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Zero Food Waste Coalition

Section 1

Building and Broadening Organic Waste Bans and Beyond

This page contains a summarized version of this toolkit section. Detailed information about model policy components and federal law, state examples, and model legislation is available in the PDF linked above.

This section introduces policies to eliminate food waste from landfills. These policies include organic waste bans and mandatory organics recycling laws, food donation requirements, mandatory reporting laws that require entities to report on food waste generation to help develop data to support organic waste bans or planning for recycling infrastructure, and disposal surcharge fees that raise revenue for food waste diversion efforts like organic waste bans.

Model State Policies

  • Organic Waste Bans

    Organic waste bans are a category of laws and regulatory requirements that restrict the amount of organic waste or food waste that can be disposed of in landfills or incinerators and/or require that food waste generators divert organic waste. Organic waste bans are one of the most effective tools policymakers have at their disposal to change the way businesses and consumers manage and value their organic waste. State government studies show that the benefits of waste bans include job creation and emissions reduction. In general, a successful state organic waste ban should:

    • Apply a tiered and phased-in approach
    • Grant only limited waivers and exemptions, if at all
    • Delegate implementation, specify enforcement authority, and promote outreach to generators
    • Provide grants for food waste reduction efforts
  • Food Donation Requirements

    As the name suggests, food donation requirements mandate that certain generators of surplus food redirect safe food to people or other recovery and recycling pathways rather than disposal. Mandating food donation is hugely impactful not only for diverting waste from disposal and incineration, but also for feeding people, supporting food rescue, and changing the culture around food waste. That said, donation requirements are complicated to implement and require significant effort and funding, particularly to build up food rescue capacity. While growing globally, food donation requirements are still novel policies in the United States. Despite the newness of these policies, best practices are emerging, and future food donation requirements should:

    • Require donation of food that meets health and safety requirements and recycling of any remaining food scraps
    • Apply a tiered and phased-in approach
    • Perform capacity planning and provide grants for food recovery organizations
    • Promote education and outreach
    • Coordinate policy execution with local jurisdictions
    • Monitor and track outcomes
  • Mandatory Reporting Laws

    Measurement is necessary for management, and food loss and waste is currently under-measured. This impacts states’ ability to understand and address the issue through policies like organic waste bans or donation requirements. A statewide mandatory reporting law would require large businesses and organizations to report the amount of surplus food and food waste that they generate. A successful mandatory reporting law should incorporate the following best practices:

    • Limiting covered entities
    • Requiring sufficient detail to meet needs
    • Giving flexible methods for quantification and offer support
    • Educating covered entities and provide compliance assistance
  • Disposal Surcharge Fees

    Used in many states for decades, disposal surcharge fees (sometimes referred to as landfill taxes) are a per-ton fee added by the government to the tipping fees charged at waste disposal sites, such as landfills and incinerators. While each disposal surcharge and its impact on food waste diversion will necessarily vary depending on a state’s needs, best practices include:

    • Committing funds to food waste prevention and diversion efforts
    • Investing money back into local communities
    • Revisiting fees periodically