The Composting Handbook

The Composting Handbook

A how-to and why manual for farm, municipal, institutional and commercial composters

1st Edition - December 3, 2021

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  • Editors: Robert Rynk, Ginny Black, Jane Gilbert, Johannes Biala, Jean Bonhotal, Mary Schwarz, Leslie Cooperband
  • eBook ISBN: 9780323856034
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780323856027

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The Composting Handbook provides a single guide to the science, principles and best practices of composting for large-scale composting operations facing a variety of opportunities and challenges converting raw organic materials into a useful and marketable product. Composting is a well-established and increasingly important method to recycle and add value to organic by-products. Many, if not most, of the materials composting treats are discarded materials that would otherwise place a burden on communities, industries, farms and the environment. Composting converts these materials into a valuable material, compost, that regenerates soils improving soils for plant growth and environmental conservation. The Composting Handbook expands on previously available resources by incorporating new information, new subjects and new practices, drawing its content from current scientific principles, research, engineering and industry experience. In both depth and breadth, it covers the knowledge that a compost producer needs to succeed. Topics include the composting process, methods of composting, equipment, site requirements, environmental issues and impacts, business knowledge, safety, and the qualities, uses and markets for the compost products. The Composting Handbook is an invaluable reference for composting facility managers and operators, prospective managers and operators, regulators, policy makers, environmental advocates, educators, waste generators and managers and generally people interested in composting as a business or a solution. It is also appropriate as a textbook for college courses and a supplemental text for training courses about composting or organic waste management.

Key Features

  • Created in conjunction with the Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF)
  • Includes the latest information on composting and compost, providing the first comprehensive resource in decades
  • Written with focus on both academic and industrial insights and advances


Agriculture/Agribusiness professionals, composting facility managers and operators, prospective managers and operators, regulators, policy makers, environmental advocates, waste generators and managers and generally people interested in composting as a business or a solution. Possible textbook for college courses and a supplemental text for training courses about composting or organic waste management

Table of Contents

  • Cover image
  • Title page
  • Table of Contents
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • Authors and Contributors
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments and appreciations
  • Chapter 1. Why compost?
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Benefits and drawbacks of composting
  • 3. Economic benefits of composting
  • 4. Environmental benefits of composting
  • 5. The drawbacks
  • 6. Facts and fiction of composting and compost
  • Chapter 2. Enterprise planning
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Starting a composting enterprise
  • 3. Assessing your resources
  • 4. SWOT analysis
  • 5. Defining success—start with the end in mind
  • 6. Scoping out availability of feedstocks and markets for compost
  • 7. Determine compost facility regulatory requirements
  • 8. Planning human resource needs of a compost enterprise
  • 9. Production planning—the business of manufacturing
  • 10. Financial strategy—the business of business
  • 11. Enterprise planning—case study
  • Chapter 3. The composting process
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What happens during composting?
  • 3. Changes in the materials during composting
  • 4. Factors affecting the composting process
  • 5. Curing
  • 6. When is it done?
  • 7. Composting microbiology
  • Chapter 4. Compost feedstocks
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Feedstock value
  • 3. Feedstock characteristics
  • 4. Feedstock contaminants
  • 5. Biodegradability
  • 6. Combining feedstocks—amendments and recipes
  • 7. Determining feedstock characteristics
  • 8. Common feedstocks for composting
  • Chapter 5. Passively aerated composting methods, including turned windrows
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Passively aerated static piles
  • 3. Techniques to improved passive aeration—passively aerated windrow system and natural aeration static pile
  • 4. Turned windrow composting
  • Chapter 6. Forced aeration composting, aerated static pile, and similar methods
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Aerated static pile
  • 3. Variations of aerated static piles
  • 4. Methods combining turning and forced aeration of windrows and piles
  • Chapter 7. Contained and in-vessel composting methods and methods summary
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Basic principles
  • 3. Agitated bays
  • 4. Turned/agitated vessels
  • 5. Aerated beds and bays in buildings and halls
  • 6. Silos
  • 7. Rotating drums
  • 8. Tunnels
  • 9. Moveable and modular aerated containers
  • 10. Methods for on-site composting of food waste
  • 11. Summary: comparing the composting methods
  • Chapter 8. Composting animal mortalities
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Mortality composting—basic principles
  • 3. Pathogen elimination, risk management, and regulatory requirements
  • 4. Feedstock characteristics and requirements
  • 5. Methods and techniques
  • 6. Sizing guidelines for passively aerated piles and bins
  • 7. Other mortality composting methods
  • 8. Managing mortality composting operations
  • Chapter 9. Composting operations and equipment
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Material handling equipment
  • 3. Feedstock receiving and handling
  • 4. Amendment handling and storage
  • 5. Feedstock preprocessing
  • 6. Composting operations
  • 7. Curing
  • 8. Postprocessing
  • 9. Finished compost storage
  • 10. Blending compost products
  • 11. Bagging
  • Chapter 10. Site planning, development, and environmental protection
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Compost-site regulations
  • 3. Environmental and community considerations
  • 4. Site selection/evaluation
  • 5. Site development
  • 6. Site layout
  • 7. Composting pad construction
  • 8. How much space? Estimating the area for composting
  • 9. Building—roofs and enclosures
  • 10. Handling run-on/runoff
  • Chapter 11. Process management
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Odor
  • 3. Temperature
  • 4. Monitoring moisture content
  • 5. Oxygen and carbon dioxide monitoring
  • 6. Bulk density and free air space
  • 7. Monitoring pH
  • 8. Monitoring soluble salts (electrical conductivity)
  • 9. Conservation of nitrogen and organic matter
  • Chapter 12. Odor management and community relations
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Odor regulations—“All Over the Map”
  • 3. The nature of composting odors
  • 4. The anatomy of an odor problem
  • 5. The nature of the nuisance
  • 6. Minimizing odors through site selection and management
  • 7. Odor generation during composting
  • 8. Strategies to reduce the generation of odors
  • 9. Capture and control of odors once generated
  • 10. Capture
  • 11. Odor migration and dispersal
  • 12. Neighbor and community relations—complaints and more
  • 13. Odor characterization and measurement
  • Chapter 13. Safety and health principles and practices for composting facilities
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Hierarchy of controls
  • 3. Safety and health regulations
  • 4. Safety concerns at composting sites
  • 5. Physiological health concerns
  • 6. Biological and chemical health concerns
  • 7. Prevention and preparedness
  • Chapter 14. Facility management
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Administrative functions
  • 3. Managing the carbon footprint
  • 4. Weights and measures
  • 5. Materials analysis
  • 6. Managing with the weather/seasons
  • 7. Preventing and managing fires
  • 8. Preventing and managing nuisance conditions
  • Chapter 15. Compost characteristics and quality
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Typical, and typically variable, compost product qualities
  • 3. Compost performance characteristics
  • 4. Aesthetic characteristics
  • 5. Safety characteristics
  • 6. Compost quality standards
  • 7. Compost testing assurance
  • 8. Laboratory analysis of compost products
  • Chapter 16. Compost use
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. General considerations for compost use
  • 3. Compost application rates
  • 4. Equipment for spreading compost
  • 5. Specific agricultural, horticultural, and forestry applications
  • 6. Nursery and greenhouse applications
  • 7. Turf and landscape applications
  • 8. Erosion control and stormwater management
  • Chapter 17. Compost use for plant disease suppression
  • 1. Introduction
  • Chapter 18. Compost marketing and sales
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Marketplace for compost
  • 3. The Product(s)—compost(s)
  • 4. Marketing concepts
  • 5. Market options
  • 6. Market planning
  • 7. Compost sales
  • Chapter 19. Composting economics
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Economics overview
  • 3. The big picture
  • 4. Economics of compost use
  • Appendices
  • Sources of photographs and external graphics
  • Index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 1002
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2021
  • Published: December 3, 2021
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • eBook ISBN: 9780323856034
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780323856027

About the Editors

Robert Rynk

Dr. Rynk has been researching and teaching about processing of waste and agricultural materials for over 30 years. His areas of expertise include waste management, biomass processing and conversion, natural treatment processes, odor management, spontaneous combustion and energy conversion and conservation. He is internationally recognized for his work and expertise in the field of composting. He has authored numerous publications about composting, waste management and energy. He holds a Professional Engineering license in Agricultural Engineering. He is a regular instructor for composting training schools and workshops, nationally and internationally. He is co-instructor and co-developer for the “Foundations of Composting” workshop, held annually at the U.S. Composting Council conference. Bob was the editor and lead author for the original On-Farm Composting Handbook, which is the precursor to The Composting Handbook. Bob is Professor Emeritus with The State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill.

Affiliations and Expertise

Professor Emeritus, Cobleskill College of Agriculture and Technology, State University of New York, USA

Ginny Black

Ginny Black served on the Compost Councils Research and Education Foundation Board of Trustees since 1995, chairing the organization since 2014. She served on the US Composting Council's Board of Directors from 1995 to 2010. She currently chairs the Minnesota Composting Council (MNCC), a non-profit organization founded in 2012. The MNCC is a State Chapter of the US Composting Council, working with composters, businesses, and the public sector to divert and process organic materials to compost facilities. Ginny served as a technical staff person for recycling and composting with the Minnesota State Agency's from 1987 to 2013, setting up recycling and composting programs throughout the state of MN. In her last 12-years she focused exclusively on promoting reduction and composting of organic materials. She also served on the City of Plymouth's city council from 1995 to 2013 and was the Councils Representative to the City's Environmental Quality Commission.

Affiliations and Expertise

Compost Research and Education Foundation (CREF) and Minnesota Composting Council (MNCC), USA

Jane Gilbert

Dr Jane Gilbert has a background in microbiology and biochemistry and has been involved in the organics recycling sector for over twenty-five years. She is the former chief executive of the UK Composting Association, co-founder of the European Compost Network and the current Chair of the International Solid Waste Association’s Biological Treatment Working Group. Jane is a Fellow of the UK’s professional body, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, and is an ISWA International Waste Manager. Over the years, she has authored a number of technical publications on composting and the benefits of compost use. Jane trades as Carbon Clarity, providing consultancy, training and writing services.

Affiliations and Expertise

Carbon Clarity, Ltd., Rushden, Northamptonshire, UK

Johannes Biala

Equipped with degrees in Agriculture (Organic Farming) and Environmental Science, Johannes has worked in organics recycling, composting and the use of recycled organics products for over 35 years both in Australia and overseas. He has extensive experience as consultant and researcher in all key areas of the organics recycling supply chain, including source separation, processing and use of recycled organic products in agriculture & horticulture. Throughout his career, Johannes successfully straddled the waste management, organics processing and agricultural worlds, being able to work and deliver significant outcomes in all of them. In 2017 he established the Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients (CROWN) at the University of Queensland’s School of Agricultural and Food Sciences (Australia). CROWN’s activities cover the sourcing, processing and use of all municipal, commercial and agricultural organic waste and nutrient streams, focusing on the beneficial use of raw and composted organic resources for land management and plant production purposes, including the development of next-generation organo-mineral fertilisers

Affiliations and Expertise

Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste & Nutrients (CROWN), The University of Queensland, Australia

Jean Bonhotal

Affiliations and Expertise

Cornell Waste Management Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Mary Schwarz

Mary Schwarz has been in the education, outreach, and research arena for 40 years, the last 15 of which were at Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI) in managing organic residuals. Her specific areas of expertise include composting, especially mortality and animal by-product composting and the use of manure solids as bedding. In her work with CWMI she has become internationally recognized for expertise in the field of composting. She has authored numerous publications about composting, mortality composting, manure solids as bedding and carbon footprint. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and a Master of Arts in Teaching Agriculture, Extension and Adult Education.

Affiliations and Expertise

Research Support Specialist, Cornell Waste Management Institute, Cornell University, NY, USA

Leslie Cooperband

Leslie Cooperband, along with her husband Wes Jarrell, own and operate Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in Champaign Illinois. In business since 2005, they milk goats raised on pasture and make artisan cheeses. They also host agritourism activities. Prior to becoming a full-time goat farmer and cheese maker, Leslie received her Ph.D. in soil science from The Ohio State University in 1992. She began her professional work in composting and compost use while working as a research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research Center-1993-1997 (Delmarva Peninsula, MD). She was a professor of soil science at the University of Wisconsin Madison from 1997-2004, where she developed a research and extension program around composting and compost use. When she and her husband moved to Champaign Urbana in 2003, her work shifted gradually from academia to full-time farming. She has written numerous publications on composting and compost use. These days, she does her best to compost her goat farm’s manure and enjoy its benefits.

Affiliations and Expertise

Ph.D., Founder and Co-Owner of Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, Former Professor Soil Science, University of Wisconsin Madison, WI, USA

Ratings and Reviews

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  • JAJANG S. Wed Jun 29 2022

    The Composting Book

    it was amazing book with complete literature, discussion, finding and innovation, however, I am studying on my PhD on composting, I am still researching on composting technique of application, so then the composting product with the microbes can survive and maximize to improve the soil quality and nutrient stock at period of time. I didnt see it in the book. hope my research complete soon and will be submitted my original-manuscript to change the world of mind on composting application technique. Thank you very much for providing the Book.

  • scion a. Thu Mar 24 2022

    Composting Handbook

    Good info, readable formatting.