This study highlights the materials managed at commercial composting facilities for the past five years and analyzes the food recovery efforts through four strategies: food rescue, animal feeding operations, commercial composting, and anaerobic digestion. North Carolina established a number of solid waste statutes in the early 1990s that drove the development of the regulated commercial composting industry. This early state government encouragement (including a yard waste landfill ban effective January 1993) in combination with strong private sector investment has created a healthy commercial composting industry with 87 composting operations statewide that service the needs of millions of residents. This past year, 52 facilities (permitted by N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management) reported receiving more than 600,000 tons of organic material, creating approximately 219,000 tons of Grade A compost and 194,000 tons of mulch, and selling to the public approximately 58 percent of all material processed.
New federal encouragement for organic waste diversion is coming from the US EPA and the USDA to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030. Fortunately, North Carolina has a robust food recovery infrastructure, consisting of commercial composting facilities with enough total permitted capacity to process the majority of the excess food to meet the EPA/USDA’s goal, and a large, growing network of food rescue organizations, animal feeding operations, anaerobic digestion facilities, and private sector corporate sustainability and zero waste goals in place. The combination of all these pieces — support from state and local governments and corporate commitments coupled with non-profit and private sector diversion services — is crucial to diverting organic materials from the landfill, creating jobs, improving soil health, reducing hunger and meeting the federal food waste reduction goal.