Mapping Composting Infrastructure and Supporting Legislation

GreenBlue has developed several interactive maps and charts of composting infrastructure and supportive legislation in the United States, available on Tableau Public.

These maps seek to provide insight into basic questions such as where composting facilities are located in the United States and how many accept compostable packaging. Additionally, the maps display where state and local legislation has banned the disposal of food waste to landfills. Legislation that bans food waste from landfills often spurs the expansion of composting infrastructure, since composting is identified as one of several alternative pathways for food waste. For instance, California has committed to reducing organic waste sent to landfill by 50% by 2020, and CalRecycle has estimated this will require 50-100 new or expanded composting facilities to handle the newly-diverted material. The success of programs aiming to divert food waste and other compostable material such as certified compostable packaging is therefore highly dependent on the availability of composting facilities that accept this material.

These resources can be used to help inform the decision-making process of various stakeholders. Compostable packaging manufacturers may use it to consider which geographic markets are best suited for compostable packaging based on the presence of composting facilities. Local and state legislators can use information about regional composting facilities to enact legislation banning food waste from landfills or to spur investments in composting infrastructure. Retailers, food service businesses, and food waste generators can also use these resources to identify potential composting partners.

Information about where facilities are located and what they accept has been limited and is often difficult to access. In many cases, the information is not updated regularly or changes based on market conditions and demand. See the Methodology section below for further information on the sources of data.

You can explore the resources below. Click on or hover over map elements to see more information and to zoom in.


Tracking Composting Facilities in the United States

This visualization shows the location of composting facilities in the United States, with color-coding showing the variety of materials they accept. Some facilities only accept green waste or yard waste, while others also accept pre-consumer food waste, post-consumer food waste, fiber compostable packaging, or other compostable packaging in addition to green waste.

Two additional maps show regional clusters, or “hotspots”, of facilities that accept either compostable packaging or food waste for composting, with darker areas representing a cluster of facilities. These maps highlight trends in the location of facilities accepting these feedstocks – for instance, there are a number of packaging and food waste clusters in the Midwest. At the same time, we see gaps in acceptance of food waste in states like Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

It also includes a visualization of the total number of facilities by type– for example, those co-located with landfills and community composting operations, and the total number of facilities accepting various kinds of material.

These visualizations demonstrate that facilities that accept food waste and compostable packaging are spread out across much of the United States, and are not purely a coastal phenomenon. While 56% of facilities accept only green waste, facilities that accept food waste and some combination of other compostable material are not insignificant — about 44% of the facilities identified accept these feedstocks. Specifically, about 29% accept food waste, and about 15% accept packaging in addition to food waste.


Tracking Food Waste Legislation

The map below shows state and municipal-level food waste legislation in the United States. For example, Austin, Texas requires food-permitted businesses to divert food waste and other organics from landfills by composting or donating food. This map can be used to identify which states and municipalities are requiring composting in order to divert food waste from landfill. It can also be used to identify regions that may be well-suited to new legislation banning food waste to landfills due to their proximity to nearby composting facilities.  It demonstrates that food waste bans are currently limited to large urban centers and coastal states. As additional state and municipal legislation is passed, it will need to be tracked and added to this map.


Access to Composting for States and Cities

Two maps below show composting facility locations overlaid on the United States by state and urban populations, with more densely populated areas in darker blue. Information on state and urban populations might be used to calculate residential access to composting programs. It can also be used to identify high-population cities that do not currently have sufficient access to composting infrastructure, and are therefore unable to compost food waste or compostable packaging. For example, Southern California has high-density population centers that currently lack access to facilities that accept food waste or compostable packaging. Urban centers along the West and Midwest also lack access to facilities that accept material other than green waste, and the densely populated Northeast also appears to lack access to facilities that accept compostable packaging.


Methodology

Data on composting facilities is based on a variety of available sources including:

Data on what material is accepted at a particular composting facility is drawn from state permit information and individual composting facility websites (such as Missouri Organic Recycling’s website). This information was collected beginning in 2019, and is subject to change as facilities update their policies and practices.

Data on food waste legislation is based on:

Population data is based on Census Bureau totals and other public domain datasets.

Learn More

Contact:

Olga Kachook
Senior Manager, Sustainable Packaging Coalition
olga.kachook@greenblue.org