Did you know that over 25% of Wake County household trash consists of organic material, such as food waste and yard waste, napkins and paper towels, that can be composted? Click on the links below to learn more about reducing the amount of food waste that goes to the landfill.
Food Waste Management at Home
Composting is a natural process of recycling organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Compost is a wonderful conditioner for soil, full of nutrients to help plants and gardens grow.
All composting requires three basic ingredients:
Browns – This includes materials such as dead leaves, branches and twigs.
Greens – This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and coffee grounds.
Water – Having the right amount of water, greens and browns is important for compost development.
Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter. Download a guide to backyard composting.
Discounted Compost Bins
Manufactured compost bins are a great starting point if you are trying backyard composting for the first time. They are contained systems that take up less space than an open pile and are pest proof. There are a number of different types of manufactured compost bins. Things to look for in a good compost bin include:
- Made from a durable material
- Adequate ventilation holes
- A tight-fitting lid
- A door at the base for easy access to the compost
Drawbacks include the initial cost of buying the bin. Expect to pay $50–$100 for a good compost bin. For a limited time Wake County offers residents discounted compost bins, through a seasonal, pre-order sales program.
Wake County Solid Waste is piloting the first food waste drop-off program in Wake County. Residents can bring their food waste to two designated drop-off locations:
Both sites are open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Yard waste is not accepted. Download the food waste recycling flier to see what's accepted.
Search for “compost services in Raleigh” to find resources and companies that can provide at home collection services.
Yard waste, such as grass clippings, leaves, branches and twigs can be included in home composting piles. Yard waste collection is also provided curbside by many of the municipalities in Wake County. Yard waste can also be dropped off at several facilities; view a list of yard waste drop-off locations.
Food waste is generated from many sources: food manufacturing and processing facilities; supermarkets; institutions such as schools, prisons and hospitals; restaurants and food courts; and households. Food waste is categorized as either pre-consumer (i.e., preparatory food scraps) or post-consumer waste (e.g., leftover food or plate scrapings).
Food service providers (e.g., supermarkets, institutions, restaurants) produce a significant amount of food waste each day. Wake County encourages these large-scale food waste generators to manage their surplus food and to implement a food waste diversion program. Separating and managing food scraps can result in both economic and environmental benefits.
Assess your food waste
Take a quick look at the food waste you are throwing away and identify potential food recovery opportunities to decrease the amount you generate.
Conduct a food waste audit
For more detailed information, track and collect data on the types and amounts of each food scrap item you are generating. Collecting this data will help you determine if some of your food waste can be reduced by ordering or producing less, how much could be sent to food banks or shelters, and how much could be recycled through animal feeding, rendering or composting.
Plan for costs
There are costs related to collecting, transporting and composting food scraps. Talk to neighboring organizations about also instituting food waste collection at their facilities to create a cost-effective route for your hauler. You also might be able to generate revenue by selling compost created from your food waste. Use the EPA's Food Waste Management Calculator to estimate the cost competitiveness of alternatives to food waste disposal, including source reduction, donation, composting and recycling of fats, oils and grease.
Decide what food waste recovery option works best for you
The quantity and quality of your food scraps and your estimated generation rate will help you consider how to divert your food waste. To learn about waste disposal options contact haulers or composting facilities in the area. Here are some options:
Use your waste audit to identify ways to decrease the amount of food waste you generate. Are there any trends in the types and amounts of food waste you produce? If so, consider changing your business operation to buy only what you use.
You can donate unsold or excess food products that meet quality and safety standards to food banks. Many national and local food recovery programs offer free pickups and containers. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (Public Law 104-210) protects food donators from legal liability.
Local Food Banks:
Determine if local farmers or zoos use food scraps as animal feed. There are laws and regulations protecting animals from contracting diseases through consumption of food scraps. Contact your county agricultural extension office, your state veterinarian, or your county health department to find out about specific state regulations and contact information for licensed farmers. You also might find companies that convert food scraps into animal food products.
Fat, oil and grease can be rendered into a raw material to make biodiesel, soaps and cosmetics. Anaerobic digestion of food scraps and waste oils produces biogas that can generate heat and electricity, fiber that can be used as a nutrient-rich soil conditioner, and liquor that can be used for fertilizer.
Food scraps can be composted. Ask the composting facility you plan to use for a list of acceptable materials and hauling options. Find a hauler to pick-up the materials: search for “compost services in Raleigh”