August 20, 2008 | General

Food Composting Infrastructure

BioCycle August 2008, Vol. 49, No. 8, p. 34
BioCycle survey series provides region by region listing of food waste composting projects in the U.S.
Cristina Olivares and Nora Goldstein

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

FROM 1995 to 2000, BioCycle published an annual national survey of food waste composting projects in the United States. Since then, we have continued to track food waste composting activity, and in 2007 launched www.findacomposter. com, a publicly searchable data base that lists many sites in the U.S. that receive municipal, commercial, institutional and industrial food waste streams.
Recently, there has been a 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. And to top this all off, municipalities and states, recognizing that food waste comprises a significant portion of MSW being disposed, have made their diversion and recovery a top priority.
For BioCycle and others involved in the composting industry, this expanding interest has led to regular emails and phone calls asking for a list of composting facilities in the U.S. that accept food waste. While many of these sites are captured in, the data base is relatively new and still being populated. So this summer, we decided to embark on a national survey of food waste composting facilities, dividing our outreach and reporting by regions of the country. For simplicity, we opted to group the states by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regions (11 in all). If there aren’t many sites to list in a single region, several will be combined. As we compile the lists, we are adding these facilities to, to keep the data base growing.
The following sectors are included: 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. We have included colleges and universities, as this is one of the fastest growing sectors of food waste diversion in the country. Some campuses do on-site composting while a number divert organics to a local composter. In all cases – just as it does with the very small food waste composting and vermicomposting projects at elementary and secondary schools – having young people actively engage in source separation and composting is helping to create critical behavior changes that need to be fostered as students embark into the world.
This first installment focuses on the New England states (EPA Region 1) that include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Rhode Island is the only state where we could not identify food waste composting projects. A total of 51 projects were identified.
Table 1 provides a geographical distribution of the projects in New England by sector. There are a total of 17 college and university projects, 18 farm-based operations, 12 commercial composters and 4 municipalities accepting food waste at their composting facilities. Of the sites reporting annual tonnages composted (Table 2), 15 are in the 0 to 200 tons/year (tpy) range, 10 in the 200 to 1,000 tpy category, 7 in the 1,000 to 5,000 tpy range, and 9 over 5,000 tpy.
Table 3 lists all the sites composting food waste in New England in the sectors we surveyed. Projects at colleges and universities are pretty evenly split between composting on campus versus sending feedstocks off-campus to a composting site.
BioCycle editors welcome additions to this list. Please email facility name, location and a contact if available to

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