Food Waste Recycling

 Food Waste w cutting boardDid you know that the State of Maine has a goal of reaching a 50% recycling rate by 2021? And did you know that food waste can account for more than a quarter of our waste?

ecomaine is proud to have added food waste recycling to its portfolio of sustainable waste management solutions in September 2016. We continue to build food waste recycling capacity in southern Maine, serving as a central collection point for grocery stores, institutions, and  participating municipalities.

We learned from our extensive Organics Feasibility Study in 2013 that food waste comprises up to a third of the waste in Maine’s trash cans. And in a 2018 study, we continued to learn about opportunities for greater efficiencies in food waste collection across communities. Therefore, ecomaine is offering this program to help its member communities make bigger strides toward reaching the state’s recycling goals.

Food waste that comes to ecomaine is collected and brought by Agri-Cycle Energy to Exeter  (Maine) Agri-Energy, where the food waste is de-packaged before it is anaerobically digested to produce sustainable power, organic farm fertilizer, and cow bedding for the Maine family dairy farm Stonyvale Farm. The packaging that is removed from the food waste is delivered back to ecomaine to be burned for energy.

ecomaine is proud to support the waste hierarchy, which guides us to move solid waste to its highest use, and avoid landfilling – a long-term storage strategy – whenever possible. As such, we advocate for composting, anaerobic digestion, and food waste recycling whenever possible and when it is done responsibly.

Options include…


Backyard composting is easy, relatively convenient, and produces (by far) the fewest greenhouse gas emissions – since you’re just walking it out to your home composter!  What’s more, you can end up with nice, rich soil for your gardens, too.

There are a few more things to keep in mind for effective bakyard composting, including the materials you can and can’t put in the bin, the mix of green/brown matter, and more.  Find out some more great info on backyard composting from the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection here.


Interested in composting with worms?  Here are some vermicomposting Tips!

Start with about half as much food as you have worms. (1 lb.of worms? Try 1/2-lb. of food…)
Don’t feed them more than that per week, and feed them in smaller bits – it’s easier to eat!
Put the food in first (the worms will get to it, and it won’t attract fruit flies).

Maintain the right temperature.  Your worms could die if their environment gets too hot or too cold.
Worms need bedding – use shredded paper.
Maintain the right amount of moisture.  Dry out your bin with shredded paper.
Sprinkle in a handful of garden soil into the bin to help the worms digest.

Follow the same “Do’s and Don’ts” as regular backyard composting.
No plastics, metals, or glass (even the staples in tea bags are bad news!)


Curbside pickup options for composting are increasing in most places, and Maine isn’t an exception.  Companies that offer curbside pickup often expand what is allowed in your food waste bucket, and you can even get a clean container after pickup!

Options in Maine include We Compost It! and Garbage to Garden for residential or business customers, and Agri-Cycle Energy for commercial accounts.  All great options!

ecomaine’s Curbside Food Waste Pilot

In May of 2017, ecomaine piloted a food waste pickup program for residents of  Scarborough (260 homes in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood) and South Portland (600 homes in Knightville & Meetinghouse Hill neighborhoods).  These towns  contracted with distinct haulers, who collected the food waste each week and deliver it to ecomaine’s Portland facility.

Pilot Report  
Scarborough: In September 2017, Scarborough concluded its four month pilot program having collected 25,580 pounds of food waste at the curb with a diversion rate that increased the community’s recycling rate by 16% to 46%. Throughout the pilot, approximately 44% of participants set out a cart each week.

South Portland: The City of South Portland continued their pilot until April 2018. A total of  more than 105,000 pounds of food waste were collected at the curb increasing the pilot neighborhood’s recycling rate by 9% to 36%. Throughout the pilot, approximately 37% of residents set out a bin each week.


There are some options around fore residents to directly drop off their food waste, too, if curbside pickup isn’t an option.  Check with your town staff to see if there is a food waste program where you live.  Here are a few locations:


  • Public Works Facility (20 Washington Avenue)

South Portland

  • Any resident can bring their food waste (either loose or in a clear plastic bag) to the Transfer Station (929 Highland Avenue), City Hall (25 Cottage Road), the Golf Course Maintenance Building (221 Westbrook Street), or the Redbank Community Hub (580 Westbrook Street)

Frequently Asked Questions…

What is acceptable food waste?

It depends!  See guidelines from the Maine DEP for backyard composting.

If you’re participating in a curbside or drop-off program, acceptable food waste is a little different, and can include a little bit more material.  (See image below.)


(Click image to enlarge)

Can I collect food waste in a plastic bag?

If your food waste ends up at ecomaine, yes!  (If you have curbside pickup, definitely check with your company before putting any food waste in plastic bags.)  When we send it all to Agri-Energy in Exeter, they have a machine that actually separates plastic bags from the waste.  Then, even better, Agri-Energy sends those bags back to ecomaine, so we can combust them to make energy with the rest of the trash!

Why recycle food waste?

We Want to Always Divert Recyclable Materials from Landfills
At ecomaine, all household waste is burned to produce energy and to make it suitable for landfilling as an ash material. But let’s face it: tomatoes, lettuce and other wet food waste don’t burn well. Instead, they could be converted beautifully into compost that feeds Maine soil, or into sustainable energy that powers Maine homes and businesses.  Whether you’re recycling your food waste in a backyard compost pile or through an industrial system like ecomaine’s, your efforts are wicked good for Maine’s environment.

A Valuable Resource, Comprising up to 30% of Household Waste
You can divert your waste from landfills by getting behind the statewide goal to reach a 50 percent recycling rate by 2021. The fastest way is by adding FOOD WASTE RECYCLING to the three Rs you’ve already been practicing to downsize your waste at home: REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. Your food scraps can instead be used as a renewable resource right here in Maine, to help Maine dairy farmers.

Food Scraps Saved Are Dollars Saved
For every ton of food scraps separated from your trash, your town saves more than $15 off of its $70.50 per ton waste-processing fee. In other words, throwing food scraps into the trash is like throwing away money!


View our three food waste recycling videos on our YouTube channel

ecomaine’s Food Waste Recycling Program In the News

South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Sentry – Sept. 1, 2017
Waste 360 – Sept. 6, 2017

Maine municipalities begin testing curbside food waste pickup projects
Waste Today Magazine – March 28, 2017
Communities To Experiment with Collecting Food Waste For Composting
Maine Public Radio – March 27, 2017
Waste not, want not: Food waste pilot programs set to begin
WCSH 6 – March 27, 2017
In a first for Maine, Scarborough and South Portland will start collecting food waste
Portland Press Herald – March 27, 2017
Food waste recycling made easy
Green & Healthy Maine HOMES – Spring/Summer 2017
2 municipalities begin ecomaine partnership for curbside food waste collection
Waste Dive – March 10, 2017
City to pilot food waste collection
South Portland – Cape Elizabeth Sentry – March 10, 2017
South Portland, Scarborough to try curbside food waste collection
The Forecaster – March 9, 2017
In key advance, food waste recycling-to-energy program begins in Portland area
Portland Press Herald – Sept. 7, 2016
Food Waste for Anaerobic Digestion Feedstock for Exeter Agri-Energy in Maine: Portland, Maine based ecomaine has launched a new food waste recycling service to help its member communities reach the statewide recycling goal of 50% by 2021.
Waste Management World – Sept. 8, 2016
Food Waste Recycling Waste-to-Energy Program Launches in Portland, Maine
Waste360 – Sept. 9. 2016
Kitchen scraps fuel new ecomaine compost program
The Forecaster – Sept. 6, 2016

Happy composting!  If you have questions about this program, contact ecomaine Communications Manager Matt Grondin.