility, download full PDF on the right for full details.
  2. Permanent signage of the facility must be posted at the entrance.
  3. All materials received must be incorporated into the composting process within 24 hours of receipt unless otherwise proposed in the operating plan and authorized in the permit.
  4. Testing requirements.
  5. The operator of the composting facility must be certified by an Iowa DNR approved program and renewed every 3 years.

Recordkeeping Requirements 

  1. Records shall be maintained by the facility for three years and located at the facility at all times.  These records shall be submitted to the Iowa DNR upon request.
  2. Analytical results or testing shall be recorded on an approved reporting form.
  3. Records shall be maintained of types and weight of compostable materials and bulking agent, in tons, accepted at the facility annually.
  4. Records shall be maintained of weight of compost, in tons, removed from the facility annually.
  5. A copy of the plan, the permit, annual reports, and the current storm water pollution prevention plan shall be maintained at the facility.

Reporting Requirements  

An annual report for the previous fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30 shall be submitted to the Iowa DNR by July 31 of each year by all permitted solid waste composting facilities - Annual Composting Facility Report (542-8014) - Download DOC.

Transfer of Title and Permit 

If the title to a solid waste composting facility is transferred, then the Iowa DNR shall transfer the permit within 60 days as long as the following requirements are met:  

  1. Notify the Iowa DNR within 30 days of transferring the title to request a transfer of the permit.
  2. The permitted facility must be in compliance with the rules and conditions of the permit.

Revocation of Permit 

If the permit is revoked by the Iowa DNR, then no new permit shall be issued to that agency for the sanitary disposal project for a period of one year from the date of revocation.  This rule shall not prohibit the issuance of a permit to another public or private agency. 

Inspection Prior to Commencing Operation 

  1. The Iowa DNR must be notified 30 days prior to completion of a solid waste composting facility and when the construction has been completed.
  2. The Iowa DNR shall then complete an inspection of the facility to determine if the project has been constructed in accordance with the plans and specifications and permit requirements.
  3. No solid waste shall be accepted by the facility until it has been inspected and approved by the Iowa DNR.
  4. The Iowa DNR Solid Waste Composting Inspection Form

Duration of Permits 

Solid waste composting facility permits shall be issued for a period of three years and are renewable for similar terms unless otherwise specified. 

Permit Renewals 

Renewal requests must be in writing and filed at least 90 days before the expiration of the current permit and submitted on Form 542-1602 - Download DOC / Download PDF.

Facility Expansion or Change of Process 

Prior to a facility’s expanding the amount or types of materials accepted or a change in the process, the facility must make a request in writing to obtain approval from the Iowa DNR for an amendment to the permit. Download full PDF on the right for full details.

Closure Requirements 

A closure plan must be submitted to the Iowa DNR for each composting facility containing a description of the steps necessary to close the facility.  A permit will not be issued without a closure plan. Download full PDF on the right for full details.

Financial Assurance 

Permitted solid waste composting facilities receiving more than 5,000 tons of feedstock annually (bulking agent excluded) must obtain and submit a financial assurance instrument to the Iowa DNR for waste materials received and stockpiled by the facility.  The financial assurance instrument shall provide monetary funds to properly dispose of any preprocessed and postprocessed stockpiled materials that may remain at the facility due to the owner’s or operator’s failure to properly close the site within 30 days of permit suspension, termination, revocation or expiration. Download full PDF on the right for full details.


A request for a variance must be submitted in writing to the Iowa DNR pursuant to 561 Chapter 10 - Petition for Waiver or Variance Form 542-0004.

Downloadable PDF




  • Composting Facility Permit Application Form (542-1602) (DOC) / (PDF)
  • Petition for Waiver or Variance Form (542-0004) (PDF)
  • Solid Waste Composting Inspection Form (DOC)