Organics recycling for businesses and organizations

Hennepin County approved a revised recycling ordinance on November 27, 2018 that includes new recycling requirements for businesses. See food waste recycling requirements for businesses for more information.

Implementing organics recycling programs allows businesses, organizations and schools to expand their recycling programs, ease their burden on the environment, potentially reduce taxes and fees on 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, soiled paper and compostable foodservice ware is recycled into compost, a valuable soil amendment
  • Food to people: donate edible food to organizations that help people in need
  • Food to animals: food scraps are processed into feed for livestock
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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. This threshold was selected because large generators of organics are likely to break even or even save money when implementing food waste recycling.

Summary of requirements for businesses

Requirement would apply 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.

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. Learn more about grant funding and assistance and free signs available.

Covered sectors

Requirement would 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.

Organics recycling for composting

In an organics composting program, all food scraps, soiled paper, food-service items and certified compostable plastic foodware 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

See our organics recycling at work guide (PDF) for a list of the most commonly accepted materials.

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

Organics recycling for composting drop-off

Hennepin County drop-off facilities in Brooklyn Park and South Hennepin (Bloomington): limit of five bags per person per day; accepted Tuesday through Saturday.

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 most:

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  • Unpackaged spoiled or outdated food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

Note: Some food-to-animals programs cannot accept meat or coffee grounds.


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: St. Francis, MN; 763-444-7447
  • No Rest Ranch: Cambridge, MN: 763-689-4615
  • Second Harvest Farms: Cedar, MN; 763-434-9044
  • Second Harvest Farms (North): Isanti, MN; 763-286-5557

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 at events

Containers are available for reservation for use at events. 

  • Events using Hennepin County’s event recycling containers can arrange to drop off more than five bags of organics at Hennepin County's Drop off Facilities in Brooklyn Park and South Hennepin (Bloomington).

Learn more about Hennepin County Drop off Facilities and what they accept here

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.

Certification for compostable plastics

Look for the labelBiodegradable Products Institute 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!

Local vendors of compostable plastic bags and foodservice ware

Vendor Products
Advance Sales
Eric Jensen/Dan Gerhard
Greenware® cups, lids, containers
GenPak Harvest® Fiber and Paper bowls, plates, cups and containers
Natur-Tec® bags
Aset Supply and Paper
Bob Taubman/Jae Johnson
Indaco Bag to Nature™ bags
BioTuf® bags
Ecotainer™ products
Eco-Products® products
Greenware® products
Maria McCarthy

Primeware® clamshells, trays, bowls, containers, hot cups and lids, cutlery

Bare® by Solo® plates, cups, lids, containers

GenPak Harvest® Fiber plates, bowls, cups, lids and containers

Greenware® cold cups and lids, containers, and portion cups

Cortec Corporation
Jay Zhang
651-429-1100 ext. 1150
Eco Works® and Eco Film® bags
Simon Hefty
612-607-5704 / 651-329-8935(c)
Heritage Bio-Tuf® and BioBag® bags
World Centric and Eco-Products® cups, containers, plates, bowls, straws, utensils, straws
Northern Technologies
Lisa Ruedy
Natur-Tec® bags
Natur-Tec® cutlery
Plastic Bagmart
Mark Greenstein

Eco-Safe bags
Organix Solutions
Emilee Metcalf
Blue Bag organics bags
Green Bag Organix bags
Jason Whelan
Renewables™ cups, sporks
Danny Mishek
 SelfEco Caterware- drinkware, plates, bowls, food cups, cutlery 
Sysco MN
Dee Ann Bischel
Heritage Bio-Tuf® bags
Greenware® cups, lids, containers
Eco-Products® cups, plates, bowls, containers, straws
Up Coffee Roasters
Kevin Selig

Green Wave clamshells
Vegware bowls
Ecotainer™ cups

Bare® by Solo® Eco-Forward® cups
BioBag® bags

State contract for purchasing compostable plastic bags

All public entities in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as certain tax-exempt, non-profit entities and charitable organizations can purchase compostable plastic bags through a state contract.

To purchase compostable plastic bags through the state contract, you must be a member of the Cooperative Purchasing Venture (CPV). There is no cost to be a member.

Contract B-351(5) can be accessed through the Minnesota Department of Administration by calling 651-296-2600.

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 for composting programs.

  • Businesses and organizations — Get grants for recycling containers and supplies, container signage and free assistance.
  • Schools — Get grants, container signage and free assistance for both private and public schools.
  • Multifamily buildings — Resources for property owners, including container signage and educational information for your residents.
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