The Pros and Cons of Starting a Composting Business

Couple dumping a load into a compost bin.

Mike Harrington / Getty Images

With a growing market for environmentally friendly products and services, many people are starting to view waste in a new way. That's why composting is no longer a method of disposal solely used in rural areas. It's becoming a common way to manage waste and produce a usable product—and that's creating a viable business opportunity.

If you are interested in starting a green business with a lot of growth potential, a composting business might be a great fit for you.

The Pros of Starting a Composting Business

The most obvious benefit to starting a composting business is that, as you work to grow your business, you're simultaneously helping the environment. Composting is all about recycling materials and keeping them out of landfills. Finding easier and more efficient ways to recycle our materials is key to sustainable living, and composting plays into those goals.

A composting business is relatively easy to establish. The startup costs are minimal. Amateurs and hobbyists can easily create personal compost piles, and there are no major barriers to taking those DIY operations to a larger audience. There will be logistics involved with scaling up, but getting the business started is attainable. Unlike other kinds of businesses, you can base a composting operation out of your home—to start with, at least. From there you can focus on growing your business locally or use the internet to connect with far-away customers.

Speaking of customers, another benefit is how easy it is to identify your target markets. In addition to the growing demand for sustainable businesses, there's also a growing demand for organic material from composting. Gardening supply stores, landscaping companies, as well as professional and amateur gardeners all use compost to keep their gardens healthy. This opens up the potential for a dual-revenue business—customers will pay you to sustainably dispose of their waste in a compost pile, and you can sell the composted material to different customers who will use it in their gardens.

Since you're working on reducing waste and increasing recycling, you may be eligible for tax incentives for owning a green business. However, composting alone may not be enough to see significant tax benefits. While tax law varies from state to state, the most common tax credits address green energy, energy-saving building design, and fuel-efficient transportation—all of which could be incorporated into a composting business, but they may not be intrinsically linked.

The Cons of Starting a Composting Business

While starting a composting business is relatively easy to do, you will eventually need sufficient land and storage space to create a commercial composting site. Having ample space at your composting site is crucial to expanding your compost business. This can require a significant investment. Also, you may need to invest in equipment such as a truck for deliveries and bins for storing the compost.

Deliveries and shipping present challenges, as well. Waste intended for compost piles needs to be picked up from customers, and compost soil needs to be delivered to customers who wish to purchase it. This creates logistical issues with the transportation of material. There's an added complication of sanitation—since the raw compost material is essentially someone's trash.

As far as the actual work goes, you'll need scientific knowledge, training, and physical ability. You need to understand how matter breaks down in a compost pile, and how to achieve the best mix of nutrients in the final product. Knowledge only goes so far, though, and that's where training comes into play. You need to have a firm grasp on composting—built up through experience—before you can be expected to compost on a profitable scale. As you build that experience, you'll quickly learn the value of a strong back and good stamina. Composting requires some serious elbow grease, and if you aren't in the kind of shape required to work long days building compost piles, you'll need to budget for employees who are.