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 residuals reduction in Maryland. In 2021, the Maryland General Assembly passed H​ouse 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, food for people, animal feed, and recycle non-edible food residuals. The focus is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases 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.​


Join MDE during Food Waste Prevention Week for a series of lunchtime webinars where we discuss issues about the problem of wasted food and strategies for making sure we feed people before we feed landfills. Each webinar will be 1 hour from 11:00am to 12:00pm Monday through Friday. If you have an interest in wasted food and food equity, please join us. It's FREE! 

Food Waste Prevention Week Webinars  
Monday - Friday, April 1st - 5th · 11:00am – 12:00pm
Time zone: America/New_York
Google Meet joining info
Video call link:
Or dial: ‪(US) +1 601-680-7212‬ PIN: ‪879 415 622‬#

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Food Waste Prevention Week Webinar Recordings
April, 1, 2024
Connecting People with Recovered Food


Morgan Crull, Senior Program Manager, Food Resources, Manna ​Food Center

Caroline Howe, Food Policy Director, DC Office of Planning

Stephanie Lansing, Ph.D., Professor & Director of the Bioenergy and Biotechnology Laboratory

Department of Environmental Science & Technology, University of Maryland, College Park


Sydney Daigle, Food and Agriculture Regional Member Policy Committee Consultant

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

Slide Decks from Food Summit 2024, held on March 19, 2024 are now available here

On January 1, 2024, the provision of the Food Residual Diversion law and regulation for production of food residuals 2-ton​s or greater per week was​ reduced to 1-ton or greater per week. Use the MDE Assessment Guide [ESP] to determine applicability of this law/regulation  
Food Residual Diversion Waiver Application - this is a link to the waiver application and instructions for Maryland's Food Residual Diversion law. 

MDE's Business Recycling Reporting Survey [online] [PDF] is now available for MD businesses to report their annual recycling totals. Businesses that are required to divert their food residuals are mandated to report on all forms of recycling and solid waste. Use this guide on how and why to submit.

​On January 10th, 2024 MDE held a webinar introducing the new Online Annual Business Recycling Report. This webinar reviewed the reporting requirements and gave instructions on accessing, completing, and submitting the annual report. You can view the webinar HERE.

Food Residuals Diversion Regulations (COMAR 26.04.13)

On December 06, 2022, the Secretary of the Environment adopted new regulations under Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 26.04.13 Food Residuals - Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion. The regulations implement House Bill 264/Senate Bill 483 of 2021, and establish certain regulatory conditions for persons required to divert food residuals from final disposal in a refuse disposal system. The new regulations became effective on December 26, 2022.


The following are helpful documents regarding the regulations:

​On January 10th, 2024 MDE held a webinar introducing the new Online Annual Business Recyc​ling Report. This webinar reviewed the reporting requirements and gave instructions on accessing, completing, and submitting the annual report. You can view the webinar HERE.

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

In 2021, approximately 1,060,014 tons of food scraps were generated in Maryland, and 819,846 tons were disposed of in landfills and incinerators. Only 240,168 tons were recycled at organic recycling facilities such as composters and anaerobic digesters or diverted for animal feed.

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 scraps 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 scraps 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 scraps 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 / E​SP]​ that describes the entities that may ​​be required to divert their food residuals under the law.
    • Presentation and Recording from January 19, 2023 Webinar COMAR 26.04.13 Food Residuals-Organics Recycling and Waste Diversion.

  • 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.  MDE recognizes that schools have a variety of food needs, and while the industry sector estimates provide one estimate. Find the recently released Waste Audit for Schools here.

  • What documentation should be maintained at your facility?
    • ​​​To maintain compliance with the law, the Department developed a sample list of items to be maintained on-site for ANY facility where food residuals are generated. See "Appendix A" in " Determination of Applicability of the Food Residuals Diversion Requirement" ENG /ESP

  • Waivers application information
    • ​​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. 
    • Application for Requesting a Waiver from the Food Residuals Diversion Requirements

Waiver Process​

The law allows MDE to grant a waiver from the law for a period of up to one year if the Department determines that achieving compliance would present an undue hardship or other reasonable circumstances as approved by the Department or a person generates food residuals identified as a biosecurity or food safety concern. Waiver requirements are detailed in
 COMAR 26.​​04.13.04​ and summarized on this application.

Persons Granted Food Residuals Waiver

When did the law become effective?
The law was passed on May 30, 2021 and went 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.

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 combina​tion of the following methods.​
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Prevent and reduce the amount of food that’s wasted.​

Food​​​ for Pe​ople​:

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Edible food that would otherwise​​ become wast​e can be rescued for do​nation to people. ​​When donating food, it is important to remember that the donation is for human consumption and needs to be handled accordingly. If food looks or smells bad, is moldy, or has damaged packaging do not donate it – recycle it!

MDE has coordinated with food recovery organizations and developed the following food donation guide in support of Food Residual Diversion.  If you are a food recovery organization and would like to be listed as a donation accepting facility – please let us know​.​

  • Gleaning:

    • The collection of excess fresh produce from farms, farmers markets, and other agricultural operations.

    • For more information, see the US Department of Agriculture's Gleaning Toolkit.​​​

​Feed fo​​r Anima​​ls:​​

Animal feed is regulated by the State Chemist Section, Maryland Department of Agriculture by registration, inspection, sampling, and laboratory analysis. The Maryland Commercial Feed Law (Agricultural Article, Title 6, Subtitle 1) contains the statutory authority for the regulation of animal feed.
Swine Health Protection Act (SHPA, 9 CFR Part 166) was implemented in 1982 to protect swine from being fed untreated garbage. Untreated garbage, which is defined in (a) of §166.2, is a hazard that can contain disease organisms that are infections or communicable to animals.
Facilities that treat garbage that is to be fed to swine have to be licensed by the USDA, and meet certain requirements (9 CFR Part 166, various parts). Maryland Department of Agriculture's Animal health program has published statutes and regulations regarding this (Agricultural Article, Title 3, Subtitle 4).

Organics Recycling:

Food recycling supports the productive use of inedible food residuals and includes off-site or on-site management systems including composting, vermicomposting and other biological systems, and energy production through anaerobic digestion. The following identify the various methods that may be utilized to recycle food residuals​.  Note, that for any distribution or sale of compost, soil amendment, or fertilizer in the state, contact the Maryland Department of Agriculture's State Chemist office on the legal requirements.

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 below to be taken to the online interactive map.

​​recycling interactive map.png
​All organic recycling facilities displayed on this map process food residuals.​

Permitted Facility – A facility that is
required to have a MD State Composting Permit (generally a facility ​that is larger than 5,0​00 sq. feet in size). A Tier 2 permitted facility is one that composts food scraps.

Non-Permitted Facility – A facility that is not required to have a MD State Composting Permit (generally a facility smaller than 5,000 sq. feet)

For a full explanation of exemptions
from permitting requirements, please ​​refer HERE.

Visit MDE’s Composting webpage for more information.

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.

Food Recovery and Donation
Organizations that assist with donations of foods, or provide outlets for donated foods 

Food Scrap Haulers:

The following businesses offer food residuals collection and transportation services.​


Organizations that assist with sustainability: source reduction, recovery, planning, education, etc.

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

MDE Publi​​cations:​

For Educato​rs:

Resources for educators on the topic of food residual​s ​ diversion.


​​Federal Grants Database Centralizes Funding Opportunities
While government funding is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to finding funding for food waste initiatives, it's an increasingly valuable resource for organizations. Several U.S. agencies have programs and grants that organizations can take advantage of, but there hasn't been a central location to view those opportunities – until now.

The Federal Grants Database – created by ReFED in partnership with NRDC – is a brand new resource that presents relevant funding opportunities in a dynamic, easy-to-use table. In it, you'll find:

· Grant name, description, and agency that it's associated with
· Eligibility criteria
· Program and application links
· Application due dates and status

· Minimum and maximum grant amounts


The EPA has selected 25 communities to receive grants totaling more than $73 million under the newly created Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling funding opportunity through the Bipartisan Infrastructure law. In addition, the agency is making available approximately $32 million for states and territories to improve solid waste management planning, data collection and implementation of plans. The grants support the implementation of EPA's National Recycling Strategy to build an economy devoted to keeping materials, products, and services in circulation for as long as possible – what's known as a “circular economy."

  • Maryland's approved workplan summary can be found here
  • Baltimore's approved summary can be found here

Maryland's approve workplan will perform a statewide organics assessment and a circular economy and reuse market assessment. An outline of the key components MDE is analyzing along with required outcomes can be found here. If you would like to participate in any of the stakeholder engagement meetings or have data to submit in support of the workplan, please send an email to lma.wdd [at] In your email, provide your name, affiliation and the specific interest in this project.

Maryland Legisla​tion and Reports​​​

MDE Hosted Food Summits


Visit the Food Summit dedicated webpage to learn about current programming and previous
year events, he​re.​

​​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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