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Zero Waste
Zero Waste

Commercial Food Waste Diversion

Each year, over 85,000 tons of food goes to waste in the District of Columbia’s commercial section. Nationally, one-third of all food that’s produced is thrown away. Zero Waste DC is working with local businesses to reduce food waste, donate excess food, and redirect food scraps to their highest and best use.

Why Food Waste Matters

  • It’s expensive: Food waste costs U.S. businesses nearly $59 billion annually.
  • It’s unnecessary: One-third of all food produced globally never gets eaten.
  • It’s a missed opportunity: Organic waste is a valuable resource that could fuel a more sustainable, circular economy.
  • It’s the law: Under D.C. Code § 8-1031.03a, starting January 1, 2023, large food waste generators are required to source separate back-of-house food scraps.

Legal Requirements for District Businesses

The District of Columbia passed legislation requiring the District’s largest commercial generators of food waste to begin implementing diversion strategies to keep their food waste out of the trash (D.C. Code § 8-1031.03a). Selected food waste generators will be required to establish food waste diversion programs and divert back-of-the house commercial food waste.

Back-of-house commercial food waste included food scraps separated by employees of a commercial establishment. It does not include food waste discarded directly by customers, but it does include food waste discarded on behalf of customers by employees.

As of January 1, 2023

Colleges and universities with at least 2,000 residential students

Retail food stores (i.e., grocery stores) with an area of at least 10,000 square feet.

As of January 1, 2024

Colleges and universities with at least 500 residential students.

Retail food stores that are part of a chain that: (a) Operates stores under common ownership or control for which waste is collected by the same private collector; (b) Consists of three or more stores; and (c) Has a combined area of at least 10,000 square feet.

Arenas or stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 persons.

Hospitals and nursing homes with at least 300 beds.

After January 1, 2024

The Mayor may require other entities to divert food waste based on available organic waste processing capacity in the region.

Food Waste Ready Certification Program

The Department of Public Works is launching the “Food Waste Ready” Training and Certification Program. “Food Waste Ready” is a two-phase training and certification process for restaurants and other food waste generators focused on the importance and process of food waste diversion. After completing an online training course, businesses will achieve “Food Waste Ready” certification.

More information about how businesses can enroll in the program is coming soon. Contact [email protected] for more information.