Compost Vocabulary


Compostable products must: 1) be degradable in a compost system resulting in H2O, Carbon dioxide, inorganic compounds, and biomass. 2) disintegrate a composted product must break into small enough pieces that it is indistinguishable from the soil. 3) The resulting products from decomposition must leave behind no Eco-toxicity. 4) Result in soil that can support plant growth.

Biodegradable vs. Biocompostable

Biodegradable products will degrade due to naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi over a period of time. There is the possibility of a toxic residue as a result of the degrading process because of the materials used in manufacturing the original product. Biocompostable products degrade in the same way however, there can not be any toxic residue as a result.


These products will break into smaller pieces until they cannot be distinguished from soil. These products can be broken down by sunlight , temperature, or water. There is no requirement that they can be consumed by microorganisms. There is no requirement that the result of this degradation be free of toxic residue.


Any material that will not decompose in the composting process. Principal contaminates include Glass, Metal, Plastic, and Styrofoam. Additionally anything that will result in a toxic residue or impede plant growth in finished product would be considered a contaminate.

Source-Separated Organics Diversion (S.S.O.W.)

Food or other organics that are sorted to remove contamination and recyclables at the location where waste is generated.

Pre-Consumer vs. Post-Consumer Organics Diversion

Pre-consumer refers to those materials that are a result of preparing a product for consumption. For example, food scraps from the prep kitchen would be pre-consumer organics. Post-consumer organics is the food scraps that result from consumer use or consumption of a product, such as uneaten food, and plate scrapings.

Yard Trimmings/Yard Waste Disposal

Plant material that has been collected including brush, tree wood, lawn clippings, leaves, and any other vegetation.

Food Scrap

Made up of food and food preparation scrap.

Food Processing Scrap

These organics are generally the result of food product manufacturing. It is characterized by large volumes of mostly homogenous food scraps. Usually high in moisture content.