Recycling aluminum and plastics is standard practice for many households, but food scrap bins on the kitchen counter or backyard composting piles are becoming more and more popular. Not only does composting allow customers to reduce their food waste and improve their carbon footprint, but that compost can do wonders for a garden.
But what if a customer lacks the space to have a dedicated composting bin or pile—or the time to maintain it? That doesn’t mean they have to toss those scraps into the landfill: Plenty of companies are ready to take the food waste off a customer’s hands. With the rise of composting services, customers will find many benefits and choices for a composting service that fits their lifestyle and budget. Here are our top picks for the best composting services.
- BEST OVERALL: CompostNow
- BEST SERVICE DIRECTORY: Litterless
- ALSO CONSIDER: TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes
What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Composting Services
Before going online and searching for “composting services near me,” there are various factors to take into consideration. Finding out what local composting services offer, including scheduling, service area, pricing, and accepted compostables, are all essential factors in using a regular composting pickup service.
Composting seems simple, but there’s a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye. Poorly managed compost piles can be smelly and attract insects or curious critters like raccoons and rodents. That’s why it’s important to find a reliable composting service that can make regular visits to a customer’s home to pick up old food scraps and deliver new bins. Composting services will be transparent about their service areas and won’t let a customer book a service unless their address falls within the company’s range.
Residential vs. Office vs. Restaurant Composting
Many compost services offer a range of pickup options for different customers. If the desired pickup is at a place of business such as an office, customers should check that a composting service supports commercial pickup. Offices will generally need larger bins or more pickup dates than a single-family home.
Many restaurants are also regular composting service users, so those looking to schedule services for a restaurant should look for specialized services. Restaurants will also need more frequent bin pickups and drop-offs than single-family homes. Residential, office, and restaurant composting services may also have different guidelines for the materials they can accept.
Bin Delivery and Pickup Options
Before engaging composting services, customers should find out the process for receiving a bin to hold the compost. Most services will deliver a container as soon as the customer signs up for service, and then pickups are arranged on a regular schedule (typically weekly or biweekly). However, other services charge by the bin in a more “on-demand” style. Customers order a bin and then request a pickup when it is full. The service then replaces the full bin with a clean, empty container at the time of service.
Most composting services will accept the following: fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea bags, nutshells, shredded newspaper, cardboard, paper, yard and grass trimmings, houseplants, leaves, hay, straw, sawdust, wood chips, cotton rags, hair, fur, and fireplace ashes.
Some industrial composting service facilities are equipped to break down meat, dairy, and fish scraps, especially if they are cooked. Other composting services may not accept animal products due to the risk of spreading pathogens; however, customers should check with the service to determine exactly what it is willing to accept.
Many composting services reward customers with finished compost in return for their food waste. Customers who garden or grow vegetables will want a service that offers compost delivery in exchange for waste pickup.
However, some customers may prefer not to earn back any compost, as they may not have the space or desire. Before hiring a company, customers will want to know if compost delivery is an option or how to decline if it’s an option they don’t want.
Before hiring composting pickup services, customers should determine how the service is priced. Some providers will charge a flat fee by month. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to clearly understand the number of pickups that fee includes—for example, weekly pickup service or a specific number of bins per month.
Other companies charge per bin, and the price is charged according to how often the bin is picked up. Most services that charge this way will charge the customer when the bin is ordered, not when it is picked up.
Our Top Picks
When evaluating the top composting companies we considered location and availability, convenience and frequency of pickup, variety of materials accepted, cost of services, and whether or not the service offered a compost exchange for customers. Here are the companies that made the cut.
Why It Made the Cut: CompostNow offers nationwide service with weekly pickups—and customers with a green thumb can earn back finished compost to use in their home gardens.
CompostNow is a composting service catering to residential, office, and restaurant customers nationwide. It’s one of the few that allows customers to put meat, bones, dairy products, and even pizza boxes in their compost bins, meaning customers do less sorting work and create less waste. CompostNow also partners with locals who process the compost, so even though it is a nationwide service, customers still support local businesses within their communities.
Although some customers may find the monthly fee high—$39 to $49 per month—this fee includes a weekly pickup of either one or two 4-gallon bins. Additionally, customers earn compost from local farms and garden partners with every bin. Customers have access to a fully automated online dashboard to adjust their subscriptions and even track their impact, allowing them to see how much food waste they’ve saved from landfills.
- Service area: Nationwide
- Bin delivery and pickup options: Weekly pickup of one or two 4-gallon bins
- Compost delivery: Yes
- Pricing: $39 to $49 per month
- Pizza boxes, meat, bones, and dairy products accepted
- Customers earn compost from farm and gardener partners
- Residential, office, and food service composting programs available
- Fully automated dashboard allows customers to adjust subscriptions and track impact
- Relatively high monthly price
Why It Made the Cut: Litterless has a sleek, easy-to-navigate website featuring local composting services across the country.
Litterless is not a stand-alone service but rather a comprehensive directory of composting pickup services throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Litterless puts customers in touch with local composting services near them. Because Litterless compiles nationwide composting services from individual businesses, the cost, pickup practices, compost delivery, and pricing varies from provider to provider. While the web page is clean and easy to navigate and listings are organized by towns and cities in each state, it’s unclear how often the directory is updated. Customers will want to contact the composting service directly to determine the service area or services offered.
Litterless also provides a directory of bulk grocery services for customers who want to participate in eco-friendly low- and no-packaging shopping. The aim is for Litterless to help customers find a composting service that is right for them and help customers adopt more everyday sustainable habits.
- Service area: Nationwide
- Bin delivery and pickup options: Varies by provider
- Compost delivery: Varies by provider
- Pricing: Varies by provider
- Comprehensive directory of local composting services in 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico
- Additional directory of bulk grocery stores focused on eco-conscious practices
- Clean, easy-to-navigate website design
- Unclear how often directory is updated
Why It Made the Cut: TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes offer customers convenience and ease to compost (and effectively dispose of other household materials) on their own schedules.
Customers may be familiar with the TerraCycle packaging that makes up many modern milk containers, and the company is an innovator in breaking down tough-to-recycle material. But TerraCycle also allows customers to take recycling and composting into their own hands, thanks to the Zero Waste Boxes. There’s an assortment of boxes and pouches to accommodate everything from food waste to used floss. Customers order one 5-gallon bin as needed to contain their waste. Once the bin is full, customers ship it back to TerraCycle with a prepaid label. TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes can be an excellent choice for a party, office, or event, where customers will find bins catering to the most common items thrown in the landfill, such as plastic forks and plastic cups. Customers can even order one bin to put nearly everything in but toxic waste, and TerraCycle does the sorting.
Customers will find a simple online quiz designed to help them determine what service or TerraCycle box they will need. Prices can be steep: The least expensive box (the oral waste box) costs $42, but the organic waste box used for composting costs $167. But the extensive list of materials TerraCycle can recycle makes this an impressive service for anyone who is dedicated to limiting the amount of waste they produce.
- Service area: Nationwide
- Bin delivery and pickup options: One 5-gallon bin ordered as needed
- Compost delivery: Not available
- Pricing: Starting at $42 per bin; $167 for organic waste bin
- Relatively large bins available for order as needed
- Wide selection of Zero Waste boxes for additional recyclable materials
- Relatively high price per bin
- Bin pickup not available
For a nationwide composting service that appeals to a wide variety of customers, CompostNow comes out on top. Litterless is an excellent resource for trusted local composting services.
How We Chose the Best Composting Services
To determine the best composting services, we researched dozens of companies across the U.S., focusing on companies with a multistate presence. We considered relevant factors for each composting service provider, including pricing, services offered, frequency of services, accepted waste materials, and account management to come up with this final list.
Before You Use One of the Best Composting Services
Before hiring one of the best composting services, customers should first assess their composting needs. A backyard or countertop compost bin is a viable alternative to a composting pickup service for many people. One of the best compost bins allows customers to recycle their own food waste and have compost for use directly in their backyard. It also saves money over a pickup service, which can be expensive, especially for larger families with a lot of food waste.
However, creating a compost pile or a compost bin can be difficult if there is limited space. Even the most efficient and carefully tended compost bins can have odors. They can also attract insects and rodents, which most customers do not want near their home. Customers should also research if their city or county offers any food waste pickup. Many larger cities do offer this for both residential and food service customers. In addition, some cities or counties may offer food waste bins, but transporting them to the recycling facility is the customer’s responsibility. Composting services cannot be beaten for convenience, with many offering curbside or doorstep pickup and perks like compost delivery for the garden.
Cost of Using One of the Best Composting Services
Different composting services have different pricing structures, depending on whether or not they charge by the bin itself or have a monthly or weekly pickup fee. City pickup can be free or low-cost. For most composting service businesses, expect to pay an average of $16 to $32 per month, but some companies can have higher prices due to geographic location and demand.
The Advantages of Using One of the Best Composting Services
Hiring a composting service makes sense for customers who are dedicated to reducing their food waste in landfills and who want to be involved in a composting program, but either lack the space, time, or knowledge to compost in their own homes. Among the many perks of using one of the best composting services, customers will find:
- No messy compost bin or pile in the backyard.
- An easy way to reduce landfill waste.
- The opportunity to earn compost when customers want or need it.
- Good feelings about helping the environment by being conscious about food waste.
There are a wide variety of composting services and ways to compost food waste. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions on the topic.
Q. How does temperature affect composting?
Higher temperatures result in a faster breakdown of organic materials. Higher temperatures also help kill off weeds and any soil diseases. However, temperatures that are too high can kill the helpful bacteria that aid in decomposition.
Q. What are the significant control parameters in composting?
Temperature, moisture content, and oxygen must be monitored for successful composting. The amount of ammonium, nitrite, and nitrate that exist within the compost will also affect its decomposition, as will the type of plants and the way it’s composted (bin vs. pile, how often it’s turned, etc.).
Q. Is a composting service worth the money?
If a customer does not have the space or time to compost themselves, then yes, composting services are definitely worth the money.
Q. What is the end product of composting?
The end result of composting is a dark brown or black organic material that’s rich in nutrients and wonderful for planting all kinds of garden plants and field crops. You can create compost with food scraps or by alternative means, like a composting toilet.
Q. What materials should not be composted?
Generally, animal-based food wastes such as meat, dairy, fish, bones, animal fat, and butter should be avoided in home compost, and some composting services will not allow these materials. Never put animal poop in your compost. In addition, you should never put diseased or insect-infested plant material or weeds that have gone to seed in compost. Although you can add wood ash from a fireplace or fire pit to a compost pile or bin, you cannot put in charcoal ash from an outdoor grill or barbecue.
Q. When is the best time to start composting?
If you’re using a composting service, the best time to start composting is right now. For outdoor bins or home compost piles, you can start almost any time, but spring, summer, and fall are optimal. You can keep your compost going in the winter, especially if you have a bin, but it’s not always the best time to start new compost, as the lower temperatures slow the breakdown of food waste.