Food Waste Laws By State

/ Foodservice Tips, Industry History, Restaurant Tips / March 20

Zero waste sign surrounded by fresh food-food waste laws

There’s enough food in the United States to feed every single one of its inhabitants, and yet, there are still 34 million people in the United States suffering from food insecurity. Still, 119 billion pounds of food are wasted every year. Yet that’s more than enough to feed 34 million people 3 square meals a day. Stopping food waste is the first step to ending hunger, so let’s take a look at the list of states that have implemented food waste laws to keep this valuable resource out of landfills and its byproducts out of the ozone.

State Food Waste Laws 


Perhaps the most progressive and strictest of the states with Food Waste Laws, California requires all its inhabitants, whether they be commercial businesses, public institutes or private residents to separate their green waste. Tier 1 food generators are required to donate any edible waste to a food recovery organization and recycle the rest at an organic waste collection service either by self-hauling or subscribing, while tier 2 food generators are required to comply on January 1, 2024.

  • Tier 1 food waste generators – Grocery stores and wholesale food vendors, food providers and food distributors 

  • Tier 2 food waste generators – Restaurants, state agencies, large venues and events, hotels, health facilities and local educational institutions


Technically, Colorado doesn’t have a state-wide food waste law, but the city of Boulder has put a Universal Zero Waste Ordinance in place that states:

  • Property and business owners must separate organic, recycling and regular trash and place them in the appropriate containers

  • Business and property owners can apply for a waiver if they can prove that they produce less than 1,000 pounds of organic waste annually, can’t afford it or don’t have space for it. However, the waiver only lasts one year, so an annual reapplication is required

  • Have signs displayed labeling compost, kitchen compost, landfill and recycling

  • Business owners have to train their employees on how to sort their trash

  • Property owners have to inform renters about trash bin locations


As of January 1, 2022, Connecticut passed a Commercial Organics Recycling Law that states that if you fall under one of the businesses listed below and produce over 26 tons of organic waste per year, then they will have to separate their food waste to be disposed of at an organic waste facility. You may be exempt if your establishment is located outside a 20-mile radius of the nearest organic food waste facility. Connecticut food waste law applies to the following who meet the above criteria:

  • Food wholesalers and distributors 

  • Industrial food manufacturers and processors 

  • Supermarkets

  • Resorts 

  • Conference centers


Hawaii is another one of those states that don’t have a state-wide food waste law except for the city of Honolulu, which has enacted a Municipal Waste Ban. The law states that food establishments, manufacturers and processors who fall under the following classifications have to separate food waste to be recycled at an organic recycling facility. Those affected by the Honolulu food waste law are:

  • A restaurant that is over 5,000 square feet or prepares over 400 meals a day 

  • A food court with 5 or more foodservice businesses

  • A hotel with one or more than one kitchen 

  • A food manufacturer or processor that is over 5,000 square feet 

  • A catering business that prepares over 400 meals a day 

  • A hospital that prepares over 400 meals a day 


Maryland has recently passed legislation titled Solid Waste Management mandating that anyone, whether that be an individual household, business, cafeteria, grocery store, etc., producing over 2 tons of organic waste a week must separate their organic trash to prevent it from ending up in landfills. Some of the key takeaways from Maryland’s food waste laws are:

  • This law does not apply to restaurants that serve the public. 

  • Anyone who can prove that diverting their organic waste costs 10% more than sending it to a landfill or is outside a 30-mile radius of an organic recycling facility can request a waiver.


Following their lead, Massachusetts implemented a Commercial Food Material Disposal Ban to enforce businesses producing more than ½ tons of organic waste per week to separate and dispose of their food waste at an organic waste facility. Businesses are required to participate regardless of their distance from the waste disposal site. 

Woman sorting her green waste-food waste laws


Minnesota doesn’t enforce a state-wide food waste disposal ban, except within Hennepin county and Western Lake Superior Sanitary District

Hennepin County 

Hennepin County requires most all commercial businesses that generate more than one ton of trash per week or contract for 8 cubic yards or more per week to separate and dispose of their back-of-house food waste by either self-hauling or subscribing to an organic food waste disposal service.

Western Lake Superior Sanitary District 

The following establishments are obligated to separate their organic waste for pick up by a recovery service:

  • Grocery stores or commercial establishments over 5,000 square feet

  • Restaurant or catering business with a category 3 establishment food handling license 

  • Post-secondary schools that provide on-site meals with an enrollment of over 1,000 full-time students 

  • Hospitals or nursing homes that provide onsite meals 

  • A food manufacturer or processor over 5,000 square feet 

  • An assisted living facility 

  • A correctional facility 

New Jersey 

New Jersey enjoys a Food Waste Recycling and Food Waste-to-Energy Production Law that requires all large food waste generators to separate and dispose of their organic material at an authorized food waste recycling facility. Those affected by the law are those establishments, such as commercial food wholesalers and distributors, hospitals, restaurants, supermarkets, etc., which generate 52 tons of food waste or more every year. This number does not include plate waste and food donations. 

An exception is made for establishments outside a 25-mile radius of an authorized food waste recycling facility. An exception is also granted if the cost of transporting the organic waste, including the facility fee, is 10% more than it would cost to use a solid waste disposal facility.

New York 

New York has recently implemented a Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law, applying to businesses that produce up to 2 tons of wasted food or more every week. To abide by this law, food scrap generators have to either donate spare food and/or dispose of food waste at an organics recycler. 

Waivers are granted to business entities dwelling outside a 25-mile radius of a disposal center, but waivers must be reapplied annually. The law exempts New York City (which is covered under its own law), nursing homes, adult care facilities, hospitals and primary and secondary schools.

New York City Law 

New York City has a separate Commercial Organics Rule that is slightly more comprehensive. It states that affected businesses have to separate back-of-house food waste and either transport it themselves or arrange for private pick-up to be processed on-site at an organic waste facility.


Unfortunately, Oregon doesn’t prescribe state-wide food waste laws, but it’s taken a step in the right direction with Portland’s Food Scrap Policy. Businesses that handle food in any way must separate and divert food waste to an authorized processing facility. 

In an increased effort to keep food out of the waste stream, Oregon’s metro area has plans set for 2025 that will prohibit any commercial business from throwing its food waste into landfill. 

Rhode Island 

Rhode Island is another one of those progressive states that enact a Food Waste Ban. Under this law, educational institutions that generate over 30 tons of organic waste per year are obliged to separate their organic material from solid waste to be repurposed at an authorized recycling facility. 

Exemptions apply to educational institutions outside a 15-mile radius of the recycling center or if the expense is more than it would be at a landfill processing facility. 


Texas is again one of those states which doesn’t enact a state-wide food waste ban. However, the foodservice businesses that require a food permit in the city of Austin are required to adopt a Zero-Waste Policy. This means all food waste and scraps have to be either composted, donated, sold, diverted to a materials recovery facility or otherwise recycled. 


Vermont passed a Universal Recycling Law in 2012 banning food scraps from landfills by commercial businesses and residential households. Instead, food scraps can either be donated for human or animal consumption, composted or diverted to an anaerobic or organic food waste processing facility.


Washington’s Food Waste Reduction Act aims to reduce food waste by 50% by the time 2030 rolls around. To stay on track with its goal, Washington is rolling out these changes:

  • January 1, 2024 – Businesses generating 8 cubic yards of organic waste per week or more will have to subscribe to an organic waste removal service

  • January 1, 2025 – Businesses generating 4 cubic yards of organic waste per week or more will have to subscribe to an organic waste removal service

  • January 1, 2027 – Businesses generating .25 cubic yards or organic waste per week will have to subscribe to an organic waste removal service

For more information on how to reduce food waste in restaurants and schools, check out these additional resources.

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