Food Waste Recovery

In a Nutshell

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste accounts for about 21 percent of all waste going into municipal landfills. Reducing food waste saves money, which is good for consumers, and reduces methane emissions, which is good for the environment. Much of the food waste can be composted, which is also good for the environment. Finally, Donating surplus food to those in need helps our communities and keeps the unused items out of landfills. 

Practical Solution

The “How To”The “How To”


Ways to Reduce Food Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers several ways individuals can reduce the amount of food they waste. Some ways to reduce wasted food are listed below. 

  • Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  • Plan your menu before you go shopping and only buy what is on the list. 
  • Do not buy in bulk unless you are able and plan to use it all.
  • Donate unused, untouched food to food banks.
  • Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away.


Donating Unused, Untouched Food

One of the easiest ways to prevent food waste is to donate any extra, untouched food items you have purchased but you will not use. Throughout the St. Louis region, there are many places that will accept food donations including Operation Food Search, the St. Louis Area Food Bank, and Feeding Illinois. Donating your extra food is an easy way to not only reduce food waste, but to also help others within the community.


Composting Food Waste

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources offers a Homeowners' Composting Guide that offers information, videos, and resources to homeowners who are considering composting their food waste and who already compost. 

The City of New York's NYC Compost Project offers a tip sheet for homeowners which lists items that should and should not be composted. Although this document was written specifically for the NYC Compost Project, it can give homeowners across the United States help with regard to commonly-composted items. 


Food Waste Prevention

Preventing food waste before it is created is commonly known as food waste reduction or prevention. The Environmental Protection Agency offers useful benefits and strategies as well as some example success stories. Some ways to prevent food waste are listed below.

  • Reduce over-purchasing of food. 
  • Reduce prep waste.
  • Consider secondary uses for leftovers. 
  • Ensure proper storage techniques. 


Planning & ZoningPlanning & Zoning


Example Food Waste Mitigation Programs

The Hannaford Supermarkets company has a well-established food waste mitigation program within New England. The company closely monitors the amount of food sitting on the shelves, donates to food banks and animal shelters, provides waste oils for fuel conversion, and composts. The company reported recycle over 67 percent of total waste in 2010. 


Food Waste Recycling Ordinances and Legislation

In 2012, the Vermont legislature unanimously passed Act 148 which is a universal recycling and composting law. Along with cardboard, paper, and plastic recycling legislation, the Act aims to forbid food scraps from going into landfills by the year 2020. 

Section 9-3.5 of the Revised Ordinances of the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii requires certain hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, food courts, and food manufacturers and processors to recycle food waste. 

In 2009, the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, California passed an ordinance requiring residents, businesses, and organizations to participate in a recycling program which includes food waste. A fine of up to $100 will be assessed to an individual for their first offense.


Dollars & CentsDollars & Cents


Costs of Wasted Food

According to two doctors from the Mayo Clinic, the average family of four throws out about 25 percent of the total food and beverages it purchases. In dollar amounts, this waste ranges from $1,365 to $2,275 annually. 

Also, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste costs producers of food $750 billion per year. This amount is roughly equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of Switzerland. 

Lastly, according to the National Resources Defense Council, the average American throws away between $28 and $43 in the form of about 20 pounds of food per month. 


Potential Savings Realized by Minimizing Food Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a Food Waste Management Calculator that can estimate the cost effectiveness of food waste disposal alternatives. The calculator aims to show how source reduction, donation, and composting are more cost-effective for most people and organizations. 

Some tax rebates may be available for organizations, businesses, and families who donate to food banks. Contact a food bank or food pantry near you for more information.


Measuring SuccessMeasuring Success


Measuring Success for Individuals

Individuals and households can measure success of a program designed to reduce food waste in two simple ways. First, if the household currently does not make a shopping list or plan their meals, it can experience noticeable cost savings by doing so. A family that did not make a list before, can begin making a list and only purchasing items from the list and calculate the dollars saved.

Also, families can measure how much food they are throwing away before and after becoming more aware of food waste. With a simple scale, a family can calculate the amount of food scraps that go to waste every day/week/month. 


Measuring Success for Organizations

Schools and other organizations with many people can hold a contest to see who reduces the amount of wasted food the most. Food waste can be weighed as it is being discarded and information can be kept over a determined length of time. The group that diminishes their food waste the most can be awarded in some way. 

An organization can also calculate the trash collection costs before and after deciding to decrease its food waste. When less food waste is being discarded in the trash can, a smaller dumpster might be necessary. Also, the frequency of trash collection can change and thus the price of collecting trash will decrease. 


Case StudiesCase Studies

Food Waste Composting

  • Contact

    Tom Flood
    Properties and Sustainability Manager
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    Schlafly restaurants began a food waste recovery project when they received a grant from the St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District in 2009. It was a pilot composting grant (Post-consumer Food Waste Composting) in that plate scrapings (post-consumer) from the restaurants (in addition to all other food -- including meat, bones, dairy, baked products, etc., were collected and sent to a commercial composting operation. This did not include vegetable and fruit preps scraps at the Bottleworks, which are composted on-site at the Gardenworks restaurant garden. In the current program, food scraps are brought back to the kitchen dishwashing area when tables are cleared. The plates are then scraped into green bins, as are scraps from the food preparation area. Those are then emptied into the yellow totes provided by Blue Skies Recycling. The Bottleworks Restaurant also uses compostable straws.


    Some facilities can offset the charges for separate collection of food waste by using smaller trash dumpsters. Separate collection of organics costs approximately two to three thousand dollars a year.

    Lessons Learned

    One of the challenges is to minimize contamination through signs and visible containers. The realities of busy restaurants are pretty crazy, so even well-intentioned employees can put things into the compost bins that don’t belong.

    Metal dumpsters don't work well for food waste due to difficulty in cleaning, moving around, and the odor. Blue Skies Recycling provides 65 gallon totes for compostables. When these are collected, they drop off clean ones at the same time. The amount of totes and frequency of service are based upon need. The totes are not leaky or messy and the smell – an issue in the warmer months – is kept in check by the lids.

Integration of Additional Organics into Yard Waste Collection

  • Contact

    Mike Pratt P.E.
    Director of Public Works
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    Clayton residents include compostable materials with yard waste for pickup. Compostable materials include leaves, sod, grass clippings, wood chips, saw dust, vegetables, fruit, paper, straw, empty egg shells, hair, dryer lint, coffee grounds, tea leaves and vacuum cleaner dust.


    The City of Clayton added additional organics to the yard waste collection program at no additional cost.

    Lessons Learned

    The City of Clayton has not experienced any problems by adding additional organics to the yard waste collection program.

Discover MoreDiscover More


Fighting Food Waste Across America

The Iowa Waste Reduction Center at the University of Northern Iowa has an Iowa Food Waste Reduction Project that offers information and a map of locations throughout the state that can divert excess food. Additional resources include case studies, event listings, and a blog. 


Food Waste News Articles

An article written by Dana Frasz in late September, 2013 suggests that food expiration date labels are contributing to food being wasted. 

In August of 2013, Dave Levitan wrote an article describing food waste composting as recycling's "Final Frontier" and described how municipalities across America and the world are choosing to recycle and compost large quantities to keep the waste out of landfills. 

In 2011, USA Today published an article about the growing trend of restaurants to compost their food waste. 


Food Waste Harms the Environment

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, rotting food in landfills releases methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential than that of carbon dioxide. Landfills account for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions. Preventing food waste from entering landfills is not only good for your wallet, but good for the environment, as well.