Composting for Solid Waste Management

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Composting and organic waste management involve the controlled decomposition of organic materials, such as food scraps, yard waste, and agricultural residues, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment called compost. This natural process mimics nature’s recycling system, diverting valuable organic resources from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and enriching soil health.

Impact on climate action

Composting and organic waste management significantly impact climate action by reducing methane emissions from landfills. By diverting organic waste from landfills and converting it into nutrient-rich compost, this innovation helps mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, enhances soil health, and promotes sustainable agriculture, contributing to a more resilient ecosystem.


Composting relies on the activity of microorganisms, primarily bacteria and fungi, which break down organic matter in the presence of oxygen (aerobic decomposition):

  • Feedstock Preparation: Organic materials are collected and sorted to remove contaminants, then shredded or chopped to increase surface area for microbial activity.
  • Composting Process: The prepared feedstock is placed in windrows (long piles), in-vessel composting systems, or specialized composting bins. Oxygen is provided through aeration or turning the compost piles.
  • Decomposition and Maturation: Microorganisms consume the organic matter, generating heat and breaking down complex compounds into simpler nutrients. The compost matures over time, transforming into a stable, humus-rich soil amendment.

TRL : 9 for traditional composting methods, 6-7 for newer technologies and innovative composting systems.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • In-Vessel Composting: These enclosed systems provide greater control over composting parameters like temperature and moisture, accelerating the composting process and reducing odors.
  • Automated Composting Systems: Sensors, robotics, and data analytics are being integrated to automate various stages of the composting process, from feedstock preparation to aeration and monitoring.
  • Black Soldier Fly Composting: This innovative approach utilizes black soldier fly larvae to rapidly consume and compost food waste, producing a high-protein insect frass (larvae excrement) that can be used as animal feed or fertilizer.
  • Vermicomposting: Using worms to break down organic matter, vermicomposting offers a highly efficient and low-impact method for composting food scraps and other organic materials, especially suitable for smaller-scale operations.
  • Compostable Bioplastics: The development of compostable bioplastics derived from plant-based materials is expanding the range of materials that can be effectively composted, reducing the reliance on traditional plastics.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Aerated Static Pile Composting
  • Smart Composting Bins
  • Carbon-Negative Composting
  • Mobile Composting Units
  • Blockchain-Tracked Compost
  • Community-Scale Composting
  • High-Tech Composting Sensors
  • Zero-Waste Food Systems
  • Biochar-Enriched Compost
  • Decentralized Composting Networks
  • AI-Optimized Composting
  • Closed-Loop Composting Solutions
  • Urban Composting Initiatives
  • Algae-Based Composting Additives
  • Microbial Diversity Enhancement
  • Compostable Packaging Innovation
  • Industrial Scale Vermicomposting
  • Waste-to-Energy Composting
  • Precision Compost Application Systems

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. CompostNow:
    • Technology Enhancements: CompostNow utilizes technology to streamline the process of composting for individuals and businesses. This may include features such as mobile applications for scheduling pickups, tracking composting progress, and educational resources on composting best practices.
    • Uniqueness: CompostNow stands out for its focus on convenience and accessibility, making composting easy for urban dwellers and businesses alike. They may offer services like doorstep pickup of organic waste, providing composting bins, and even offering composting workshops.
    • End-User Segments: CompostNow primarily targets urban residents, apartment complexes, businesses, and restaurants who are interested in reducing their environmental footprint by diverting organic waste from landfills.
  2. ShareWaste:
    • Technology Enhancements: ShareWaste operates on a peer-to-peer platform, connecting individuals who generate organic waste with those who have composting facilities. Their technology facilitates this connection, enabling users to find nearby composting sites or offer their own composting facilities to neighbors.
    • Uniqueness: ShareWaste’s uniqueness lies in its community-driven approach to composting. By leveraging existing resources and infrastructure, ShareWaste promotes collaboration among neighbors, fostering a sense of environmental responsibility and community engagement.
    • End-User Segments: ShareWaste targets a broad spectrum of individuals, from homeowners with backyard composting setups to urban residents who may not have access to traditional composting facilities. Their platform is inclusive, catering to anyone interested in composting and reducing waste.
  3. Evocative:
    • Technology Enhancements: Evocative specializes in advanced composting technologies, such as aerobic digestion or in-vessel composting systems. Their innovations may focus on improving the efficiency and scalability of composting operations, reducing odor and emissions, and producing high-quality compost.
    • Uniqueness: Evocative stands out for its emphasis on industrial-scale composting solutions. They may offer modular composting systems that can be tailored to specific waste streams and production requirements, catering to municipalities, large-scale farms, food processing plants, and other industrial facilities.
    • End-User Segments: Evocative primarily targets businesses and organizations that generate large volumes of organic waste and require sustainable waste management solutions. This includes municipalities looking to implement composting programs, agricultural operations seeking to reduce waste and enhance soil health, and industrial facilities aiming to minimize environmental impact.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is at the forefront of research in composting and organic waste management, with a focus on developing innovative technologies and strategies to optimize the composting process and enhance the valorization of organic waste.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often explores novel composting techniques, such as aerobic and anaerobic digestion, vermicomposting, and biochar production, to maximize the conversion of organic waste into valuable products like compost, biogas, and biofertilizers. Additionally, they investigate the use of advanced sensors and monitoring systems to optimize composting conditions and ensure product quality.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Wageningen’s research span agricultural, horticultural, and urban environments. Their technologies support sustainable soil management practices, improve crop productivity, and contribute to the circular economy by closing nutrient loops through organic waste recycling.
  2. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: The University of California, Berkeley, is actively engaged in research on composting and organic waste management, focusing on developing scalable and decentralized solutions to address the challenges of organic waste diversion and recycling.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often explores community-based composting models, decentralized composting systems, and social innovations to promote public participation in organic waste recycling initiatives. Additionally, they investigate the use of innovative technologies, such as composting robots and automated composting systems, to streamline the composting process and improve efficiency.
    • End-use Applications: Berkeley’s research has applications in urban and suburban environments, community gardens, schools, and public spaces. By promoting decentralized composting solutions, their initiatives empower communities to manage their organic waste locally, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfilling, and promote soil health and food security.
  3. ETH Zurich:
    • Research Focus: ETH Zurich is a leading institution in composting and organic waste management research, focusing on developing advanced technologies and systems for sustainable waste treatment and resource recovery.
    • Uniqueness: Their research often integrates bioengineering, microbiology, and environmental science to develop innovative composting processes, microbial inoculants, and bioreactor systems for organic waste valorization. They also explore the potential of biochar production and soil carbon sequestration as strategies to mitigate climate change and improve soil fertility.
    • End-use Applications: ETH Zurich’s research has applications in agriculture, forestry, and waste management industries. Their technologies support the transition towards a circular economy by converting organic waste into valuable products like compost, biogas, and biochar, thereby reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizers and fossil fuels.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Composting is a widely implemented and commercially successful technology. Numerous composting facilities operate globally, processing organic waste from various sources, including municipalities, industries, and agricultural operations. The compost produced is used in agriculture, landscaping, and home gardening, creating a valuable and sustainable product from what would otherwise be waste.