In a Nutshell

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Compost can be used to enrich flower and vegetable gardens, to improve the soil around trees and shrubs, and as a soil amendment. Compost can be made from yard waste, fruit and vegetable waste, etc. It's easy to compost - as the saying goes "compost happens"!

Practical Solution

The “How To”The “How To”

Standard Home Compost

Compost is organic matter that when added to soil helps plants grow. Food scrapes (Fruits and vegetables) and yard waste are perfect composting materials. Composting is a simple and time efficient method to manage yard waste, and turn it into fertilizer. Organic matter in compost improves soil aeration, root penetration, water infiltration, and reduces crusting of the soil surface. Compost will occur naturally, and there are certain devices and methods that can be used to start and the aid the composting process.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and St. Louis County have webpages which explains the composting process and how to build a composting bin. Composting bins can be made from wood or wiring. They also can be made in various sizes. These pages will also explain how the location of the compost pile/bin, watering rate and turning the compost effects the process.


Another home waste recycling technique is Vermicompost. Vermicompost uses red wiggler worms to break down decaying plants, fruits, and vegetable waste. Like composting, vermicomposting can be maintained in the backyard. Necessary items to make your own vermicompost pile include worms, the organic waste, and a box. Start a vermicompost bin in your backyard and after a few months the matter will be fully turned and ready for your lawn and garden. Instructions on how to vermicompost are available below.

Planning & ZoningPlanning & Zoning

The City of Clayton's ordinance (Section 235.320) specifies that composting in the City of Clayton. Among other things, the ordinance states the allowable materials for backyard composting and collection of yard waste and organic materials.

Missouri 260.250, RSMo bans yard waste from landfills. Among other provisions, the Missouri Ban mentions that woody materials that are over six inches in diameter should be used for more beneficial purposes such as firewood and wood chips.

Dollars & CentsDollars & Cents

Many gardening difficulties are rooted in substandard soil. Whether your garden has a nutrient, moisture or aeration problem, you can improve the soil with compost. One major benefit for lawn owners is the savings for mulch and fertilizer. Washington State University lists several benefits of composting in great detail. Compost use can result in a variety of environmental benefits. Compost has the ability to help regenerate poor soils. Compost has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote higher yield of crops and gardens. Using compost can reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Composting organic materials reduces the production of methane from landfills. Compost also prevents pollutants in stormwater runoff from reaching surface water resources. Compost has also been shown to prevent erosion on embankments along creeks, lakes and rivers

Some food wastes that may be composted with your yard waste are vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds (including the filter), tealeaves and tea bags, and eggshells. Other organics that can be composted include hair, dryer lint, paper (that is not printed with petroleum-based inks), and vacuum cleaner dust. Composting reduces the amount of greenhouse gases generated in landfills, and saves landfill space. Businesses and municipalities can save money in landfill disposal fees by composting a portion of their food waste and other organics. Homeowners will save on trash bags costs.

Free mulch and compost is available free of charge for City of St. Louis residents on various dates throughout the year. Also on select days City of St. Louis residents can drop off their yard waste to be composted. STL Compost teams up with the City for composting.

Measuring SuccessMeasuring Success

The rich nutrients found in compost should improve the quality of almost any soil. Soil drainage should increase. Soil should break and crumble versus being hard and dry. The University of Illinois Extension provides these soil benefits from utilizing compost.

Composting additional organics such as those mentioned above can reduce waste going into landfills by an additional 10%. Some of the things NOT to include in composting are:

  • Animal carcasses
  • Fish
  • Fowl
  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Other animal products
  • Manure
  • Used litter box remains
  • Milk, cheese, sour cream or other dairy products
  • Lard, oils, or oil-based foods
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing
  • Whole grains (rice, wheat, barley, etc.)

Case StudiesCase Studies

Food Waste & Other Organics Included in Yard Waste Collection

  • Contact

    Mike Pratt P.E.
    Director of Public Works


    Clayton residents include compostable materials with yard waste for pickup.  Compostable materials include leaves, sod, grass clippings, wood chips, saw dust, vegetables, fruit, paper, straw, empty egg shells, hair, dryer lint, coffee grounds, tea leaves and vacuum cleaner dust.  The City of Clayton also encourages residents to compost these materials at home.  


    The City of Clayton included collection of additional organics in their contract for yard waste collection at no additional cost.  

    Lessons Learned

    The City of Clayton has not experienced any issues with collection of additional organics along with the yard waste. 

Discover MoreDiscover More

St. Peters Recycle City serves St. Peters’ residents and businesses for trash and yard waste. If you are a resident, please drop off your cardboard, newspaper, and other products. Earth Centre Yard Waste & Compost Center allow for St. Peters’ residents to drop off their yard waste to the St. Peters’ Earth Centre. This facility processes organic material into mulch and compost. Earth Centre is open to the public and free for St. Peters residents with a Resident Privilege Card.