December 22, 2008 | General

Food Composting Infrastructure

BioCycle December 2008, Vol. 49, No. 12, p. 30
This fifth and final installment of BioCycle National Survey reports on food waste composting facilities in the Western states.
Cristina Olivares, Nora Goldstein and Rhodes Yepsen

Click here for pdf of the complete 2008 food survey series.

BIOCYCLE undertook a national survey of composting sites processing food residuals in the summer of 2008. It was decided to conduct the survey by regions, starting with New England. The states were grouped by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) regions. The first survey report ran in the August 2008 issue of BioCycle. This fifth and final report focuses on the Western region of the United States (EPA Regions 9 and 10).
The need to conduct the survey and publish the findings resulted from the surge of interest on the part of generators of food-based materials to switch from disposal to recovery via composting and anaerobic digestion. There also has been a boom in college and corporate campuses wanting to either manage cafeteria food scraps on-site or divert them to a composting facility. Recognizing that food waste comprises a significant portion of MSW being disposed and is a source of landfill-generated methane, municipalities, states and the USEPA have made its diversion and recovery a top priority.
The first place examined for food waste composting facility information was, BioCycle’s publicly searchable database of composting projects in the U.S. and Canada. Next, BioCycle editors contacted the organics coordinators at USEPA’s 10 regional offices, as well as organics recycling staff at state solid waste agencies. Their assistance is greatly appreciated.
The following sectors are included in the BioCycle National Survey of Food Composting Infrastructure: Municipal, Commercial, On-Farm and University. Not included are facilities established solely to manage food residuals from a single generator, e.g., an industrial facility processing its own material, a farm-based operation servicing a single generator in a community (typically a food processor), or correctional facilities. Colleges and universities are included as this is one of the fastest growing sectors of food waste diversion in the country.


Food waste composting projects were identified in six of the eight states in the Western region – Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. No projects were found in Hawaii and Idaho in the sectors surveyed. Table 1 provides a breakdown of the 72 projects identified: 23 colleges and universities, 4 farm-based operations, 35 commercial composters and 10 municipalities accepting food waste at their composting facilities. Table 2 reports on the size of the projects, where that information was provided. There are 24 projects in the 0 to 200 tons/year (tpy) range, 6 taking between 200 and 1,000 tpy, 6 in the 1,000 to 5,000 tpy range, and 19 processing over 5,000 tpy. In some cases, these tonnages reflect all materials processed at the sites, not just food waste.
Table 3 lists all the sites composting food waste in the Western region in the sectors that were surveyed. More details on these projects, as well as the ones listed in the first four survey articles (running sequentially from the August 2008 issue of BioCycle through December 2008), can be found at


The BioCycle survey identified 267 food waste composting projects in the United States. The statistics break out as follows: Colleges/universities – 93; Farms – 43; Commercial composters – 92; and Municipal – 39. Sorting the data by region, the West leads with 72, followed by New England (51) and Northeast/Mid-Atlantic (47). The Upper Midwest and the Central/Mountain regions each have 36. The Southeast has the fewest projects (25).

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