Food Recovery

In 2014, the US generated 38.4 million tons of food waste (14.9 percent of total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated) and sent 29.4 million tons of food to the landfills (21.6 percent of total MSW landfilled). This is 184 pounds of food landfilled per capita in 2014. (2016 EPA) Landfills are the source of 20 percent of the total methane emissions in the United States contributing to climate change. (2014 EPA) The Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture and the United Nations all have set goals to decrease food waste by half by 2030. (EPA, USDA, UN)

  • Nearly 1 in 6 of our neighbors in North Carolina is food insecure. (NC Association of Feeding America Food Banks)
  • In 2012, North Carolina generated 247 pounds of food waste per person. (2012 NCDEQ)
  • In 2015, North Carolina recovered approximately 100,000 tons of excess food through food donations (15 percent), animal feeding (18 percent), anaerobic digestion (20 percent) and composting (47 percent). (2016 NCDEQ)

Benefits of Reducing Food Waste

  • Saving money: An average family of four wastes $1,500 a year on food that is thrown away. Families can prevent food waste and save money through smart purchasing, improving food preparation and following better storage practices. (Food Waste Reduction Tips for Homes and for Businesses - EPA,
  • Saving landfill space: In 2015, North Carolina recovered 100,000 tons of food waste, saving approximately 147,000 cubic yards of landfill space – the equivalent of one football field almost 70 feet high! (EPA
  • Conserving resources: the growing, processing, packaging and transporting of food uses significant amounts of water, energy, resources, time and money – all of it lost if the food is not consumed. (Rethinking Food Waste through Economics and Data).
  • Feeding animals leftovers: Under the right circumstances, food waste can also be used to feed chickens, hogs or cows. (EPA, University of Arkansas)
  • Returning nutrients to the soil: Food waste can be used to create compost, which improves soil health and structure, increases water retention, supports plant growth and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. (EPA, NC State Extension, US Composting Council)   
  • Creating energy: Food waste can be used to generate electricity or natural gas through anaerobic digestion. (EPA, American Biogas Council)
  • Reaching recycling goals: Preventing food waste can help achieve communities and waste generators achieve their waste reduction goals.

Action for Homes

Action for Businesses and Institutions

Technical Assistance Available 

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality provides free, confidential technical assistance to citizens, businesses, and local governments on recycling, food waste reduction, and more. For a list of contacts, please go to the staff contacts page.

For questions, please contact a staff member.