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Charleston County's Bees Ferry Compost Facility



Charleston County began composting yard waste in 1993 at the Bees Ferry Landfill and averaged about 20,000 tons per year.  Today the Compost Facility covers 36 acres and processes 100% of the yard waste generated and accepted at the landfill, nearly 59,000 tons a year.

How is the compost made?

Composting is the natural method of recycling organics, such as yard and food waste, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.  The County’s compost operation is designed to maximize space utilization, allow for fast turnaround of material, and produce a high quality product within 90 to 120 days.  Municipal or commercial trucks deliver yard waste generated in the County to the receiving area where it is ground using a horizontal grinder.  The material is then transferred to the active composting area and formed into long piles called “windrows”.  The existing site accommodates 70 windrows spaced four (4) feet apart and 12 feet between each pair of windrows.  The space between rows is designed to allow loader and water truck access. 

During the active composting phase, the windrows are monitored regularly for optimum temperature and moisture content, and are turned or watered as needed.  The composted material is screened to remove any oversized pieces using a piece of equipment called a “trommel”.  The finished compost is now ready for sale, to enrich our soils, and close the recycling loop!

Outstanding Composting Program

Since the Program’s overhaul in the 2009, the County has implemented several initiatives that have further improved the composting program. In September 2009, the County banned all yard waste from the Bees Ferry landfill and now directs it to the compost facility. Today the Bees Ferry Compost Facility processes 100% of the yard waste generated and accepted at the landfill, nearly 59,000 tons a year. Effective June 1, 2011, the County also enacted a yard waste plastic bag ban to ensure the quality of the finished compost product. The Program was further enhanced when the County conducted the state’s first commercial food waste composting pilot (September 2010 – November 2011), which is now a permanent program permitted by South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Charleston County’s Environmental Management Department received the 2011 Outstanding Composting or Organics Recycling Program Award during the Carolina Recycling Association’s 21st Annual Trade Show and Conference.

The facility is the first in the state to be permitted by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to implement two major innovations: (1) using compost as Alternative Daily Cover in the landfill, and (2) conducting a food waste composting pilot. During the first six months of the pilot program, over 500 tons of food waste was processed. In January 2013, the Program earned the United States Composting Council’s (USCC) Seal of Testing Assurance (STA), which testifies that the finished compost consistently meets that program’s high quality standards. Charleston County’s compost has been deemed suitable for organic farming by Clemson University. Currently, Charleston County is the only producer in the South Carolina to have this certification. Charleston County is the largest compost producer in the state and one of the largest on the East Coast.

What are the benefits of using compost?

Adding compost to soil increases the amount of organic matter, which helps to increase nutrient levels and conserve water.  Typically, South Carolina soils have an organic matter content of less than 1%, which is not sufficient for ideal water retention.  Compost can hold up to 10 times its own weight in water, so it is a very effective tool for water conservation.

Other benefits of compost include:

  • Reduced soil compaction and increased root growth
  • Increased nutrients and beneficial soil microbes
  • Reduced need for fertilizers
  • Healthier plants and more rapid growth rate

Enhancing the quality of compost

Plastic bags have been allowed for yard debris collection at the curb in Charleston County, but they reduce the marketability of the compost for the higher value markets such as landscape nurseries and homeowners sought by the Compost Facility.  Workers must pull the plastic bags from the yard waste prior to grinding.  Unfortunately, it is possible to remove plastic from only 40% of the incoming material; there is far too much volume of incoming material to allow removal from it all.  (The 59,000 tons processed each year equates to 250,000 cubic yards.)  Even after screening, small pieces of plastic remain in the finished product and reduce its quality.  Therefore, the County has implemented a ban on the delivery of yard waste in plastic bags at the landfill, effective June 30, 2011.  Your cooperation in making this important change is greatly appreciated! For additional information regarding the plastic bag ban program, please refer to the Yard Waste Plastic Bag Ban page.

How can I purchase compost?

Compost FacilityCharleston County sells compost for $10 per ton and for $2 per bag (1.5 cubic feet) at:

The Bees Ferry Compost Facility
1344 Bees Ferry Road, Charleston (West Ashley)

Cash or check accepted. Credit cards are not accepted.
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Compost can also be purchased for $2 per bag (1.5 cubic feet) at:

Charleston County Recycling Center
13 Romney Street, Charleston (Downtown)

Cash or check accepted. Credit cards are not accepted.
Hours: Monday - Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For questions about purchasing compost, contact the Environmental Management Department at (843) 720-7111.


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