Credit: Photo: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

This aerial photo of the Crow Wing County Landfill shows the spray application of treated leachate on the compost area, on the landfill crown. About 620,000 gallons of leachate were applied to this area in 2005.

Credit: Photo: Portland Bureau of Maintenance

A Portland, Ore., worker pushes leaves to the end of a city block for pick-up. Leaves are then are moved to the recycling facility by dump truck.
More Than Just Yard Waste

“Concurrent with states establishing bans was adoption of a regulatory approach by states that made it fairly easy for municipalities and private operators to start yard trimmings composting sites,” said Nora Goldstein, executive editor of Bio-Cycle, based in Emmaus, Pa. “Typically, facilities handling only green waste fractions can operate under a Permit-By-Rule status, which in some cases simply requires a notification to the state regulatory agency, along with following basic guidelines for water quality protection and not creating local nuisances.”

But many municipalities also are looking at recycling or composting food waste. Food residuals and nonrecyclable or soiled paper can account for up to 35% of the municipal solid waste stream. California is a leader in establishing food residuals diversion programs—initially from commercial and institutional generators. This is the only state that has a mandatory diversion goal that also involves financial penalties for not complying. “Hundreds of grocery stores in California participate in food residuals diversion programs, as do restaurants, hotels, prepared food processors, and others,” said Goldstein.

In most cases, the food residuals stream is added to an existing yard trimmings composting operation. Composting sites typically fall into a more restrictive regulatory category when they start processing food residuals, unless the volumes are fairly small in comparison to the quantity of yard trimmings processed.

“In North America, Canadian municipalities have taken the lead in offering food residuals collection to households,” said Goldstein. “The province of Nova Scotia has the most comprehensive program roll-out, with almost every jurisdiction providing collection or drop off of residential food residuals and soiled and nonrecyclable paper (such as waxed corrugated). An increasing number of municipalities in Ontario also are rolling out source-separated organics composting programs,” she said. The typical model is a three-stream collection program, divided into recyclables, organics, and trash.

BioCycle estimates there are about 50 composting facilities in the country that handle large volumes of food residuals,” said Goldstein. By large volumes, she estimates these facilities handle more than 50 tons per day of food waste, soiled paper, and waxed corrugated paper. “There are probably another 50 or so that take smaller quantities,” she said.

For more information, visit:

Association of Municipal Recycling

National Solid Waste Management

Solid Waste Association of North America