Skip to main content

A review of the principles of composting: understanding the processes, methods, merits, and demerits


Composting is a sustainable method for converting organic wastes into organic amendments. However, the emission of greenhouse gases (CO2, N2O, Nr, and CH4) and odorous elements/compounds are disadvantages of this procedure. This review focuses on the principles of composting, composting processes and methods, the role of microorganisms and invertebrates in composting, conventional composting processes, and factors affecting composting processes. The study showed that the fundamental factors that impact the composting process are oxygen, temperature, moisture, and the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. Composting aids in waste recycling and serves as a mechanism for reducing the deleterious impacts posed by geo-natural and anthropogenic factors through soils. It reduces the amount of waste discarded or landfilled and the amount of landfill leachate and greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure high performance of a composting process, optimum levels of moisture (40–60%), temperature (35–40 °C), particle size (3.1–12.7 mm), pH (5.5–8), and C/N (25:1–40:1) are required. Including components that take longer to compost, especially during co-composting, makes prolonged composting a challenge. Hence, to enhance compost quality, anti-bacterial, fungicides, anti-nematodes, and viricides from plant or organic sources can be added.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Data availability

Not applicable.


  • Ahmed M, Idris A, Omer SS (2007) Behaviour and fate of heavy metals in the composting of industrial tannery sludge. Malays J Anal Sci 11(2):340–350

    Google Scholar 

  • Ayilara MS, Olanrewaju OS, Babalola OO, Odeyemi O (2020) Waste management through composting: Challenges and potentials. Sustainability 12(11):4456

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Azim K, Soudi B, Boukhari S, Perissol C, Roussos S, Alami IT (2018) Composting parameters and compost quality: a literature review. Org Agric 8(2):141–158

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barthod J, Rumpel C, Dignac MF (2018) Composting with additives to improve organic amendments. A review. Agron Sustain Dev 38(2):1–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bernal MP, Alburquerque JA, Moral R (2009) Composting of animal manures and chemical criteria for compost maturity assessment. A review. Bioresour Technol 100(22):5444–5453

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Chojnacka K, Gorazda K, Witek-Krowiak A, Moustakas K (2019) Recovery of fertilizer nutrients from materials-contradictions, mistakes and future trends. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 110:485–498

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • de Bertoldi MD, Vallini GE, Pera A (1983) The biology of composting: a review. Waste Manage Res 1(2):157–176

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deep Green Permaculture (2009) How to make compost in 18 days using the Berkeley hot composting method. Available at Accessed September 22, 2021.

  • Dominguez J, Edward CA (2010) Relationships between composting and vermicomposting. In: Edwards CA, Arancon NQ, Sherman RL (eds) Vermiculture technology: earthworms, organic wastes, and environmental management. CRC Press, Boca Raton

    Google Scholar 

  • Food and Agricultural Organization (1980) A manual of rural composting. FAO/UNDP Regional Project RAS/75/004 Field Document No. 15. Rome

  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2021a) Composting process and techniques. Available at Accessed September 7, 2021a

  • FAO (2021b) Large-scale composting. Available at Accessed September 8, 2021b

  • Gaur AC (1980) A manual of rural composting. Available at Accessed September 8, 2021.

  • Gonawala SS, Jardosh H (2018) Organic waste in composting: a brief review. Int J Curr Eng Technol 8(1):36–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graves ER, Hattemer GM (2000) Composting. In: Environmental Engineering Part 637. National Engineering Handbook. USDA. pp 88

  • Hassen A, Belguith K, Jedidi N, Cherif A, Cherif M, Boudabous A (2001) Microbial characterization during composting of municipal solid waste. Biores Technol 80(3):217–225

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • He X, Han G, Lin Y, Tian X, Xiang C, Tian Q, Wang F, He Z (2012) Diversity and decomposition potential of endophytes in leaves of a Cinnamomum camphora plantation in China. Ecol Res 27(2):273–284

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aggie Horticulture (2009) Chapter 1, The decomposition process. Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Available at Accessed September 2, 2021.

  • Inckel M, de Smet P, Tersmette T, Veldkamp T (2005) The preparation and use of compost (Vol. 27). Agromisa. Available at Accessed September 7, 2021.

  • Insam H, de Bertoli M (2007) Chapter 3. Microbiology of the composting process. Waste Manag Ser 8:25–48

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Karikari P (2011) Effect of sawdust and grass clipping as bulking materials on composting of organic waste from KNUST campus (Doctoral dissertation). Accessed August 4, 2021

  • Kawai K, Liu C, Gamaralalage PJD (2020) CCET guideline series on intermediate municipal solid waste treatment technologies: composting. Available at Accessed 9 June 2022

  • Kriengkasem S (2002) Anaerobic composting of solid waste in batch-loading digesters. Available at Accessed 20 August 2022

  • Kulikowska D, Gusiatin ZM (2015) Sewage sludge composting in a two-stage system: carbon and nitrogen transformations and potential ecological risk assessment. Waste Manage 38:312–320

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kulikowska D, Klimiuk E (2011) Organic matter transformations and kinetics during sewage sludge composting in a two-stage system. Biores Technol 102:10951–10958

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kumar S (2011) Composting of municipal solid waste. Crit Rev Biotechnol 31(2):112–136

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kumar M, Ou YL, Lin JG (2010) Co-composting of green waste and food waste at low C/N ratio. Waste Manage 30(4):602–609

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Liew CS, Yunus NM, Chidi BS, Lam MK, Goh PS, Mohamad M, Sin JC, Lam SM, Lim JW, Lam SS (2022) A review on recent disposal of hazardous sewage sludge via anaerobic digestion and novel composting. J Hazard Mater 423:126995

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lim LY, Bong CPC, Lee CT, Klemes JJ, Sarmidi MR, Lim JS (2017) Review on the current composting practices and the potential of improvement using two-stage composting. Chem Eng Trans 61:1051–1056

    Google Scholar 

  • Looper M (2002) Whole animal composting of dairy cattle. Dairy Busi Commun Guide D 108:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  • Mari I, Ehaliotis C, Kotsou M, Chatzipavlidis I, Georgakakis D (2005) Use of sulfur to control pH in composts derived from olive processing by-products. Compost Sci Util 13:281–287

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Malinska K, Zabochnicka-Swiatek M, Cáceres R, Marfà O (2016) The effect of precomposted sewage sludge mixture amended with biochar on the growth and reproduction of Eisenia fetida during laboratory vermicomposting. Ecological Engineering 90:35–41

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McMahon V, Garg A, Aldred D, Hobbs G, Smith R, Tothill IE (2009) Evaluation of the potential of applying composting/bioremediation techniques to wastes generated within the construction industry. Waste Manage 29(1):186–196

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Meena AL, Karwal M, Dulta D, Mishra RP (2021) Composting: phases and factors responsible for efficient and improved composting. Agric Food: e-Newsletter 3(1):85–90

    Google Scholar 

  • Mehta CM, Sirari K (2018) Comparative study of aerobic and anaerobic composting for better understanding of organic waste management: a mini review. Plant Archives 18(1):44–48

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller FC (1992) Composting as a process based on the control of ecologically selective factors. In: Metting FB (ed) Soil Microbial Ecology, Applications in Agricultural and Environmental Management. Marcel Dekker Inc, New York, pp 515–544

    Google Scholar 

  • Misra RV, Roy RN, Hiraoka H (2003) On-farm composting methods. UN-FAO, Rome, Italy

    Google Scholar 

  • Mustin M (1987) Le compost: La gestion de la matière organique. Francois Dubusc, Paris, p 954

    Google Scholar 

  • Nair DN, Padmavathy S (2014) Impact of endophytic microorganisms on plants, environment and humans. Sci World J 2014. Available at Accessed 28 August 2022

  • Ofori RA (2013) Integrated waste management-source separation and composting of household waste in the Ayuom Farming Community in the Bosomtwe District of the Ashanti Region (Doctoral dissertation). Available at Accessed 2 Sept 2022

  • Pace MG, Miller BE, Farrell-Poe KL (1995) The composting process. Available at Accessed September 3, 2021

  • Parr JF, Hornick SB, Kaufman DD (1994) Use of microbial inoculants and organic fertilizers in agricultural production. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for Asian and Pacific Region (Publication Database). Extension Bulletin. Accessed September 4, 2021.

  • Prempeh K, Fei-Baffoe B, Lawson BW (2018) Effect of sawdust and grass clippings as bulking materials on the quality of compost. Int J Irrig Agric Dev (IJIRAD) 2(1):144–150

    Google Scholar 

  • Raza S, Ahmad J (2016) Composting process: a review. Int J Biol Sci 4:102–104

    Google Scholar 

  • Roman P, Martinez MM, Pantoja A (2015) Farmer’s compost handbook: experiences in Latin America. FAO Rome. ISBN: 978–92–5–107845–7.

  • Ruggieri L, Artola A, Gea T, Sánchez A (2008) Biodegradation of animal fats in a co-composting process with wastewater sludge. Int Biodeterior Biodegradation 62(3):297–303

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ruggieri L, Gea T, Artola A, Sánchez A (2009a) Air filled porosity measurements by air pycnometry in the composting process: a review and a correlation analysis. Biores Technol 100(10):2655–2666

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ruggieri L, Gea T, Artola A, Sanchez A (2009b) Factors affecting air pycnometer performance for its use in the composting process. Compost Sci Utilization 17(4):266–275

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ruggieri L, Gea T, Artola A, Sánchez A (2012) A study on air filled porosity evolution in sludge composting. Int J Environ Waste Manage 9(1–2):56–68

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rynk R, Van de Kamp M, Willson GB, Singley ME, Richard TL, Kolega JJ, ... Brinton WF (1992) On-farm composting handbook (NRAES 54). Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service (NRAES).

  • Sarpong YS (2015) Co-composting organic solid waste with Moringa oleifera leaves, sawdust and grass clippings (Doctoral dissertation). Available at. Accessed September 8, 2021.

  • Stentiford EI (1996) Composting control: principles and practice. In: De Bertoldi M, Sequi P, Lemmes B, Papi T (eds) The Sciences of Composting. Blackie Academic and Professional, Glasgow, UK, pp 49–59

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Stop food waste (2021) Essentials of composting. Available at Accessed September 9, 2021.

  • Tiquia S, Tam N (1998) Elimination of phytotoxicity during co-composting of spent pig-manure sawdust litter and pig sludge. Bioresour Technol 65(1–2):43–49

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tripetchkul S, Pundee K, KoonsrisukS AS (2012) Co-composting of coir pith and cow manure: initial C/N ratio vs physico-chemical changes. Int J Recycl Org Waste Agricult 1(1):15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • United States Department of Agriculture (2000) Chapter 2. Part 637 environmental engineering national engineering handbook. Available at Accessed September 7, 2021

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1994) An analysis of composting as an environmental remediation technology. Available at Accessed September 2, 2021.

  • USEPA (1998) An analysis of composting as an environmental remediation technology. Available at Accessed September 6, 2021

  • USEPA (2016) Types of composting and understanding the process. Available at Accessed September 7, 2021.

  • USEPA (2021) Types of composting and understanding the process. Available at Accessed September 3, 2021.

  • Vakili M, Zwain HM, Rafatullah M, Gholami Z, Mohammadpour R (2015) Potentiality of palm oil biomass with cow dung for compost production. KSCE J Civ Eng 19(7):1994–1999

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang SP, Wang L, Sun ZY, Wang ST, Yuan HW, An MZ, Tang YQ, Shen CH, Kida K (2022) Effect of distillery sewage sludge addition on performance and bacterial community dynamics during distilled grain waste composting. Biores Technol 345:126486

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • van der Wurff AW, Fuchs JG, Raviv M, Termorshuizen A (2016) Handbook for composting and compost use in organic horticulture. BioGreenhouse. Available at Accessed September 7, 2021.

  • Yulipriyanto H (2001) Emission d'effluents gazeux lors du compostage de substrats organiques en relation avec l'activité microbiologique (nitrification/dénitrification) (Doctoral dissertation, Université Rennes 1). Available at Accessed September 8, 2021

  • Zakarya IA, Khalib SNB, Ramzi NM (2018) Effect of pH, temperature and moisture content during composting of rice straw burning at different temperature with food waste and effective microorganisms. In E3S Web of Conferences (Vol. 34, p. 02019). EDP Sciences

  • Zhang L, Sun X (2014) Effects of rhamnolipid and initial compost particle size on the two-stage composting of green waste. Biores Technol 163:112–122

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


Special thanks to all who advised us on how to craft and modify this research.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



EEYA and BF-B conceptualized the paper. EEYA worked on the original draft. Supervision was done by BF-B and LNAS, and BF-B, LNAS, NBD, and RWK edited the work.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ebenezer Ebo Yahans Amuah or Nang Biyogue Douti.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interest

The authors declare no competing interest.

Additional information

Publisher's note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Amuah, E.E.Y., Fei-Baffoe, B., Sackey, L.N.A. et al. A review of the principles of composting: understanding the processes, methods, merits, and demerits. Org. Agr. 12, 547–562 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: