Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on May 18, 2022 Updated on November 10, 2023
$109,550 - $209,100
$318,000 - $1.56 million p.a.
Time to build
$63,600 - $312,000 p.a.
Composting is the eco-friendly process of taking organic waste, such as banana peels and bread crusts, and recycling them to be used as fertilizer. It’s green and sustainable, which means it’s also growing: the industry is expected to expand more than a third by 2027.
You could start your own composting business and help the environment while carving out your share of a growing market. But before you start gathering greens, you’ll need to understand how to start and manage a business.
Luckily, this step-by-step guide has you covered with all the information you need to launch a successful composting business.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Growth forecast – The global composting industry is projected to expand by 34% by 2027 to reach $7.52 billion.
Trends and challenges
Trends in the composting industry include:
Mandated bans on organic materials in landfills is driving composting industry growth. Recycling materials for composting reduces carbon dioxide emissions from landfills significantly.
New laws seek to promote better soil health, boosting demand, since compost fertilizer is great for the soil.
Challenges in the composting industry include:
The increased use of food scraps in compost due to an emphasis on less food waste is creating contamination issues in the compost making process.
Air quality standards for emissions from composting facilities are getting tougher, which means that composting businesses must better manage their emissions.
How much does it cost to start a composting business?
Startup costs for a composting business range from $110,000 to $210,000 or more. You’ll need a down payment on land and trucks, equipment, and a labor and operating budget.
You can learn composting processing by taking inexpensive courses on Udemy.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your composting business, including:
Materials to make compost that include things like:
Food waste and other organic waste
Yard waste and yard debris
Worms or manure to produce nitrogen
Setting up a business name and corporation
$150 - $200
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Land with structure down payment
$50,000 - $100,000
Trucks for pickups and deliveries
$25,000 - $50,000
$3,000 - $5,000
Labor and Operating Budget
$30,000 - $50,000
$109,550 - $209,100
How much can you earn from a composting business?
To get organic materials, you could partner with municipalities or local waste management firms, or reach out directly to hotels and restaurants to pick up their organic waste. You could charge a monthly fee of about $25 for weekly pickups, then sell your finished compost to local nurseries and garden stores for $25 per yard. Your profit margin, after overhead, land payments, and labor, should be about 20%.
In your first year or two, you might sign 60 customers for waste pick-up and sell 1000 yards of compost a month, bringing in $318,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $63,600 in profit, assuming that 20% margin. As you get referrals and repeat business, you might do pickups for 200 people and sell 5000 yards of compost a month. With annual revenue of $1,560,000, you’d make an outstanding profit of $312,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a composting business. Your biggest challenges will be:
The high startup costs of land and trucks
Learning how to run an efficient composting facility
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a composting business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research composting businesses in your area to examine their products and services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a service that picks up yard trimmings and grass clippings or also cleans gutters and clears yard debris.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as food scrap compost or leaves and yard trimmings.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
Your services will include the pickup of composting materials from residential and commercial customers, and the sale of composted materials for fertilizer.
How much should you charge for composting?
Typical prices for pickup of composting materials are about $25 per month. Prices for selling compost are about $25 per yard. After all your costs, you should aim for a profit margin of about 20%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be both individuals and businesses, such as farms, so you should spread out your marketing to include sites like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Where? Choose your business premises
You’ll need land with a structure on it for your facility. You’ll probably have to purchase land, but you may be able to find a suitable property for rent. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Composting Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “composting” or “compost fertilizer”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Advanced Composting Solutions” over “Commercial Composting Services”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Composting Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: Brief summary outlining the key elements of the composting business plan, including its objectives, unique selling points, and financial projections.
Business Overview: Concise description of the composting business, its mission, vision, and the problem it aims to solve in the market.
Product and Services: Clear outline of the composting services offered, detailing the types of organic waste accepted, processing methods, and any additional value-added products.
Market Analysis: Thorough examination of the composting market, identifying target demographics, market trends, and potential growth opportunities.
Competitive Analysis: Evaluation of competitors in the composting industry, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to differentiate the business.
Sales and Marketing: Strategic plan for promoting the composting services, encompassing sales tactics, pricing strategies, and marketing channels to reach the target audience.
Management Team: Introduction to the key individuals responsible for running the composting business, emphasizing their skills, experience, and roles within the company.
Operations Plan: Detailed overview of the day-to-day operations of the composting facility, covering logistics, equipment, staffing, and quality control measures.
Financial Plan: Comprehensive financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and break-even analysis, providing a clear picture of the business’s financial viability.
Appendix: Supplementary materials such as relevant permits, licenses, market research data, and any additional documents supporting the information presented in the composting business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to composting business.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your composting business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a composting business. You could also try crowdfunding since you’re doing something good for the environment, so you might find broad support.
Specific licenses and permits required for a composting business vary at the state and local levels, so check with your local governments for requirements. You’ll also need to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding emissions.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your composting business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as ASCHL, to manage your record keeping, inventory, costs, and compliance. For your compost pickups, you can use software like Trash Flow or Trux to manage your schedules and routes.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your composting business, the marketing strategy should focus on highlighting the environmental benefits of composting, the quality and utility of your compost products, and your role in promoting sustainable practices. Emphasize how your services contribute to waste reduction, soil health, and overall environmental wellness. The goal is to establish your business as a key player in local sustainability efforts, appealing to environmentally conscious consumers, gardeners, farmers, and businesses.
Professional Branding: Your branding should reflect environmental responsibility, sustainability, and the natural benefits of composting, from your logo to your promotional materials.
Direct Outreach: Network with local nurseries, garden centers, farmers’ markets, and community gardens to introduce your products. Also, connect with local businesses and organizations to offer compost collection services.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a website that details your composting services, product offerings, and the benefits of composting. Implement SEO best practices to optimize your site for search terms related to composting, organic gardening, and eco-friendly practices.
Social Media Engagement: Use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share information about composting, showcase your processes, and highlight customer testimonials.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Eco-Friendly Blog: Share posts about the benefits of composting, tips for composting at home, and stories about how your compost has been used in various projects.
Customer Success Stories: Feature stories from satisfied customers, particularly those who have seen significant benefits from using your compost in their gardening or farming activities.
Educational Videos and Infographics: Create content that explains the composting process, showcases the impact of composting on soil health, and provides tips for effective compost use.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Workshops and Seminars: Host workshops on composting techniques, benefits of organic waste recycling, and how to use compost effectively in gardening or agriculture.
Participation in Eco-Friendly and Community Events: Engage in local environmental events, fairs, and farmers’ markets to promote your products and educate the public about composting.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Environmental Groups and Businesses: Collaborate with environmental organizations, community gardens, and eco-friendly businesses to promote composting and joint sustainability initiatives.
Community Projects: Get involved in community projects that focus on sustainability, such as creating community gardens or green spaces, using your compost.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Loyalty Rewards for Regular Clients: Offer discounts or special deals to regular customers, such as local farmers or gardeners who frequently purchase your compost.
Referral Incentives: Encourage word-of-mouth advertising by providing incentives for customers who refer new clients to your business.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Advertising: Use digital advertising on gardening, farming, and eco-conscious lifestyle platforms, as well as local online communities, to reach potential customers.
Email Marketing: Keep your audience engaged with newsletters about composting tips, new product offerings, and updates on your sustainability efforts.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your composting business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your composting business could be:
Help save the planet; give us your organic waste and we’ll make it green!
Top quality compost to enrich your family garden
Bulk compost to boost crop growth
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a composting business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in composting for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in compost. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a composting business include:
Facility Workers – assist with handling and processing compost materials
Drivers – pick up and deliver compost materials and compost fertilizer
General Manager – scheduling, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Run a Composting Business – Start Making Money!
Composting has many environmental benefits, including food recycling, reduced landfill emissions, and curbing the use of chemical fertilizers. The industry is seeing rapid growth as more people recognize those benefits. Starting a composting business takes an investment and some hard work, but with real commitment and an eco-friendly mindset, you could build a thriving green operation!
Your business homework is complete now, so it’s time to roll up your sleeves and launch your successful composting business.
Composting Business FAQs
Is a composting business profitable?
Yes, a composting business can be very profitable. You’ll have two income streams – one from picking up compostable waste from residential and commercial customers, and another from selling your processed compost as fertilizer.
What is the growth potential of composting business?
The growth of a composting business is somewhat limited by geography. However, if you capture your local market, you’ll have a good-sized business.
How do I ensure that the compost I produce is of good quality?
You should use a good quality composting bin. You also need to drain your compost frequently to keep it from being too moist.
How do I educate customers on the benefits of composting?
You could start a blog, posting frequent articles about the benefits. You can also make it a part of your value proposition and include it in your marketing.
How do I source the materials needed for composting?
You can do yard cleanups for people and save the yard waste to make compost. That would be an additional revenue stream for your business.
How to Start a Composting Business
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Composting Business Name
Create a Composting Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Composting Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Composting Business - Start Making Money!
Composting Business FAQs
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