Solid Waste Management - Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion - Food Residuals

Food is a valuable resource. Wasting edible and inedible food also wastes the water, energy, labor, pesticides, fertilizers, and land used to make and transport the food. Below are resources to learn more about food waste reduction in Maryland. In 2021, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 264/Senate Bill 483 entitled Solid Waste Management – Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion – Food Residuals, which requires certain entities that generate food residuals to separate the food residuals from other solid waste and ensure that the food residuals are diverted from final disposal in refuse disposal systems. The law follows the traditional food recovery hierarchy - prevent waste before it occurs, feed people, feed animals, and recycle non-edible food residuals. The focus is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from landfills; provide edible food to people at a free or lower cost; and improve Maryland's soils. The law does not require food diversion for private residences.​


Presentation from October 4, 2022 Webinar "Does Maryland's Food Residuals Diversion Law Apply to Me?​ (new)

Proposed Regulations

On September 23, 2022, the Maryland Department of the Environment published a regulatory proposal to establish new regulations under Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 26.04.13 Food Residuals - Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion​. The purpose of the proposed regulations is to implement House Bill 264/Senate Bill 483 of 2021, and to establish certain regulatory conditions for persons required to divert food residuals from final disposal in a refuse disposal system.

Please visit the Department’s Proposed Land Regulations webpage to access copies of:
  • ​The Notice of Proposed Action published in the Maryland Register summarizing the proposed regulatory changes and their estimated economic impact; and
  • MDE developed this Compliance Guide describing how a small business can comply with the new requirements if the proposed regulations are adopted and become effective.
The public comment period for the proposed regulations is closed.  MDE is currently reviewing the comments received. 

Why is it impor​tant to reduce the amount of wasted food?​​

​In 2020, approximately 774,400 tons of food waste was disposed of in Maryland in landfills and incinerators. Only 167,200 tons were recycled at organic recycling facilities such as composters and anaerobic digesters. It takes a lot of ​money, water, and energy to produce our nation’s food supply, and by disposing of wasted food into landfills and incinerators, all that money, water and energy is lost. Decomposition of food waste in a landfill leads to the generation of greenhouse gases, such as methane. Methane is one of the chief gases contributing to climate change. In addition, food waste takes up a large amount of space in a landfill, resulting in the filling and closing of landfills at a faster pace. If burned in an incinerator, gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide contribute to increased air pollution. 

Much of the food that is discarded into the waste stream is perfectly fine and edible. This food would best be used to help feed people in need through donations to food rescue organizations or community groups. Excess edible food may also be used for animal feed on farms or in pet food. Other food waste can be sent to an organics recycling facility for composting or anaerobic digestion. This list is just a smattering of reasons why organics recycling is beneficial to the environment.

  • ​Organic waste in landfills generates, methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting wasted food and other organics significantly reduces methane, and anaerobic digesting the material captures methane for beneficial reuse.
  • Compost and digestate reduce and in some cases eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Compost and digestate promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Compost can aide in reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by improving contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Compost may be used to remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste in a cost effective manner.
  • Compost can provide cost savings over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
  • Digestate alleviates soil compaction.
  • Compost and digestate enhance water retention in soils, reducing need for irrigation.
  • Compost provides carbon sequestration.
  • Biogas produced from anaerobic digestion can be used for heat and/or energy generation, or processed into natural gas for use as vehicle fuel.   
(Information on this list was adopted from US Environmental Protection Agency’s webpages on the benefits of composting​ and anaerobic digestion)​​

Who is affected by the food residuals diversion law?​

  • How do you know if this law applies to your facility?
    • MDE has prepared a document called “Determination of Applicability of the Food Residuals Diversion Requirem​ent” [ENG / ESP]​ that describes the entities that may be required to divert their food residuals under the law.

  • How to estimate food residuals quantities (sector estimates)?
    • MDE has prepared a document called “Maryland Food Residual Generation Factor Estimates by Indus​try Sector” [ENG / ESP​] that explains how various industry types can estimate the amount of food residuals they generate.

  • What documentation should be maintained at your facility?
    • ​​​To maintain compliance with this law, the Department is developing a list of documents required to be maintained on-site for any facility where food residuals are generated.

  • Are waivers for the law going to be available?
    • ​​If identified as a person under this law, and it is in your belief that compliance would cause an undue hardship, you may request a waiver from the requirements of the law.
    • To apply for a waiver, provide a written explanation, submitted electronically to the Department, demonstrating an undue hardship on the basis of: the cost of diverting food residuals from a refuse disposal system is more than 10% more expensive than the cost of disposing the food residuals at a refuse disposal system; or other reasonable circumstances. 
Procedures for submitting waivers electronically will be available upon the adoption of the regulations.

Search for food resources in Maryland with Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Food System Map​​.

How do I divert food residuals?​​

Persons subject to the food residuals diversion requirement can divert food residuals from final disposal in a refuse disposal system through any combination of the following methods.​
​​​​​MD Food Recovery Hierarchy.png


Locat​ions of Organics Recyclers​

The Department maintains an interactive map which illustrates known organics recycling facilities in and around Maryland as well as each facility’s 30-mile “buffer”. This map is not intended to identify all locations, nor identify capacity or willingness to accept a person’s food residuals. If you would like your facility to be included on this map, please contact the Department.​
Click the map to be taken to the online interactive map.
recycling interactive map.png

When will this law come into effect?​​

The law was passed on May 30, 2021 and comes into effect beginning January 1, 2023 for persons who generate 2-tons a week of food residuals and on January 1, 2024 persons who generate 1-ton a week.

Food Recovery and Recycling Organizations​​

Note: Any listing of businesses below does not constitute a complete directory of all vendors that provide food recovery services in Maryland, nor does it offer an endorsement by the Department.

​Fact Sheets, Toolkits, and Other Technical Resources​​

​​Contact​ Information​​

For additional information, please contact the Resource Management Program 410-537-3314 or by emailing Tim Kerr or Shannon McDonald.​

Want to stay connected? Signup to receive email notifications about the food residuals diversion law here​!

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