Organic Waste Recycling

Food Waste Composting

Composting is the practice of mixing various organic materials together in a bin or heap where, if properly aerated, microorganisms consume the material and leave behind a nutrient rich product called humus, mulch or compost. The humus can be used as a soil additive that helps stimulate plant growth and improve the soil's condition. A compost pile simply speeds up the natural process of bio degradation that occurs with all organic materials. However, there are certain materials, like bio-plastics, that will only biodegrade under commercial composting conditions. Learn more about commercial composting conditions from the Eco Products website.


Your business probably already has a system in place to deal with waste and recycling. In order to divert compostable material from general trash you will need to assess the amount of compostable waste you generate. Gather all the information you can from your current hauler; service agreement, waste bills, tonnage reports and any failed load notices.

Begin by asking these questions:
  1. How much organic waste does your facility generate on a weekly basis?
  2. Who is your current waste hauler? What trash and recycling services do they provide? Contracting with the same organic waste vendor as neighboring restaurants will facilitate a more viable and cost effect program. (frequent pick up options at lower costs)
  3. What is the frequency of collection, number and type of collection containers, materials collected, and service costs? Most organic waste haulers use 64 gallon totes. How many times per week would you a need a pick-up? 1 per week, 2 times per week, etc?
  4. You may need to increase your pick-up frequency during summer months to minimize odor and flies.
  5. Who from your organization will be involved in implementing any changes? Management, chefs, facility or maintenance staff?

Commercial Food Waste Guidance

View the local health department guidance for commercial food waste separation from the Recycling Works of Massachusetts.

Waste Diversion Program

If you are interested in starting an organic waste diversion program contact the Health Department by email so that we may connect you with vendors with current routes in town.

Note: If many business contract with the same vendor, cost can be reduced and the vendor can establish a consistent route.

Recycle Works

Recycle Works provides free technical assistance for establishments who want to implement organic waste diversion options, learn more from the Recycle Works website.

View the video below to learn how Recycle Works helped Gardner Ale House implement an organic waste composting program.

Off-Site Options

Off-site options require contracting with a hauler to transport food materials to an off-site facility. Potential types of facilities and uses include:
  • Farms for animal feed
  • Compost sites
  • Anaerobic digesters
  • Rendering/biodiesel operations - for fats, oils, and grease
3 Recycling Bins
Are you planning on using compostable service ware, such as biodegradable cutlery? Compostable products should end up at a commercial composting site that accepts compostable food service products. Line up a composter when making the switch to use these products and work with them to test products slated for use in order to ensure they will indeed compost in their system.

Different off-site facilities can accommodate varied types of material. For example, some compost sites will accept compostable paper and waxed cardboard with food waste, whereas farms that want to use food material for animal feed will not want paper mixed with food waste. When evaluating off-site options, it is important to work closely with your hauler and the receiving facility to ensure that you are properly separating materials to meet that facility's needs.