Charleston County Environmental Management conducted a waste composition study in 2009-2010, revealing that over 20% of the County's waste stream consists of organics, such as yard waste and food scraps. Charleston County Council set a vision for saving valuable landfill space and recycling organic waste by maximizing the County's compost facility.
Charleston County began composting yard waste in 1993 and averaged about 20,000 tons per year. Today the compost facility is located in West Ashley and processes 100% of the yard waste generated and accepted at the landfill, nearly 75,000 tons a year. Additionally, the County was the first in the state to initiate food waste composting.
Charleston County's composting program is a vital part of the County's integrated solid waste management program and a key part of the County's goal to develop the premier solid waste management program in the Southeast. Diverting organic material for composting conserves landfill space and supports County Council's 40% recycling goal.
In January 2013, the program earned the U.S. Composting Council's (USCC) Seal of Testing Assurance (STA), which testifies that the finished compost consistently meets that program's high quality standards. Two years later at the USCC conference in Austin, Texas, Charleston County was awarded the 2014 USCC Compost of the Year Award.
In 2020, the compost facility was privatized through a partnership with McGill Environmental Systems.
In partnership with local school districts, Charleston County donates compost to elementary, middle, and high schools for use on athletic fields, in landscaping, and on school gardens. Charleston County School District, who has been collecting food waste in cafeterias since 2012, helps close the composting loop by using the finished compost product for various applications throughout the district.
Charleston County has become the largest compost producer in the state and one of the largest on the East Coast. Since the Program's overhaul in 2009, Charleston County has implemented several initiatives that have further improved our composting program:
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 16 acres, employs 4 people, and processes 100% of the yard waste generated and accepted at the landfill, nearly 75,000 tons a year.
Tours of the Compost Facility are provided for school groups, garden clubs and other community organizations. For questions or to set up a tour, please contact the Environmental Management Department at (843)720-7111.
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 in as few as 45 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". Windrows are 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.
"Farmers must know soils and which crops grow best in which fields. We at Rosebank Farms have to date purchased 200 tons of compost from Charleston County's Bees Ferry Landfill and have spread it on our fields. The compost allows us to reduce commercial fertilizers and build our soil at the same time. This compost is an example of a local product that has all the bells and whistles of an environmentally green product and it is inexpensive. Everyone who has a lawn, a flower bed or a vegetable garden should take advantage of the Black Gold of Charleston County."
- Sidi Limehouse, Rosebank Farms
"The Bees Ferry Compost Facility is a great example of local government responding to a global problem. Outside of the composting world, few are aware of the dangers of landfilling organics, especially in the Southeast. Charleston County has diligently mounted campaigns to not only increase the number of businesses diverting their organic waste, but also to make the finished compost readily available and affordable to residents, community gardens, local farmers, landscapers, and other county and state departments. One can often hear folks remark on what a great product this compost is compared to the mulch that was being produced only a few short years ago."
- Wayne Koeckeritz, Food Waste Disposal
"Wild Olive is very proud to be the first Certified Green Restaurant in the State of South Carolina and our composting program was the single largest factor in helping us to achieve that certification. We compost approximately one thousand pounds of food and paper waste every week and not only is it good business but we feel we are doing our part to help our local environment. The Charleston County Composting Program has made this process effortless and has helped us to not only be a farm to table restaurant, but a table to farm restaurant as well."
- Jason Parrish, Wild Olive Restaurant
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