Courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
Composting is one-way Nebraskans can divert organic waste from landfills. This process promotes biodegradation of organic materials like leaves, grass clippings and some food items to create a useful product that makes soil more fertile. Sludge, also referred to as biosolids, from wastewater treatment facilities and livestock waste can also be composted.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, composting can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in two ways. First, it improves carbon sequestration in the soil, and second, it allows these organic materials to break down through aerobic decomposition, which reduces methane emissions.
The nutrient-rich soil created through composting can be used as a fertilizer that can increase crop yields, improve contaminated or degraded soils, and provide a resource for gardeners, landscapers, parks, and natural habitats, according to the EPA.
Individuals who compost in their yards can do so without a permit, and the EPA has resources on how to get started.
Commercial compost operations that receive more than 100,000 cubic yards of yard waste, 20,000 cubic yards of livestock waste, or 1,000 cubic yards of other material are required to obtain a permit from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE).
These large operations are required to go through a local siting approval process. This means the compost facility site must first be approved by the local county or municipal government where the facility will be located. If a commercial compost site is approved at a local level, then the operator may submit an application to NDEE to operate a solid waste management facility.
Composting facilities that receive less than the amounts listed above are partially exempt from Title 132 – Integrated Solid Waste Management Regulations. Partially exempt operations must still be designed and operated as to not pose a threat to human health or the environment; operate with effective litter and disease vector control; and ensure the facility does not violate Title 129 – Nebraska Air Quality Regulations. The facility must also not discharge pollutants into waters of the state or accept waste if the facility is at capacity.
These requirements for commercial composting facilities ensure Nebraskans can experience the benefits of compost while being protective of human health and the state’s air and water resources.