Food Scraps Management

  1. Introduction
  2. Food Recovery Hierarchy
  3. Food Waste Reduction Advocating Organizations, and Campaigns
  4. Food Waste Hauling And Recovering Companies
  5. Grocery Stores That Collect Food Scraps And/or Have Food Donation Programs
  6. Documents and Resources
  7. Articles
  8. Credits
  9. Contact Information


Food Residual Diversion Waiver Application - this is a link to the waiver application and instructions for Maryland's Food Residual Diversion law. For more information about the law, including waiver information, visit MDE's Solid Waste Management - Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion - Food Residuals webpage. 

Solid Waste Management - Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion--Food Residuals. During the 2021 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 264 or the Solid Waste Management – Organics Recycling and Waste Division – Food Residuals, Chapter 439 (law).  The law requires certain persons that generate food residuals to separate said residuals and divert them from refuse disposal sy​stems.   

Food Rescue Locator  A searchable, location-based online directory of organizations, groups and volunteer programs dedicated to rescuing surplus food and delivering it to food banks, pantries, and other organizations to help reduce food waste and address food insecurity.  


In September 2015, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a national goal to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030

At 33.7%, compostable materials comprise the largest portion of waste generated.  Food scraps comprise 54.1% of compostable material and 21.6% of the total waste generated.  The next largest portion of waste generated are paper products at 23.1%.  In Maryland, an estimated 1.86 million tons of compostable materials and 927,926 tons of food waste generated each year.  Although being a major waste component, only 144,073 tons of food waste (i.e., Bakery Waste, Corn Ensilage, Food Waste, and Grain/Yeast), 15.5%, was recycled in Maryland in 2019. The remaining ends up being disposed in landfills or incinerated.  This trails the recycling of yard trimmings (84%), glass (60%), metals (75%), and paper (39%) in Maryland in 2019.

The disposal of food scrap can be prevented by methods such as composting or donation to those in need. In fact, according to the Maryland Food Bank, 1 in 8 (12.5%) Marylanders is food insecure. Minimizing food scraps has its benefits, including the conservation of energy and resources.

Food Policy Networks New

Food Policy Networks is project of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and has been operating since 2013, with the goal of helping to build the capacity of food policy councils and similar groups to improve their advocacy and policy work.

County Food Scraps Collection Programs

Prince George's County

Maryland Food Recovery Summit - December 1, 2021

Mid-Atlantic Food Recovery Summit & Eighth Annual Food Day - October 24, 2018

Maryland Food Recovery Summit - November 30, 2016 

Food Recovery Hierarchy

The Food Recovery Hierarchy has multiple tiers, each with its own food scrap management strategy.  The upper levels create the most benefits.  Each component of the food waste stream should be evaluated to determine which strategy provides the best use for that particular material.



Source: EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy


Source Reduction

Source reduction (SR) is the most encouraged method of food recovery.  Source reduction activities prevent waste from being generated.  There are various source reduction activities individuals, communities, and businesses can implement to prevent food scraps.

With consumers responsible for approximately 60% of food scraps, any source reduction activities implemented will have a significant impact on the amount of food scraps generated.  Some of these actions include:

  • Pre-planning weekly meals;
  • Optimizing storage space in closets, cabinets, and refrigerators;
  • Preparing the more perishable foods first; and
  • Being mindful of leftovers and ingredients.

Businesses and communities can implement source reduction by participating in the EPA's Food Recovery Challenge. They, along with individuals, can also use the Food: Too Good To Waste toolkit, which has 5 key waste prevention strategies:

  1. Get Smart: see how much food (and money) you are throwing away
  2. Smart Shopping: buy what you need
  3. Smart Storage: keep fruits and vegetables fresh
  4. Smart Prep: prep now, eat later
  5. Smart Saving: eat what you buy 

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is a common saying. It applies not only to books, but to food as well. A less pleasant physical appearance does not mean that a food product is of less nutritional value. These "ugly" foods taste the same as their "beautiful" counterparts, and recognizing this fact plays a significant role in source reduction.

For more information, please visit the Department's Source Reduction web page

Feed Hungry People

Anyone is eligible to donate.

Edible surplus food can often be donated to those in need.  Donations are accepted at organizations all over the country and throughout the entire state, such as:

  • Food pantries, which redistribute their collections to those in need.
  • Food banks, which are community-based, professional organizations use donated food to fight hunger.  The Maryland Food Bank has three different facilities located in Baltimore, Salisbury, and Hagerstown. Counties have their own food banks as well.
  • Food rescue programs, which take excess perishable and prepared food and distribute them to agencies and charities.

Additional donation sites can be found below in the "Food Waste Reduction Advocating Organizations, Communities, and Campaigns" section.

Feed Animals

There are various organizations and locations that accept food scraps for animal feed.  With proper and safe handling, anyone can donate food scraps to animals.  Food scraps donation is a commonly accepted practice to farmers.  Animal food scraps donation can save farmers and companies money.  In many cases donating food scraps is cheaper than disposal.  Food scraps can also be donated to zoos or producers that make animal or pet food.

Industrial Uses

Food scraps can be used in the industrial process for the production of biofuels or biopolymers.

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion is used to generate renewable energy, such as biogas.

Anaerobic digestion is a process in which microorganisms break down organic materials, such as food scraps, manure, and sewage sludge. Recycling food scraps through anaerobic digestion produces biogas, made primarily of carbon dioxide and methane, and the remaining solid or liquid residual, called "digestate," can be utilized as compost, for land application, or as a soil amendment. (Anaerobic digestion is not subject to the Department's composting regulations)

EPA Anaerobic Digestion

EPA Biogas Recovery

Fats, Oil, And Grease

Substances like fats, oils, and grease should be made into another product, converted to biofuels, or sent to an anaerobic digester.  In the rendering industry, fats, oils, and grease can be converted into animal food, cosmetics, soap, etc.  Fats, oils, and grease can also be converted into biodiesel fuel that reduces greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide in air emissions.  Used in anaerobic digesters the fats, oils, and grease can generate renewable energy in the form of biogas.

How Used Cooking Oils and Animal Fats are Recycled


Composting is defined as the controlled aerobic biological decomposition of organic waste material.  The resulting product of composting, compost, makes an excellent soil conditioner by improving the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of soil.

The benefits of composting include:

  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Extension of landfill/incinerator capacity
  • Production of soil conditioner that partially replaces the need for chemical fertilizers
  • Reduction of need for irrigation
  • Creation of jobs
  • Improvement of water and air quality

Currently in Maryland, the composting of food scraps (15.5%) lags behind the composting of yard trimmings (84%).  To date, 20 composting facilities have applied to be covered under Maryland's composting permits.  Only 5 of the proposed operations include the composting of food scraps.

More information can be found on the Department's Organics Diversion and Composting web page.

Landfill or Incineration

Landfilling or incineration are the last resorts when dealing with food scraps.  Landfilling produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas more harmful than carbon dioxide, and major contributor to climate change.  Incineration produces carbon dioxide and other emissions that may adversely affect the environment.

Food Waste Reduction Advocating Organizations, Communities, and Campaigns


  • The Cookbook Project creates healthier communities and a more sustainable environment via food literacy education.


  • American Biogas Council is a national organization whose purpose is to develop the American biogas industry in order to create jobs and environmental sustainability and independence.

  • facilitates locating food pantries.
  • Change Food is a nonprofit organization committed to networking and collaborating with those who produce and care about food in order to improve the environment in which our food is grown and the way we eat.
  • Food Recovery Network is the largest student movement combatting food waste and hunger in America. It started with the Maryland chapter when students of the University of Maryland, College Park, took initiative.
  • Food Waste Reduction Alliance is a congregation of three major industries that serves to reduce food waste ending up in landfills while simultaneously donating food to those in need.
  • Markets Institute, WWF works to increase sustainability, seeing food production as a global issue and trend.
  • National Grocers Association is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that make up the food distribution industry's independent sector.
  • National Restaurant Association Conserve Program is used to explore and learn about environmental sustainability in the restaurant business.
  • The Save The Food campaign brings awareness to how much food is being wasted and provides strategies and tips for saving money and food.
  • US Composting Council is a national, non-profit trade and professional organization advocating composting. The MD-DC Compost Council is a state chapter.


  • Capital Area Food Bank is the largest organization in the Washington metro area combatting hunger related issues.


  • 4 My City -focus is on the Importance of Environmental Sustainability, primarily the Sustainable Management of Food in relation to food waste.
  • Center For A Livable Future of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recognizes interrelation in public health, diet, food production, and the environment and believes that understanding the connection is the key to a livable future.
  • The Chesapeake Foodshed Network comprises various organizations, agencies, and individuals working throughout the Chesapeake watershed and are interested in building a stronger and more resilient food system.  The Maryland Food System Map is created to examine the current landscape of Maryland’s food system from farm to plate – including how food is grown, processed, sold and consumed.

  • DC Central Kitchen reduces hunger using recycled food by training unemployed adults for culinary occupations.
  • Eco City Farms is an educational, nonprofit organization in Prince George's County, MD, serving as the prototype for sustainable local urban farming.
  • Imperfect Produce is a home and office delivery service focusing on "ugly" fruits and vegetables, which will otherwise go to waste on farms.
  • Sustainable Maryland is a certification program by the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League for municipalities that promote greenery, saving, and sustainability. 

Food Waste Hauling and Recovering Companies

Inclusion on this list does not constitute endorsement by the Department. Please be sure to contact the company for information or clarification about the services offered, hours of operation, specific requirements, and current charges.  To have your business listed please email the Department.

Grocery Stores That Collect Food Scraps And/or Have Food Donation Programs

Inclusion on this list does not constitute endorsement by the Department. Please be sure to contact the company for information or clarification about the services offered, hours of operation, specific requirements, and current charges.  To have your business listed please email the Department.

 Documents and Resources

  • Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction brochure
  • MD Recycles provides a list of recycling and donating companies in Maryland.
  • ReFED is a data-driven guide for businesses, government, funders, and nonprofits to reduce food waste at scale together. 



  Contact Information

For additional information, please contact The Resource Management Program at 410-537-3314 or by email.​​

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