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 our guide on how to start organics recycling at work (DOCX).

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Food waste recycling requirements for businesses

Summary of requirements for businesses

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 must have food waste recycling in place

To be compliant with the 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 applies 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.


Request forms

Request a variance by submitting a variance request form (DOCX). A site visit may be required by Hennepin County staff to complete the review of your request. 

To apply for approval of a food waste recycling management method not included in Ordinance 13, complete the additional beneficial use application form (DOCX). 

Food to people

Donate unserved, prepared food to hunger-relief agencies in our community.

How to get started

Second Harvest Heartland offers MealConnect, an innovative online platform that gives caterers, special event centers, restaurants, corporate cafeterias and other commercial food preparers a convenient, free and safe way to donate food.

Donations are either collected directly by the receiving organization or delivered by a trained volunteer. Learn more from Second Harvest and check out the MealConnect platform.

Why donate?

Donating food 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.

The federal tax code allows a deduction for donated food. Contact your tax professional to determine its application to your business.

Food donors are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act. Organizations that donate food in good faith to a nonprofit are not subject to liability on the condition of the food.

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.

Accepted items at food-to-animals organics recycling programs

  • 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:

Barthold Recycling

Second Harvest Farms (North)

  • Isanti, MN
  • 763-434-9044

No Rest Ranch

  • Cambridge, MN
  • 763-689-4615

Information about materials


  • 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

Not accepted

  • Non-edible products, such as coffee grounds, plastic, paper, and cardboard

Plan your new program with our guide to starting organics recycling at work (DOCX).

Share information with your employees using this article on food-to-animals (DOCX)

Food-to-animal feed manufacturing

ReConserve Inc.

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.

Contact Rick Cook at 651-438-7618 or by email at

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.

Due to concerns about levels of contamination - or materials that don't belong in the organics recycling - that compost facilities receive, possible changes are being considered to organics recycling programs. Learn more in the reducing contamination section below.

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 (PDF).

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

Dick's Sanitation

LePage & Sons

  • 763-757-7100

Randy's Environmental Services

  • Dave Hepfl

Republic Services

Sanimax – Organics

  • Andy Barnaal

Waste Management

Organics composting facilities

Reducing contamination in organics recycling for composting

Possible changes to organics recycling programs are being explored

You may recently have received notice from your hauler that there have been changes to your organics recycling program. This was a miscommunication. At this time, no changes have been made to the materials accepted in organics recycling programs. 

The county is working with composting facilities, haulers, and cities to reduce the amount of contamination, or materials that don’t belong in the organics recycling, that they receive. It’s likely that there will be changes to organics recycling programs later this year to address contamination.

We will post updates here about changes to organics recycling programs.

Reducing contamination is necessary for the sustainability of organics recycling programs

For composting sites and organics recycling programs to be sustainable, composters must receive organics with very low levels of contamination so they can produce clean, nutrient-rich compost that people want to purchase and use. Compost that contains plastic, glass, and other contaminants is very difficult to sell and can only be used for low-end, low-value purposes.

For some time, there has been a growing concern at the local organics composting facilities about the amount of contamination in the organics they receive. Changes in their operations due to COVID-19 have heightened these concerns. Typically, staff at the compost facilities do some manual sorting of the organics when they are delivered to remove contaminants. Due to COVID-19, staff at the compost sites are no longer manually sorting the organics, meaning more contamination is getting into the composting process and ending up in their finished compost.

The county is working with commercial composting facilities in the metro area to reduce the amount of contamination, or materials that don’t belong in the organics recycling, that they receive.

What contributes to contamination

The county has worked with many businesses, organizations, and schools on starting, improving, and troubleshooting organics recycling programs. From our experience, we have learned that higher levels of contamination tend to happen in the following situations:

  • When collecting organics in front-of-house areas from the public or customers. Customers and the general public often find it confusing or don’t take the time to properly sort food and foodservice packaging.
  • When there are items available that are not compostable or reusable in employee common areas. For example, items like plastic utensils, individual creamers, and individual coffee packets in breakrooms.
  • When enthusiasm and involvement from champions and leaders fades. Without support, people don’t tend to get as much training or reminders, causing buy-in knowledge of how to properly sort to decline.
  • When employees are not aware of their recycling or composting options or are not motivated to care about sorting their waste.

What you can do to reduce contamination

Taking the following steps to ensure that the organics recycling collected at your business, organization, or school is clean and free of contamination.

Simplify your waste stream

Simplify your waste stream so that everything served is reusable or compostable. For in-house dining, it is best to use reusable dishes, cups, and utensils. If you are using disposal products, make sure that all of your serving containers, dishes, utensils, cups, and containers are BPI certified compostable so that all waste can go in the organics recycling container.

Assess all items available

Assess all of the items in common areas and breakrooms for staff and make sure they are reusable or compostable. As much as possible, eliminate things like non-compostable plastic utensils and individual coffee creamers. Offer reusable options or things like cream and sugar in bulk.

Make regular training mandatory

Make regular training on waste sorting mandatory. Offer training when onboarding new staff, and require current staff be trained twice per year.

Offer regular training to cleaning and janitorial staff on how to properly sort waste and how to properly empty waste into dumpsters.

Place clearly labeled bins together

Place bins for recycling, trash, and organics recycling together. Make sure waste bins are labeled, that labels are placed properly so they are visible to the users, and that waste bins are lined up with any signage hung on the walls.

Control access to dumpsters

Depending on the location of your dumpsters, consider controlling access to prevent unwanted dumping.

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.

Businesses and organizations

Get grants for recycling containers and supplies, container signage and free assistance. Learn about business recycling grants.

  • Request assistance
  • Order free recycling, organics recycling, and trash signs
    Please note that due to efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Hennepin County is unable to fulfill orders of business recycling resources until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.  Please sign up for our Recycling at Work newsletter to stay informed about when these resources will be available again. 


Get grants, container signage and free assistance for both private and public schools. Learn more about school recycling help.

Apartment, condo and townhouse recycling

Resources for property owners, including container signage and educational information for your residents. Learn about apartment recycling help.

Education and training resources

Spread the word! Use the following resources to promote your new organics recycling program and train staff and tenants about how to sort waste.

Training materials


Organics recycling for composting training video

Food-to-animals training video

Article templates

Ordinance required documentation

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