Organics recycling for businesses and organizations

Implementing organics recycling programs allows businesses, organizations and schools to expand their recycling programs, ease their burden on the environment, reduce taxes waste disposal, and show customers that they care about the community.

Businesses, organizations and schools have three main options for recycling organic waste:

  • Organics recycling for composting: food waste, unlined paper and certified compostable foodservice ware is recycled into compost, a valuable soil amendment
  • Food to people: edible food is donated to organizations that help people in need
  • Food to animals: food scraps are processed into feed for livestock

Plan your new program with the How to Start Organics Recycling at Work guide (DOCX)

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Food waste recycling requirements for businesses

Hennepin County revised its recycling ordinance on November 27, 2018 to include new recycling requirements. Businesses that generate large quantities of food waste, such as restaurants, hotels, grocers, residential care facilities, and office buildings with dining services, must implement food waste recycling by January 1, 2020. This requirement applies to businesses in the covered sectors that generate one ton of trash or more per week or contract for weekly collection of eight or more cubic yards of trash.

Summary of requirements for businesses

The requirement applies to certain businesses (see the list of covered sectors below) that generate one ton of trash per week or contract for eight cubic yards or more of trash per week.

View the How to Comply Guide (PDF) for more information. 

To be in compliance with the proposed requirements, businesses must:

  • Have food waste recycling service in place.
  • Provide food waste collection containers back-of-house and properly label them.
  • Separate food waste from trash in back-of-house operations. Organics recycling is not required in front-of-house operations
  • Provide education and train employees annually.

The county also added new requirements for businesses to improve conventional recycling that add service level standards and labeling requirements.

The county will have the authority to enforce these requirements, including the ability to issue warnings or citations for noncompliance. The county provides resources to assist businesses in meeting these requirements.

Covered sectors

Requirement will apply to businesses (including commercial businesses, nonprofits and public entities) in the following sectors

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores
  • Food wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Sports venues
  • Event centers
  • Caterers
  • Nursing and residential care facilities
  • Office buildings with dining services;
  • Farmers markets
  • Food shelves and food banks
  • Colleges and universities with dining services
  • Shopping centers
  • Airports
  • Golf clubs and country clubs
  • Rental kitchens or shared use commercial kitchens.

The county board may annually designate by resolution additional business classifications.


Food to people

Help your community and environment

Donating surplus prepared food helps local hunger-relief agencies serve those in need, including many children and seniors.
Donating food also helps the environment by preventing waste. When food is wasted, the water, energy, fertilizer and cropland that went into producing the food is wasted, too.

You are protected from liability

Food donors are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act, which was passed into federal law in 1996. Organizations that donate food in good faith to a nonprofit for distribution to needy individuals are not subject to civil or criminal liability that arises from the condition of the food.

Save money on your taxes

The federal tax code allows a deduction for donated food. Eligible businesses can deduct the lesser of either (a) twice the cost of acquiring the donated food or (b) the cost of acquiring the donated food, plus one-half of the food’s expected profit margin, if it were sold at its fair market value. Contact your tax professional to determine its application to your business.

How to get started

1. Identify foods you can donate

Licensed food establishments can donate food that has not been served (e.g., leftover food from a buffet may not be donated). Hunger-relief organizations are most in need of entrees, soups, sandwiches, yogurt parfaits and other healthy, prepared foods. Review these food donation guidelines (PDF) to understand how to keep the food safe. Use a log sheet (DOCX) to track how donated food is handled.

2. Find an organization that will take your food

Call a hunger-relief organization and let them know what you have and the quantity. The recipient organization must have a food license. The following organizations are a good place to start:

  • Sharing and Caring Hands, 525 N 7th St, Minneapolis, 612-338-4640
  • Peace House Community, 1816 Portland Ave S, Minneapolis, 612-870-7263
  • Community Bridge, 2400 Park Ave S, Minneapolis, 612-746-4108

3. Arrange for delivery of the food

Talk to your staff about donating food. Some of the food establishments that donate food have found an employee who champions the effort and will volunteer to deliver the food.
Hennepin County has trained volunteers who will come to your location and transport your food to a hunger-relief agency. To learn more, contact Nancy Lo at 612-348-9195.

4. Get recognized for your efforts

Join industry leaders such as Eastside Food Co-op, Lunds & Byerlys and Gastrotruck to be recognized as a Hennepin County Environmental Partner. Partners that donate edible food receive a window decal, a listing in the directory and resources to help you communicate to your customers that you care about the community.

Food to animals

Food that is no longer safe for people to eat can still find a use. By contracting with a farmer or recycler, your food waste will be hauled away and processed into animal feed.

Food-to-animals organics recycling programs accept:

  • Food prep waste
  • Plate waste
  • Unpackaged spoiled or outdated food
  • Unpackaged frozen food


Local farms collect your food scraps on-site. Before being fed to livestock, food scraps are cooked and processed to eliminate harmful bacteria.

For collection ease, the farms provide businesses with lined plastic carts on wheels that they wash out and re-line after pick-up. Pick-up is offered up to six times a week.

The following farms provide food-to-livestock programs:

Materials accepted

Accepted materials are unpackaged produce, meat or meat fat trimmings, prep food trimmings, food scraps, cooled grease or cooking oil, unpackaged dairy products (meat, cheese, eggs, eggshells, etc.), unpackaged spoiled or dated food, fish or fish by-products (shells, peels), unpackaged frozen foods.  Non-edible products are not accepted, such as coffee grounds, plastic, paper, and cardboard.

Food-to-animal feed manufacturing

ReConserve collects and processes bakery goods and food by-products to produce nutritious livestock feed ingredients. Collected food waste is delivered to a manufacturing plant in Rosemount, Minnesota where it is processed into various feed products and then sold and shipped to livestock producers.

ReConserve supplies on-site collection equipment and services their customers with company-owned trucks 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Organics recycling for composting

In an organics composting program, all food scraps, unlined paper, and certified compostable products are placed in a single container. A hauler picks up the waste and delivers it to a composting facility. After six to nine months, the material has been recycled into compost that is put to good use in landscaping and road construction projects.

Finished compost is an organic-rich soil amendment that is used to improve soils, prevent soil erosion and runoff, and capture carbon dioxide for climate protection.


Materials accepted

Acceptable materials are all food products (fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy), unlined food-soiled paper (napkins, paper towels and egg cartons), other compostable items like coffee grounds and toothpicks, and certified compostable foodware (paper and plastic cups, bowls, utensils). These materials are often collected in a certified compostable bag.

Compostable bags and foodservice ware

As part of your organics recycling program, you may be interested in using disposable foodservice ware that is compostable or collecting organic waste in compostable plastic bags. If you are using these items, you will want to make sure that the materials are certified as compostable.

Find a local vendor of compostable products (DOCX)

Certification for compostable plastics

Look for the label

The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) is the North American certifying body for compostable plastics. Look for the BPI logo on the products you purchase. You can also check to see whether a product meets the BPI standards for compostability at

Ask questions

When purchasing products, be sure to ask if what you are buying is certified compostable. Don’t be fooled by products marketed as “degradable”, “biodegradable”, or “made from plants”. Also, some companies that offer BPI certified products may also offer non-compostable products that look similar. Be sure to check to ensure you are buying what you intend to buy!

Commercial organics for composting haulers

The following haulers collect organics for composting in Hennepin County. This list was last updated December 2017.

  • Aspen Waste Systems: Tom Heuer, 612-884-8000
  • Dick's Sanitation: Jeff Weast, 612-849-8875,
  • LePage & Sons: 763-757-7100
  • Randy's Environmental Services: Dave Hepfl, 763-972-4123
  • Republic Services: Ray Donnelly, 952-946-5255,
  • Sanimax - Organics: Andy Barnaal, 651-451-6858
  • Waste Management:

Organics composting facilities

Grants, signs and assistance

Hennepin County has free assistance, signage and grant funding available for businesses, organizations and schools interested in starting or improving organics recycling programs.

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