Spoiler Alert Blog | Food Waste


A Growing List of Food Waste Bans Across America

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Commercial food waste bans are sweeping the country, both at the state and city level, which means that big food businesses can no longer send their surplus food and organic waste to the landfill.

Most of these policies allow for a “phase-in” approach, which means that larger generators of organic waste are targeted first. The thresholds for these regulations decrease over time, slowly affecting smaller generators of organic waste. Four states located in New England currently have food waste bans, positioning the region at the forefront of innovation. Check out our growing list of the states and cities with food waste bans below.

Food Waste Bans


1. California

Since April 2016, businesses have been required to recycle their organic waste, depending on the volume of waste generation.

“This law phases in the mandatory recycling of commercial organics over time, while also offering an exemption process for rural counties. In particular, the minimum threshold of organic waste generation by businesses decreases over time, which means an increasingly greater proportion of the commercial sector will be required to comply.” Source: CalRecycle

The initial law implemented in April 2016 affected businesses that generate 8 cubic yards of organic waste per week, and in January 2017, this law will affect producers of 4 cubic yards of organic waste per week. For full implementation dates and thresholds, visit here.

For reference, here are the dimensions of an 8 cubic yard dumpster. It holds about 120, 13-gallon trash bags.

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2. Connecticut

As of January 2014, Public Act 11-217 states that commercial food wholesalers or distributors, industrial food manufacturers or processors, supermarkets, resorts, or conference centers that 1) produce 104 or more tons per year (2 tons per week) of organic waste and 2) are located within 20 miles of permitted recycling facility must ensure the organic material is recycled. Starting in January 2020, the threshold will be lowered and this law will affect businesses that produce 52 tons per year.

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3. Massachusetts

Since October 1, 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) established a solid waste disposal ban, which applies to businesses and institutions disposing one ton or more of food waste per week. Of the state’s estimated 7,000 food businesses, this threshold impacts 1,700 organizations.

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4. Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s food waste ban went into effect in January 2016, requiring businesses that produce more than 2 tons of organic waste per week to divert it from landfill if a facility is within 15 miles of the institution. Alternatively, the business can process the organic waste on site or divert for agricultural use, such as composting or animal feed.

There is a fair price provision clause to protect businesses from hauling cost increases: “a waiver may be requested by the institution if the tipping fees of the compost or AD facility within the institution’s fifteen mile radius would cost the institution more than the price of having the waste taken by the RI Resource Recovery Corporation at its going rate for non-contract commercial waste.” (Source)

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5. Vermont

Act 148 states that as of July 1, 2014, mandatory composting/donation of food residuals is required for generators of more than 104 tons/year, if composting facility is within 20 miles of generator. By July 1, 2020 the landfill ban for food residuals is in effect for all businesses and residents, and the 20-mile limit no longer applies.

Find the full timeline of the phase-in here.

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6. Austin, TX

As of October 1, 2016, food enterprise facilities larger than 15,000 square feet will be required to have an organics diversion program in place. (For reference, the median grocery store size is 46,000 square feet, according to the Food Marketing Institute).

By October 1, 2017, the same rule will be applied to food businesses that are 5,000 square feet or larger, and by October 1, 2018, all food businesses will be affected. (For restaurant references, Chipotle is approximately 2,500 square feet and Olive Garden is roughly 8,000 square feet). The city has named acceptable methods of diversion, including food waste reduction, food donation, and composting.

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7. New York, New York

Starting in July 2016, the NYC Commercial Organics Law began affecting the following institutions:

  • All food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms
  • All food service vendors in arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
  • Food manufacturers with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • Food wholesalers with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

Source: NYC Gov

Failure to comply with the Commercial Organics Law for any covered establishment could result in a civil penalty recoverable in civil action in the amount of $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation, and $1,000 for the third and each subsequent violation. Each violation must be committed on different days within a period of twelve months.

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8. Portland, OR

Business recycling requirements in Portland, OR require that “food scrap generating businesses” must separate food scraps from their mixed waste. More information on this source separation and which businesses are subject to this requirement can be found here.

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9. San Francisco, CA

Proper separation of recyclables, trash, and compostables is required for everyone in San Francisco, including businesses, under the Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance.

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10. Seattle, WA

Under the city’s 2015 ordinance, all food waste is prohibited from the garbage for both residential and commercial disposal. For businesses, this means that a fee may apply if more than 10% of the volume of their garbage container contains food waste, food-soiled paper, or other items that could have been composted or recycled. Businesses must either compost their organic waste on site, self-haul, or pay for a food waste service.

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Did we miss a food waste ban? Comment below to let us know.

Topics: sustainability, policy