The District of Columbia has over 700,000 residents and an average of 414 tons of food waste that would be sent to landfills, per year, if not for a refuse disposal option. The city recently passed a law that tackles the many ways in which schools, businesses and organizations can combat food waste in the district. This includes purchasing wisely, storing food properly, donating excess food safely and separating food scraps from other solid waste for collection. Similar to the Maryland law passed in 2022, the DC law will increase the number of businesses and organizations that need to divert their food waste over time
Throughout the last decade alone, the District’s leadership has shown, in more ways than one, that it is invested in the Zero Waste goals that were introduced in 2013 with a goal of diverting 80 percent of solid waste away from landfills by 2032.
“Zero Waste DC brings together government agencies and programs responsible for developing and implementing cost effective strategies for converting waste to resources, improving human and environmental health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating inclusive economic opportunity, and conserving natural resources.”
Source: Zero Waste DC, zerowastedc.gov
At the beginning of 2023, the new law requires that retail food stores with a floor area of at least 10,000 square feet, and colleges and universities with at least 2,000 students to separate and divert their food scraps.
Warning letters have been issued as well as fines to entities that are not in compliance.
In 2024, regulated entities expand to:
- Retail food stores with at least 3 locations that have a combined floor area of at least 10,000 square feet
- Arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
- Hospitals and nursing homes with at least 300 beds
- Colleges or universities with at least 500 residential students
Prior to disposal, it is encouraged to decrease the amount of food purchased. In many situations, more food is purchased or grown than necessary, but the projected demand for this food is not always met. Keeping track of the amount of leftover food offers an opportunity to reflect on the data and make changes to avoid waste in the future.
USDA reports that more than 34 million people in the United States are food insecure. When there is excess food, if handled properly, it can be donated to organizations who will use it to feed those in need, including Miriam’s Kitchen, Thrive DC and many more.
If the food scraps are no longer safe to eat or donate, Compost Crew hauls food scraps from hundreds of businesses and organizations in the DMV. From George Washington University to Whole Foods to small cafes, we help design a composting program that best meets an organization’sneeds with proper training and tips to make it a success.
While the District is working to tackle tons of food waste that comes from its larger entities, they have also been working on residential food waste by establishing a Food Waste Drop-off Program with designated local farmers markets, at no cost.
To further the City’s Zero Waste goals, The Department of Public Works’ Office of Waste Diversion officially kicked off a curbside composting pilot program in September 2023 with over 9,000 participants and Compost Crew to help to haul it to local composting facilities!
While the sign- up period has ended, D.C. is still on a mission to reduce waste with more efforts on the horizon. By working with partner agencies to conduct annual progress reports, DC remains on track towards their plan to make DC a greener city.
Compost Crew works with local governments behind the scenes to help achieve their zero waste goals. Visit our Local Government page to see some of the municipalities we serve and ways in which your municipality can join the movement.
Sign up your business or organization and one of our representatives will reach out to discuss your objectives and how to start composting!