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Composting Information

The Department of Public Works offers compost bins for home use to Worcester residents. The "Earth Machine" composter costs $45.00 and can be purchased at:

Department of Public Works
Customer Service Center
76 East Worcester Street
Monday - Friday 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Please call (508) 929-1300 in advance so that we may have the bin ready.

What is Composting?

Composting is a simple way of converting organic waste into a rich humus called compost. Billions of micro-organisms produce this rich dark humus.

Why Compost?

To produce a rich soil amendment and to increase vegetable, flower, lawn and tree growth without spending money.

To reduce domestic waste volume: your garbage bag contains an average of 1/3 of organic material that's able to be put into a compost.

How to Compost

Start with your available organic materials; leaves, grass and table scraps. Moisten the dry parts lightly and mix whatever you have together with some old compost, compost manure, leaf mould, compost starter, or rich loam soil if the others are not available.

Add your daily kitchen scraps and garden trimmings. Sprinkle each layer with old compost and work in. The machine works best when the pieces are small. Weeds and trimmings should be shredded. Do not add thick layers of any one kind of waste. Grass should not be more than 2 1/2" deep, leaves up to 6" deep. (Mulch or dry and crumble them). Mix grass with coarse material to prevent compacting. The compost contents should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If the contents are too dry, it will take overly long to compost; and if too wet, the contents may rot and smell. The lid of the machine is specially designed to control moisture. On high humidity days turn the lid to expose all the vents. On cool days, keep the vents closed to maintain the optimum composting temperature. Mix the compost every couple of weeks or each time you add new material. This keeps the compost well aerated. Removing the finished compost is simple. For small quantities, slide open the door and take out the composted material. For large quantities, lift the entire cylinder, remove the top active uncomposted layer to one side, remove composted material from the bottom, then re-install the compost with the screw pegs and put back inside the active uncomposted layer, which you had set to one side.

How Long Does Composting Take?

The composting process can take from 2 months to 2 years, depending on effort involved. To accelerate the process, the pile must be balanced (dry/humid material), watered thoroughly, frequently turned, and material should be shredded.

Can Composting Be Done in the Winter?

Yes. You can accumulate your kitchen waste all winter long. Add dry material each time. Breakdown process stops when the pile is frozen, but it will start again in the spring. Thorough turning in the spring will reactive the pile.

  • Empty the compost in the fall to make plenty of room.
  • Move your compost close to the house for the winter months.
  • Save a few bags of leaves in the fall to add throughout the winter.

What About Tree Leaves?

If many trees grow on your property, you may not be able to compost all the leaves at the same time in your compost. Though you can:

  • crumble them with your lawn mower;
  • pile in a wind free area for future use;
  • during the fall, mix some with your garden soil to amend the soil;
  • use it as a mulch to prevent weeds and keep soil moisture;
  • putting your leaves in a container and running your grass trimmer through them will also reduce their volume.


For years people have been mowing, bagging, and ultimately sending grass clippings to landfill sites. Grass clippings are fine materials to place in your compost pile. Another option is Grasscycling, which is the natural recycling of grass clippings by leaving them on the lawn after mowing. Mulching lawn mowers are now available which finely cut the grass blades and return them to the lawn.

Remember, do not remove more then 33% of the leaf blade at one time. Set your mower height to 2 to 3". Cut the grass when it is dry.

How to Compost Grass Clippings

Grass clippings bring problems because the material tends to compact itself and is very rich in nitrogen, which can bring bad odors. To combat this you can:

  • add to compost in thin layers;
  • let it dry before adding to the pile;
  • mix it with dry material such as leaves.

How to Use Finished Compost

Compost is ready to be used when it has a dark color with friable structure, and when most material cannot be identified. You can sift the compost to eliminate undesirable material. Pour this material back into the machine.

To help build a lawn that stays green all summer with low water demand, use compost generously. In building a new lawn, work in large amounts of compost to a depth of at least 6 inches before planting seed or laying sod.

You can sift your compost through a very fine screen and simply sprinkle a layer on top.

Applying compost in a wide ring directly below the drip-line of a tree feeds the root system. When planting tree seedlings, blend some compost with existing soil as a soil enrichment.

Add compost to 5 or 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) of your soil before planting flowers or vegetables. Compost helps to retain moisture.

How Compost Can Benefit Your Soil

  • Increases organic matter.
  • Builds sound root structure.
  • Makes clay soils porous so they drain.
  • Improves sandy soils moisture holding capacity.
  • Attracts and feeds earthworms.
  • Balances pH (acidity/alkalinity) of soil.
  • Helps control soil erosion.
  • Reduces plant stress from drought and freezing.
  • Improves vitamin and mineral content in food.
  • Generously applied replaces reliance upon petrochemical fertilizers.
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