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Commercial Organics Recycling Law

Information & Guidance for Food Residual Generators

 

Food In Dumpster

Background

What the Law Says How to Comply With the Law Letter to Food Business Managers

Frequently Asked Questions
Background

Based on the 2015 Statewide Waste Characterization Study, it is estimated that 22.3% of the solid waste stream in Connecticut consists of food - that's nearly 520,000 tons per year of food being thrown away.  This number increases to 32.4%, or 779,000 tons per year if other compostable or digestible organics such as soiled paper and yard trimmings are included.  However, if all the food residuals that are generated in Connecticut were to be collected, the state would not have adequate capacity at our currently permitted facilities to handle the volume. Food Waste GraphIn order to help fill this infrastructure gap in processing capacity for wasted food, landmark legislation was passed that guarantees some level of feedstock for potential composting or clean energy facilities.  The intent of the law is to provide an incentive and encourage developers of food residual recycling facilities to build in Connecticut thereby creating more opportunity for businesses to recycle food scrap.  In the process of expanding our processing capacity, it also will reduce the waste currently going to resource recovery plants that burn the waste, and will create jobs, soil amendments and clean energy.  Eventually, there will be enough capacity that even the smallest food scrap generators will be able to benefit.  As a result of the law, DEEP has seen an increase in permit application submittals and overall interest in food scrap recycling which will bring more options to Connecticut.  Connecticut's law, which was the first in the nation to mandate commercial organics recycling, has been used as a template for legislation in other states and cities as they seek to promote the same benefits of food residual recycling.

What The Law Says

As of January 1, 2020 – commercial waste generators that generate a projected annual volume of 52 tons or more per year of source separated organic material AND are located within 20 miles of a permitted recycling facility that material must comply with this law. Public Act 11-217, as amended by Section 4 of Public Act 13-285, provides a phased-in approach to commercial organics recycling. The law (CGS Sec. 22a-226e) says that if you are a commercial food wholesaler or distributor, industrial food manufacturer or processor, supermarket, resort or conference center, AND you generate a projected annual volume of 104 or more tons per year of source separated organic material, AND you are located within 20 miles of a permitted recycling facility that can accept that material, then you must ensure that those materials are recycled. In 2020, the projected annual volume triggering regulation decreases to 52 tons per year. Other compliance options under the law include on-site composting, or installation of permitted on-site organics treatment equipment.

  

How to Comply with the Law

Food Tote Cover

First, determine that your business is in fact subject to the commercial organics recycling law (see above).  Even if it is not subject to the law, the more food scrap a business reduces or diverts from disposal, the greater their savings can be.  There are a number of ways that a business can comply with the law. These can include any combination of the following:

  • Reducing the generation of wasted food through more efficient food service operations. Some entities have been able to reduce their food residuals by half through these efforts;
  • Donate servable food to shelters, food pantries, and food rescue operations;
  • Use an on-site system to compost or anaerobically digest food scrap;
  • Work with your current hauler or another hauler to send separated food scrap for animal feed;
  • Work with your current hauler or another hauler to send separated food scrap to an anaerobic digestion or composting facility.

If you have questions, please contact Chris Nelson of the CT DEEP Recycling Program at 860-424-3454. More resources about organics recycling, including a timeline history, can be found on our Composting and Organics Recycling webpage.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Questions

Answers 

What is the definition of "source separated organic material"?

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How do I determine if I am 20 miles from a permitted food scrap recycling facility?

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How do I know if I am projected to generate 104 tons/year of SSOM? 

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Where are the permitted food scrap recycling facilities located?

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If there is more than one permitted facility within 20 miles of my business, which one do I use?

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Will I be fined for not complying with the law?

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If I already take my food scrap to a permitted facility that is more than 20 miles away, or out of state, do I have to change facilities if one becomes available that is closer? 

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Does donating edible food, or sending food residuals to animal feed manufacturers and animal farms for feed count toward compliance with the law?

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If I use on-site equipment that liquefies my food scrap and sends it down the drain to the sewer, is this in compliance with the law?

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If I use on-site equipment that dehydrates my food scraps, is this in compliance with the law?

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If I use on-site equipment that creates energy from food scraps through the use of anaerobic digestion, is this in compliance with the law?

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Are biodegradable products (e.g., compostable plates and cups)  included in the definition of source separated organic material (SSOM)?

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Does the law apply to dining services on a university campus? 

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Is a one-time event such as a fair subject to the law? 

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Are K-12, private, and boarding schools subject to the law? 

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Are big-box retail stores that have grocery stores within them (such as Target, Walmart, BJ's, etc.) compelled by the law to recycle food scraps?

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If my company is in CT, and 20 miles from a food scrap recycler in a neighboring state, am I compelled to recycle my food scrap there (or anywhere else)? 

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If my company is in Massachusetts which has a ban on commercial food scrap disposal, can I bring my food scrap to a Connecticut resource recovery facility or landfill for disposal (not recycling)?

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Will my company be notified of new recycling facilities as they come on-line? 

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My business is part of a chain with multiple locations. How does the 104 ton per year threshold in the law apply to me?

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My business generates source separated organics, but only seasonally. How does the 104 ton per year threshold in the law apply to my facility?

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I am a building or shopping mall owner with multiple businesses within a central facility.  Some of those businesses are of the type covered by the law.  How does the 104 ton per year threshold apply to my facility? 

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If my company has a food donation program, is that quantity of food we donate included in the 104 tons/year generation threshold? 

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Are there any financial aid programs to build anaerobic digestion facilities?

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Where can I find more information about organics recycling in Connecticut?

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What is the definition of "source separated organic material?"

The statutory definition of “Source-Separated Organic Material” means organic material, including, but not limited to, food scraps, food processing residue and soiled or unrecyclable paper that has been separated at the point or source of generation from nonorganic material."  The acronym commonly used for this is SSOM, or SSO (Source Separated Organics)

How do I determine if I am 20 miles from a permitted food scrap recycling facility?

DEEP has developed an interactive GIS map which locates the permitted food residual recycling facilities in CT.  Simply type your address into the search area and see if it falls within the radius drawn around any of the facilities.  Please note that this map performs best using the latest versions of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browsers. 

How do I know if I am projected to generate 104 tons/year of SSOM?

The best way to understand your specific business's food waste generation rate is to perform a waste assessment, also know as a waste audit.  This entails separating food scrap at each place where it is generated within the company and measuring it over a given length of time, for example, a week.  This number can then be extrapolated for the entire year.  If you have a seasonal business, you might want to perform a few audits over the course of the year based on your busy seasons.  Various ways to perform waste assessments can be found on EPA's Waste Assessment Approaches web page.  EPA also has waste assessment tools or CET has a Toolbox which includes a Food Waste Estimator Tool

A ballpark estimate for certain businesses can be calculated using the formulas provided on page 3 in the Report of Food Residual Generation in CT.  This report and accompanying map and database of large scale food residual generators can be found on our Food Residuals Mapping webpage. Sources without waste estimation equations include Manufacturers, Distributors, Resorts and Conference Facilities, and Venues which either proved too diverse in food residuals quantity and type to give a meaningful formula, or required extensive research outside the scope of the study.

Where are the permitted food scrap recycling facilities located?

You can find a list of permitted food scrap recycling facilities in Connecticut on DEEP's website.  For those businesses close to state borders, New York and Massachusetts, also have similar lists on their websites.

If there is more than one permitted facility within 20 miles of my business, which one do I use?

It doesn't matter, whichever one is more convenient.  The law does not dictate which facility to use, only that business covered by the law recycle source separated organics.

Will I be fined for not complying with the law?

There are no monetary fines (civil penalties) specifically connected with the law.  However, DEEP may pursue enforcement, pursuant to its Enforcement Response Policy, against a non-compliant company that is making no good-faith effort to meet the requirements of the law.  It is far better for the environment, and likely more economically feasible for the company, to recycle food scraps than to dispose of them.

If I already take my food scrap to a permitted facility that is more than 20 miles away, or out of state, do I have to change facilities if one becomes available that is closer?

No. As long as you have a program in place to recycle organic materials, the DEEP will not mandate a specific facility or method for recycling the materials.

Does donating edible food, or sending food residuals to animal feed manufacturers and animal farms for feed count toward compliance with the law?

Yes.  The goal is to divert materials from disposal.  Food recovery for human consumption and feeding animals are higher on the state and federal waste management hierarchies than other uses.  If you send all of your food residuals to donation/animal feed, you are in compliance with the law.  However, if you only send a portion of your residuals to donation/animal feed, and you generate more than 104 tons per year (including the portion that is donated), then the rest of your residuals need to be recycled as well in order for you to be in compliance.  Please see our Food Waste Reduction & Recovery webpage and Food to Animal Feed resources for more information.

If I use on-site equipment that liquefies my food scrap and sends it down the drain to the sewer, is this in compliance with the law?

No.  But if you collect, transport or otherwise divert that liquefied/slurried food to a permitted food residual recycling facility, then you would be in compliance with the law.  Sending concentrated waste down the drain could result in clogging or backup of the sanitary sewer line and may be prohibited by local ordinance, or require a local or state permit.

If I use on-site equipment that dehydrates my food scraps, is this in compliance with the law?

The material that exits the dehydrator is still considered to be solid waste.  Only if the dehydrated material is then further composted or anaerobically digested would this be in compliance with the law.  Additionally, the business's SSOM generation rate would be determined before dehydration, not after, because the law bases the quantity threshold on generation rate, not disposal rate.

If I use on-site equipment that creates energy from food scraps through the use of anaerobic digestion, is this in compliance with the law?

Yes, but only if the resulting digestate is further composted and reused.

Are biodegradable products (e.g., compostable plates and cups) included in the definition of source separated organic material (SSOM)?

No, these materials would not be included in the definition of SSOM. However, depending on where a business is sending its SSOM, it may be possible to include these materials as part of the food waste collection. A business should always check with its hauler and/or compost facility to determine whether these materials can be accepted at the destination facility.

Does the law apply to dining services on a university campus?

No.  Presently, institutions are not covered by the law.  However, if a university operates a stand-alone conference center either on or off-campus, the food residuals from that facility would need to be recycled if it reaches the 20 mile/104 ton per year threshold.

Is a one-time event such as a fair subject to the law?

No. Events are not subject to the law at this time.  However, it may be beneficial to explore recycling options for event-generated food scrap.

Are K-12, private, and boarding schools subject to the law?

No. Schools are not subject to the law at this time.  However, it may be beneficial to explore recycling options for school generated food scrap. If the school operates a stand-alone conference center either on or off-campus, the food residuals from that facility would need to be recycled if it reaches the 20 mile/104 ton per year threshold.

Are big-box retail stores that have grocery stores within them (such as Target, Walmart, BJ's, etc.) compelled by the law to recycle food scraps?

Yes, they would be considered supermarkets and would have to recycle food scraps if they fit the 20 mile/104 ton per year criteria.

If my company is in CT, and 20 miles from a food scrap recycler in a neighboring state, am I compelled to recycle my food scrap there (or anywhere else)?

Yes.  The law does not specify that the facility from which you are 20 miles away needs to be in Connecticut.  Since there is a nearby recycling option available to you, you need to recycle your food scrap, whether it is at a facility within Connecticut or in another state.

If my company is in Massachusetts which has a ban on commercial food scrap disposal, can I bring my food scrap to a Connecticut resource recovery facility or landfill for disposal (not recycling)?

We are still seeking a legal interpretation of this question as it pertains to the Connecticut law.  However, it is better for the environment and likely less expensive for businesses to comply with the Massachusetts ban than to dispose of food waste in Connecticut or elsewhere.  Massachusetts businesses should contact RecyclingWorks_in_MA at 1-888-254-5525 for assistance.

Will my company be notified of new recycling facilities as they come on-line?

No.  It is the responsibility of the generator of source separated organic material to ascertain this.  CT DEEP will keep the on-line list of permitted food residual recycling facilities updated, and it is suggested that this web page be checked monthly for new additions.

My business is part of a chain with multiple locations. How does the 104 ton per year threshold in the law apply to me?

Application of the 104 ton per year threshold would be based on the amount generated per
location rather than for the entire chain. For example, if a single location generates 104 tons per year or more of SSOM, that location would be subject to the ban.  If a single location generates less than 104 tons per year of SSOM, that location would not be subject to the ban, even if all locations combined generate one ton per week or more.  However, if you are a medium to large size chain with individual locations that each fall under the threshold, it may still be worthwhile to consider diverting organics to realize potential savings in your disposal costs. In addition, a chain may have a centralized food preparation or processing location that prepares food for delivery to retail locations.  Such location would be subject to the law if it generates of 104 tons or more per year.

My business generates source separated organics, but only seasonally. How does the 104 threshold in the law apply to my facility?

The threshold is based on an annual generation rate. If a business generates more than 104 tons of commercial organic material per year, even if it is only generated during part of the year, it would be subject to the law.

I am a building or shopping mall owner with multiple businesses within a central facility. Some of those businesses are of the type covered by the law. How does the 104 ton per year threshold apply to my facility?

If the property owner or manager contracts for disposal for the entire property, where waste
is combined, and 104 tons per week or more of source separated organic material (SSOM) is generated in total, the entire facility would be subject to the law.  If the businesses at the building or mall manage their waste independently, the threshold would be based on how much SSOM is generated by each individual business. If an individual business generates more than 104 tons per year or more of SSOM, then that specific business would be subject to the law.

If my company has a food donation program, is that quantity of food we donate included in the 104 tons/year generation threshold?

Yes. The intent of donation, composting, and anaerobic digestion is the same – keeping it out of the disposal stream and getting it reused/recycled. The generation rate would be determined before donation, not after, because the law bases the quantity threshold on generation rate, not disposal rate.  If it wasn't donated, it would end up in the trash.  For example, just because a generator donates 20% of the food residuals they generate, that doesn’t relieve them of having to get the other 80% recycled.

Are there any financial aid programs to build anaerobic digestion facilities?

The Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), also known as the CT Green Bank, offers incentives and innovative low-cost financing to encourage homeowners, companies, municipalities, and other institutions to support renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Through Energize CT, funding mechanisms are available for pilot anaerobic digestion projects.

Where can I find more information about organics recycling in Connecticut?

Visit the DEEP's Composting & Organics Recycling webpage at www.ct.gov/deep/composting.

Content Last Updated September 2020