Guide: How to reduce and collect food waste

To ensure organic waste reduction and diversion from disposal either reduce the amount of organic waste that is being generated, donate servable food, send the food scraps to animal feed, compost food waste, or send organic waste to an anaerobic digester.
Not all these options will work for every business while some organizations should consider a combination of options. The below suggestions consider follow a philosophy outlined in the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy.

Food Waste Audit

The first thing all businesses producing food waste should do is conduct a waste audit. Knowing how much, what type, and generation points of food waste is vital to creating a long-term sustainable food waste collection program. Depending on your business, a simple visual waste audit may do but others may require a detailed waste composition study.
Source Reduction of Food Waste
Armed with the results of your waste audit, next ask yourself ‘do we need to throw all this organic waste away?’ and work with stakeholders to brainstorm and test food waste reduction solutions from food production and consumption. Organic waste is often characterized as pre-consumer food waste and post-consumer food waste.

Collecting Food Waste

Food waste collection methods may vary between pre-consumer and post-consumer. Regardless of your method, education is vital to success but shall also take different forms for pre- and post-. When looking at pre-consumer food waste, work closely with food staff to create a wasteflow that aligns with their workflow and conduct regular in-person training. For post-consumer food waste, be mindful of the recycling containers you buy. Purchase trash containers with a consistent strategy across your public spaces. Use labeling, restrictive openings, color codes, sizing, and placement to encourage proper waste separation by guests.

Feed Hungry People

If edible food waste is inevitable then the next best thing to do is donate it to those in need. Rules for donating food vary. Resources such as are helpful in familiarizing yourself with applicable rules and donation methods. A growing number of food donation apps are being created, such as Meal Connect, which make the process very easy.

Hauling to Feed Animals

You may be able to donate organic scraps to farmers to feed animals depending on the composition of your food waste and geographic location. Learn more by contacting your local solid waste or public health agency for information on what types of food scraps are permitted.
Hauling to a Composting or Anaerobic Digestion Facility
Composting is an aerobic process that turns organic waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, while anaerobic digestion is an oxygen-free process that produces biogas as a byproduct that can be burned for energy. Research waste disposal companies in your area that haul organic waste to see what options are available. If you produce enough organic material, you may be able to establish a contract directly with the processing facility.

Onsite Composting or Digestion Technology

You may wish to process all or some of your organic waste onsite. This is a great option for certain businesses. If you have small enough volumes of the right organic material, you may be able to set up your own
compost pile or tumbler.
However, many other advanced technologies now exist for processing hundreds to thousands of pounds of food waste onsite each day. If you are considering on-site processing, consider a variety of technology options keeping in mind that they might not all be good options. Each requires certain parameters and commitments to make them successful.

Here is a quick synopsis of the types of food waste processing technology out there.

  • In-vessel Composters: These machines use heat, constant turning, and air exchange to accelerate the composting process in a container. They produce the most nutrient-rich byproduct but require the most significant operational commitment. Some models come in a variety of sizes to meet your specific volumes.
  • Food Waste Digesters: These machines rapidly break down food waste to reduce its volume. Some may produce a soil amendment byproduct, while others discharge the byproduct into the sanitary drain. These machines are the most cost-effective but have less of a positive environmental impact. They come in various sizes, with many modeled to fit inside your kitchen or dishwashing room.
  • Biogas Digesters: These machines use anaerobic digestion to break down significant volumes of food waste to produce biogas that can be scrubbed and burned onsite. These machines make the most sense for businesses such as bakeries that consume a great deal of natural gas in their ovens. These machines have the highest upfront investment but can reap the largest financial returns.


Reduction In Motion is a certified small business who has been helping companies make sustainability possible since 2002. We are a waste and sustainability consulting firm who offers a wide range of services and can help you with anything we’ve laid out here in this blog.
We love talking trash and offer free consultations, so contact us to start reducing food waste!