Mulch is defined by the Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management as a product produced by grinding, shredding or chipping of yard trimmings, land-clearing debris, untreated and unpainted wood, or any combination thereof, that has not undergone controlled aerobic decomposition to produce a stabilized organic product. It is considered a recovered material and is exempt from solid waste regulations.
EPD encourages mulching to reduce yard trimmings and other woody materials destined for landfills. Throughout Georgia there are many uses for ground, shredded, or chipped wood, from fueling power plants to providing materials for the pulp and paper industry.
Does mulch fall under Georgia’s composting rules?
No. The Georgia Rules for Solid Waste Management (Rules) were updated effective June 30th, 2021. Mulch is considered a recovered material and no longer falls within the composting section. The specifications for mulch can be found in the following sections of the Rules:
- Definition for mulch – Rule 391-3-4-.01(44)
- Definition for mulching - Rule 391-3-4-.01(45)
- Description of recovered materials and conditions for exemption from solid waste regulations – Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(a)
- Description of conditions/requirements for mulch to be considered a recovered material (and exempt from solid waste handling permits) – Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)
Why did the Rules change? What do I need to know?
The Rules were amended to classify mulch as a recovered material and to include specific details for mulching operations to prevent fires. Fires are common occurrences at mulching operations, which can be avoided with proper procedures.
Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(6) breaks out the requirements for mulching operations, which include:
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)1. - Stockpile Size
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)2. - Processing
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)3. – Speculative Accumulation
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)4. – Fire Plan
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)5. – Open Flame Activities
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)6. – Stockpile Buffers
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)7. – Stormwater Management
- Rule 391-3-4-.04(7)(g)8. – Erosion and Sediment Control
Failure to comply with these regulations may result in mulching operations being required to obtain a solid waste handling permit.
EPD developed guidance to aid mulching operators understand these changes. This guidance will be reviewed in a stakeholder meeting. Details about the stakeholder meeting will be posted to the Land Protection Branch Public Announcements page.
Do mulching operations require a permit?
No. As long as mulching operations meet the specifications outlined in Rule 391-3-4.04(7)(g), they will be not require a solid waste handling permit and be considered in compliance. Mulching operations are not required to obtain a solid waste handling permit or receive approval from EPD. They are also not required to notify EPD before beginning operations. Please note, however, that mulching operations are subject to compliance inspections by EPD.