Model Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Programs

Government Programs | Commercial Business | Construction & Demolition/CalGreen | Food Donation Programs | Green Material Ordinances/Bans | Local Jurisdiction Examples of Green/Food Waste | Additional Case Studies (Model Programs)

Government Programs

The City of San Diego hosts a commercial food scrap composting program at the Miramar Greenery. Some of the large venues participating in the program have realized a greater diversion rate and additional cost savings in waste hauling and tipping fees. Participants include the City’s international airport, convention center, baseball stadium, Sea World Park, military facilities, and hotels. A summary of these case studies is featured on the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department’s website.

The City of San Francisco Recycling Program implemented food scrap collection programs at five local schools. The four participating elementary schools diverted a total of 1700 pounds of organic waste per week. The fifth school was able to reduce the number of bins used for collection by 50 percent. With the help of the program’s subcontractor, each of the schools designed a food scrap program that encompassed education, outreach, organics collection for off-site composting, and some vermicomposting. Final report.

The Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works, in partnership with the California Grey Bears and Organic Recyclers Anonymous, set up two Earth Tub™ in-vessel composting systems at the California Grey Bears’ food bank in Santa Cruz. Earth Tubs™ are a mid-scale composting option, appropriate for grocery stores, restaurants, and institutions generating 50 or more pounds of food scraps per day. The program diverted over 11 tons of food scraps from the landfill and it is projected that 28.91 tons could be diverted annually. As an added benefit, the compost that was generated from the Earth Tubs™ was made available for volunteers to use and as a salable item for the facility. Final report.

The City of Indian Wells, in coordination with the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens and EcoNomics, Inc., piloted a food scrap diversion program at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens. Food scraps were collected for off-site composting, and the finished compost was used at the Tennis Gardens. In addition to the Tennis Master Series, the project diverted more than eight tons of food scraps from two additional events. Food Scrap diversion proved to be both feasible and economically viable. Final reportYouTube (00:06:13)

Commercial Business

Grocery Stores

The Safeway Foundation. Hunger relief initiatives focus on the months when the need for food donations is most critical-the summer and the holiday season. Partnering with a local ABC network affiliate and major Bay Area food banks, Safeway also sponsors the Safeway Summer Food Drive, which addresses the needs of children whose primary meal during the school year is lunch.

California Grocers Association. In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties the Food Bank’s Grocery Rescue program saves healthy food and shares it with neighbors in need. The program is a partnership between local grocery retailers, the Food Bank, and the Second Harvest network. Grocery stores share excess product while saving on garbage disposal fees and receiving a tax incentive. Food donations help Second Harvest diversify its menu.

Albertsons grocery stores participate in City of San Diego’s food scraps for compost program (YouTube, 03:29). Fifteen stores in the region have been participating since 2011, each store is averaging 468 pounds of food scraps per day. Albertsons also participates in a food rescue program, donating edible food to the local Feeding America food bank.

Grocery stores in Yolo County. A Nugget Market in Woodland, and a Safeway in Davis supply food waste to California Safe Soil LLC. The company takes food that supermarkets cannot sell or donate and turns it into a fertilizer registered by CDFA for use in organic agriculture.

Kroger Corp. Anaerobic Digester, Compton (Los Angeles County). At the Kroger distribution center, 150 tons per day of inedible food from Ralph’s and Food 4 Less markets around Southern California are used to create renewable fuels electricity. The electricity produced is enough to power 2000 average homes and offsets around 20% of the facility’s power needs. Enough gas remains to power a fleet of zero emissions forklifts.


Hotel in San Diego. The Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel was the first hotel in San Diego to start a food waste composting program that sends materials to the city-run Miramar Greenery composting site. The thirty-story high-rise, with over 1,190 guest rooms, has several pre-consumer food waste collection sites, including two main kitchens, two bars, and a coffee shop. They also collect post-consumer food waste from the employee cafeteria and from banquet operations. The hotel serves an average of 1,500 meals per day and donates all edible food to local charities. During its first eight months, the food waste composting program diverted an extra 11% of the hotel’s waste stream, composting over 124 tons of food waste, and saving the hotel about $8,000 in landfill tipping fees and waste hauling costs.

Hotel in Sacramento. The Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Sacramento began a food and green waste collection program in 2011. The high-rise hotel, with 503 guest rooms, has three restaurants and one main kitchen. Providing daily meals for guests, as well as events, results in a total of some 1,975 meals served every day. The hotel staff separate food scraps from other wastes. In the first year of the program, the hotel diverted over 243 tons of food scraps. To date, they have recycled over 8,475 tons of organic waste. The waste material is processed at Clean World Partners, an anaerobic digestion facility, where it is converted into natural gas for fuel. Republic Services hauls the food scraps from the hotel property to the digester.


Restaurant in Chico, Butte County. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company manages food, paper, and organic residuals left over from brewing beer. The on-site project uses an in-vessel composting system to compost food waste. Finished compost is used on the company’s hop fields and restaurant gardens.

Health Care

Hospital in San Diego. Sharp HealthCare participates in the city of San Diego’s food waste composting program. Vegetable peels, fruit scraps, and other castoffs from the kitchens servicing Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns and Sharp Memorial Hospital are diverted to the Miramar Greenery composting facility.


University of California, Davis. To participate in Project Compost, kitchen staff collect pre-consumer food waste, coffee grounds and plant clippings. Student volunteers use an electric vehicle to bring the materials, almost 1,000 pounds of waste per week, to the student farm where they are composted. The compost is used on campus and around the community.

San Diego State University. SDSU sends an average of three tons of food waste a week to the City of San Diego’s Miramar Greenery composting facility. The food waste is generated from pre-consumer preparation of about 15,000 meals per day. The program (YouTube, 04:13) has saved the University more than $3,000 a year on waste hauling and disposal fees.

Elementary Schools in the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority (CCCSW)School Diversion Programs. There are 54 schools in the service area. All 54 schools have single-stream recycling, 21 have green waste collection, and 31 have food waste collection. CCCSWA provides the following resources and tools to schools: action plans, bins, waste audits, assemblies, training, lesson plans, field trips, website, and newsletter. Springhill Elementary in Lafayette started a “waste-free lunch” campaign. The majority of the schools participate in the commercial food waste program. Food discards collected by this program are taken to the EBMUD Water Treatment Facility in Oakland for digestion.

School District in Bakersfield. This school district recycles organics on a large-scale, due to the city-run mixed material compost facility which also has food depackaging equipment. Bakersfield schools have implemented a Food and Wrapper Composting System to zero in on the tons of organics in schools that are hidden away in small packages. The collection program picks up around 9 tons per day from the 53 participating schools.


Petco Park stadium in San Diego sends its food scraps for composting at the city-run Miramar Greenery. Participation in the program has resulted not only in a greater diversion rate but also in a significant cost savings from waste hauling and tipping fees. A summary of this case study is featured on the City of San Diego Environmental Services Department’s website.

The Indian Wells Tennis Gardens Food scraps are collected for off-site composting, and finished compost is used at the Tennis Gardens. Burrtec, the local hauler, services the Tennis Master Series at the gardens, and hauls food waste daily from the event. Including food collection, this event is operating at 80% diversion rate or higher. Food Scrap diversion has proved to be both feasible and economically viable.

Agricultural businesses

Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Sonoma. This winery in Napa Valley manages 600 tons of organic waste material each year. The winery uses the material to make compost onsite and applies this compost for soil restoration throughout the vineyards. Compost applications are completed in the autumn at 3 to 5 tons per acre, tilled in 4 to 6 inches deep along the rows of vines. After the application, cover crops-a blend of rye, brome and clovers. These native species help maintain soil integrity and fix nitrogen.

Construction & Demolition/CalGreen

CALGreen-California’s Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) includes mandatory construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycling requirements for all new construction (residential and non-residential), and to certain construction related to additions and alterations. While CALGreen’s mandatory items are applicable statewide, local jurisdictions may implement requirements that are more stringent. Jurisdictions that have not adopted a C&D ordinances are still required to implement CALGreen.

Companies/Case Studies

City of San Jose, Zanker Recycling. Zanker was one of the first facilities in the country to process mixed C&D loads, starting in 1988. Their state-of-the-art sort line can process 135 tons per hour and achieve 95% diversion. Zanker also processes asphalt shingles and gypsum wallboard. Zanker can certify compliance with LEED, CalGreen and Build it Green standards.

Sacramento County, Two Rivers Demolition. Two Rivers provides demolition and environmental remediation services throughout California. Their signature project was to handle all of the recycling from the construction of the 6,500-home Del Webb senior community in Lincoln, CA, where they achieved an 85% diversion rate. During a tear-down of a six-story concrete building on Capitol Mall, they achieved diversion rates greater than 99% and created 20,000 tons of Caltrans Class II Base Rock.

Los Angeles County, Interior Removal Specialist, Inc. IRS started out as an interior demolition company focusing on tenant improvements, but expanded to become a C&D recycler, certified by the City of Los Angeles, as well as an E-waste recycler. In addition to recycling of demolition materials, they give re-usable items salvaged from buildings to charity.

City of Sacramento, Downtown Entertainment and Sports Center. In order to build Sacramento’s new downtown arena, a large section of the old Downtown Plaza shopping mall needed to be demolished. Between August of 2014 and March of 2015 more than 101,000 tons-over 98%-of the Downtown Plaza was recycled, including nearly 88,000 tons of concrete and more than 6,000 tons of steel. Teichert Construction, Bell Marine and Crete Crush partnered for this effort. Watch a 5-minute time lapse movie of the demolition (mp4, 04:47).

Food Donation Programs

Fruits and vegetables, non-perishable, unspoiled food can be donated to local food banks, soup kitchens, food pantries, and shelters. Donations are accepted from food processors, supermarkets, wholesalers, farmers, food brokers, and community food drives. Prepared foods are typically collected from restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, for prompt distribution to hungry people in their communities. AB 152 provides a 10% tax credit for California growers donating fruits and vegetables to food banks.

Food banks in California are community-based organizations that collect food and save it in warehouses. The food bank then distributes the food to hungry families and individuals through a variety of emergency food assistance agencies, such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters and pantries. Most food banks tend to collect less perishable foods such as canned goods because they can be stored for a longer time.

An example of a food bank is the Yolo County Food Bank which collects donations from local growers’ and grocers. Area ranchers donate fresh eggs, fruits and nuts. Food drives help yield canned goods. The warehouse is staffed with eight full-time and part-time employees and over 300 volunteers. Three million pounds of food is received annually and comes in the form of fresh, frozen and shelf-stable meats, dairy, bread and grains, canned goods, baby food and even pet food.

Food pantries collect and redistribute food to those in need. Local programs work closely with food banks from which they receive donations, and frequently offer free pick-up and containers to donors.

Food pantry in Crescent City, Del Norte CountyDaily Bread Ministries in Crescent City provides meals for hungry and homeless people.

Food pantry in Stockton, San Joaquin County. The food pantry in Stockton provides education for families teaching about nutrition and family meals and serves Stockton and San Joaquin families and seniors.

Food rescue programs accept perishable and prepared food and distribute it to charities that serve hungry people such as soup kitchens, youth or senior centers, shelters and pantries. Typically, perishable food is rescued and delivered quickly, on a same day basis.

Food rescue in San Francisco, San Francisco County. Food Runners in San Francisco, pick up food donations and deliver to neighborhood programs. This organization focuses on fresh, perishable, nutritious foods.

Food rescue in San Diego, San Diego County. San Diego Rescue Mission, a collaborative effort of local organizations, with refrigerated trucks to pick up perishable food. Over 100 grocery stores, restaurants, caterers, universities, hotels and hospitals contribute to this effort. Contributors include Qualcomm Stadium and the San Diego Convention Center.

Food rescue in Marin County. Extrafood provides a fresh food pick-up service and matches with organizations in need, serving most vulnerable residents.

Food rescue in Signal Hill, Los Angeles County, Food Finders. This multi-regional food rescue operation helps provide meals to more than 210 agencies and shelters throughout Southern California. With more than 300 volunteers, this organization has rescued more than 108 million pounds of food to date, in addition to referring thousands of families to local shelters and agencies where meals are provided.

Green Material Ordinances/Bans

San Diego Mandatory Recycling Ordinance. Prohibits mixing compostable organic materials and specific recyclables (e.g., paper, corrugated cardboard, appliances etc.) with refuse, prior to refuse collection. The Miramar Greenery accepts green and food materials and produces mulch and compost that are sold commercially and are available to the public.

San Francisco Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance. Requires all residents and businesses to separate recyclables, compostables and waste material. Residents and businesses are required to subscribe to adequate trash, recycling and composting service. Residents are allowed to place food waste in their green waste bins. The mixed organic materials are hauled to Recology composting sites in Solano and Stanislaus counties.

Santa Cruz County enacted a landfill ban (7.20.145 Disposal of recyclable materials prohibited) in 2005 to save space in the Buena Vista landfill and recover valuable materials. The ordinance prohibits the disposal of a wide variety of materials at the County’s landfill or transfer station. The County provides recycling options for all banned materials at these sites. Recyclable materials banned from disposal include:

  • Yard waste and wood waste
  • Tires
  • Major appliances and mattresses
  • All types of paper and cardboard
  • Rigid plastic containers of resins 1-7
  • Concrete, asphalt, tile and gypsum
  • Electronics, and
  • Metal cans and scrap metal

Sonoma County has enacted a landfill ban for specified recyclable materials. Fines of up to $500 and even jail time up to 6 months are possible for violations. Recycling options are available at the landfill and transfer stations for all specified materials.

Sonoma County code Section 22-7A states that no person shall dispose of any of the following recyclable materials at any disposal area within Sonoma County, including:

  • Yard debris or wood debris
  • Major appliances
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Electronics
  • Scrap metal, and
  • Tires

Local Jurisdiction Examples of Green/Food Waste

Material Programs

Central Contra Costa. The Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority (CCCSWA) has partnered with the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and Republic Services to expand the “Food Recycling Project”; an innovative program that will divert commercial food waste from landfill disposal for conversion into renewable energy. This project began as a pilot program in November 2008 and is currently available to serve most restaurants, grocery stores, and other large commercial or institutional food waste generators in the CCCSWA (Central Contra Costa County) service area.

City of San Francisco Recycling Program Food to Flowers! Lunchroom composting program. Over 140 schools have implemented a food scrap collection program. With the help of the program’s hauler, each of the schools designed a food scrap program that encompassed education, outreach, organics collection for off-site composting, and some vermicomposting. The compost produced is sold to local farmers and vineyards, and given to schools with gardens. A few times a year, compost is given away free to residents.

Orange County, City of Aliso Viejo. Five of the City’s top food waste generators, mainly restaurants, were part of the pilot food waste diversion program. The City is working to expand the program and promotes it through the hauler’s commercial brochure Aliso Viejo CR&R Commercial flyer.

The City of Dana Point has a voluntary commercial food waste diversion program with the franchise hauler, CR&R Environmental Services. A large resort, a large grocery store and a local restaurant are current participants in this diversion program. Food waste from this program is hauled to Victor Valley Composting Facility in Victorville.

Santa Clara County, City of Cupertino. All commercial businesses have food waste collection in Cupertino. The City and its garbage and recycling hauler work with businesses, restaurants and markets. New food waste containers help to make it a very successful program.

Ventura County. The City and its hauler implemented a pilot food waste program in August 2011 with 17 restaurants participating. The hauler is now providing this service to approximately 100 food generating establishments and expanded this program to include the school district. Food waste is delivered to the hauler’s Sun Valley facility in Los Angeles County for preprocessing in preparation for composting. Over 2,000 tons of food waste was processed in 2013 and free compost is available to residents several times a year at the City’s collection and drop-off events. City of Santa Paula Waste Collection Flyer.

City of Sunnyvale sought to evaluate their FoodCycle program. FoodCycle is Sunnyvale’s food scraps collection service provided to all single-family homes in the city, using a split cart to collect food on one side (yellow) and garbage on the other (black). The program seeks to reduce the amount of food scraps sent to the landfill and help meet the greenhouse gas reduction goals in the City’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan and Climate Action Playbook.

Additional Case Studies (Model Programs)

For more information contact: Food Scrap Management,