Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Department of Waste & Renewables

Composting in WI

Under Wisconsin law, yard materials including leaves, grass clippings and small pieces of brush/branches are prohibited from disposal in landfills. 

Composting at home is a great way to manage your yard waste and household food items. There are many resources available to help you compost at home and the finished material is a great source of microorganisms and nutrients for your lawn and gardens.  Benefits of using compost include:

  • Restoring or enhancing the ability of sandy soil to hold moisture and clay soils to drain
  • Repairing or preventing damage caused by erosion
  • Aiding plant growth – e.g., in residential gardens, public landscapes, or after construction and mining projects are completed
Fresh dirt is used to garden

How to Compost at Home

Residents can make their own compost for garden and landscape projects by composting yard materials and certain food scraps at home. Composting is also a preferred alternative to burning yard materials, something which many Dane County communities do not allow without a permit.

When at home, compost can be made in bins or a heap. Bins are generally a better way to manage materials and can be either bought commercially or made. View the DNR's home composting brochure to get started or for tips on improving your current system.

Currently, the state of Wisconsin has no regulations on small-scale, home composting operations of fewer than 50 cubic yards, but please keep in mind that all composting should be done in a nuisance-free and environmentally-sound manner. This includes minimizing odors, not attracting excessive numbers of pests, and not placing compost piles in wetlands or other sensitive areas. Check with your municipality to find out if any local regulations apply.

What to Compost

Along with yard materials, certain food scraps can also be easily composted at home. Be sure to follow recommendations on what types of food scraps can be composted at home in order to prevent odors and avoid attracting animals and other pests.

What to compost What not to compost
  • Yard materials
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Eggshells
  • Clean, unwaxed paper, such as newspaper and cardboard
  • Animal manure (not pet waste)
  • Meat or fish scraps, bones, and packaging
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, egg yolks, etc.)
  • Fats and oils or foods containing fats and oils
  • Pet waste
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
  • Highly-invasive plants like garlic mustard, unless completely dry and without flowers or seeds
  • Plastics labeled as "compostable" or "biodegradable" (these items should go to a composting facility)

Information gathered from the Wisconsin DNR, read more here.


Can't compost at home? Explore Your Pickup & Drop-off Options

Most municipalities offer curbside pickup or drop-off sites for yard waste, leaves, and brush for their residents. Check with your local municipality for details on guidelines, locations, and hours of operation.

If you are interested in composting the organic waste generated in your home, there are some subscription-style services available in Dane County. Two options are Curbside Composter and Earth Stew Composting Services.