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Cedar Grove Compost
A Look Inside This Successful Giant

Pearls From The Pile Series


Cedar Grove Compost
(Washington, USA)cedar grove composting

On February 14, 2012, I interviewed Susan and John, from Cedar Grove Compost (CGC), about running a successful compost business. Cedar Grove is one of the largest commercial composting companies in the United States, processing over 400,000 yards of organic waste annually.

My interview consisted of 7 questions, each with the intention of providing you with a tiny glimpse inside this very successful composting business. I hope you enjoy reading (or listening to) this as much as I enjoyed creating it.

This interview is also available as a pdf and MP3 – Download PDFDownload MP3 (To download this file, right click and “Save Link As”)

Q1. Please tell us about yourself and provide some general information about your compost business.

A. Cedar Grove Composting started commercial composting in the greater Seattle area in 1989 and currently operates two facilities that compost over 400,000 tons of yard waste and green waste annually.

We are privately owned and one of the largest yard waste composters in the U.S. Our facilities produce nearly 300,000 yards of compost each year that is sold for use in soil amending, water conservation, erosion control, farming, and post construction soil enhancement. It is also used as the base to create high-end mulches, designed soil blends, green roof mixes and other growing media.

Q2. Who is your ideal customer? Why?

A. Our ideal customer is a resident, organization or business that recycles their organic material and takes the compost and soil back to their garden, landscape, corporate campus or construction site and completes the recycling loop.

Although Cedar Grove works constantly on growing the aftermarket for compost, there is significant education that goes into helping people understand that the compost made from this effort is also something that benefits their plants and landscapes and helps create a sustainable business and recycling model long-term.

aerial of cedar grove compost

Q3. If someone wanted to start a composting business, what are five important factors they must consider during the planning stages of their business?


  • What are the feed stocks available to compost, the volumes and is there a collection infrastructure in place to get those feed stocks to the composting site?
  • Are you adequately capitalized to properly site a commercial composting facility (proper location, technology costs, permit costs, land costs, personnel)?
  • What are the competing economic forces that might impede a successful composting model (i.e.- if landfill rates are low, will composting be seen as a premium service, but not one that can compete with other options)?
  • What is your potential aftermarket and what is the cost of sale to get compost to market?
  • Education of the public, businesses and your staff on all aspects of feed stock management, minimizing contamination, and compost uses.

Q4. Many of our visitors are backyard gardeners and urban farmers who are making compost at home. Can you describe several of the most common errors people make while trying to create high-quality compost on a small-scale?


  • Recipe issues (carbon to nitrogen ratios imbalanced, moisture levels out of balance)
  • Not enough bulking material
  • Failure to turn or aerate the compost regularly
  • Only green waste can be composted in the backyard, or course- no post-consumer food waste.*

*As you may have heard in the audio version of this interview, I am going to get clarification on this point.

Q5. I understand that large-scale compost producers have to follow very strict regulations. Can you describe some of these regulations to our visitors?

A. Here is a summary of standards that came out on 2004 in our state for commercial compost facilities. Not all states have the same levels of requirements, but there are important considerations for leachate and storm water management, covered or in-vessel systems for certain feed stocks, technology, offload areas, odor control devices and systems. You can also access the specific regulations in their entirety here.

commercial composting

Q6. Many commercial composting operations are turning to biosolids as an ingredient in their compost. What is your opinion of composting biosolids?

A. If it’s feasible and there is a good aftermarket for the material, it’s a great option.

Q7. What makes Cedar Grove Composting unique?

A. Cedar Grove compost has grown to be one of the largest yard and food waste composters in the U.S. Working collaboratively with waste haulers, city and county government, businesses and citizens, it represents one of the best models of green and sustainable industry in the country.

Cedar Grove has successfully pioneered composting technology, outreach and education, site planning and development, aftermarket development, soil design, compostable packaging science and sorting systems, commercial collection and innovative uses of compost.

“The next chapter in the innovation evolution will be to couple composting with food-scrap fueled bioenergy production using anaerobic digestion.”

cedar grove composting

That concludes my fifth interview in our Pearls from the Pile Series on Starting a Compost Business. Once again, I want to thank Susan and John and all of the staff at Cedar Grove Compost for making this interview possible. If you would like to learn how Cedar Grove can help you get your composting business off the ground, please contact them directly, maybe they’ll even give you a tour of their facility. I hope you enjoyed this interview and look forward to our next one in March.

If you missed it, here is our interview with Dan, from Symbio, sharing his wisdom about compost inoculants and other microbial-based products.

If you enjoyed this interview with Cedar Grove Compost, please click the “Like” button at the top of the page.

Until next time…

Peace, Love, and Happy Composting!