The RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program has worked with local health officials to develop recommended Best Management Practices (BMPs) for use by health agents to support and inform local oversight of commercial food waste collection programs. The commercial organics waste disposal ban affects any business or institution that disposes of one ton or more of food waste per week, effective October 1, 2014. Effective November 1, 2022, the MassDEP lowered the threshold for the commercial organics ban so that it applies to businesses and institutions generating one-half ton or more food waste per week. These BMPs are also intended to serve as a resource to businesses and institutions and their haulers. This is not regulatory language and these practices may need to be modified to fit varying site specific conditions. The RecyclingWorks program will consider revising the BMPs in the future as needed. Any suggestions should be sent to Map

I.  Kitchen Separation Tabletop Compost

Source separation of food scraps starts in kitchens and dish rooms. Recommended back of the house practices are as follows:

  • Kitchen food scraps should be collected in dedicated receptacles such as bowls, buckets and barrels in the same area as trash is currently collected.
  • Containers should be leak proof (impervious) and covered when not in continuous use, or when full. They must be intended only for the purpose of food scraps collection and clearly marked.
  • Food scraps should be collected and removed from the kitchen/dish room at the same frequency as trash is removed from these areas.

Back of the house practices are dependent on the volume produced. Collection at the same frequency as trash is reasonable for most establishments and seasons; in others, food waste should be collected as often as necessary to keep the area sanitary and to prevent odor, vermin and vector harborage. At a minimum, collection should be every shift. Once collected, food scraps will be brought to a storage area near the trash dumpster/compactor where the hauler will pick up the material.

View the following instructional video featuring UMass Amherst to learn more about source separation of food scraps.

RecyclingWorks produced this training video tailored for restaurants eager to start separating and diverting food scraps away from the trash. It is available in both English and Spanish language, adjustable through the audio and closed captioning settings

II.  Hauler Collection Frequencies

As a rule, food scraps should be collected by the haulers at a frequency that minimizes odor, insects, vectors and other pests. Collection frequency will vary based on hauler routes, truck capabilities, collection container types, and site specific generation rate of these materials.  In some cases, variations on the below recommended practices should be agreed upon between the Health Department, food establishment and hauler.

Compost binDumpsters and Carts: 64 gallon wheeled carts (known as toters) and dumpsters of 2, 4, 6, and 8 yard sizes.

  • In summer (April-September) it is recommended that food scraps collected in toters or dumpsters be hauled away for processing twice per week.
  • In winter (October-March) it is recommended that food scraps collected in toters or dumpsters be hauled away for processing once per week.

Certain situations may dictate the need for more frequent removal, such as proximity of the collection container to other establishments and the type of food waste generated. Most establishments will be fine with a 2x/weekly collection, while high-odor generators such as seafood restaurants may need to collect more frequently. Food waste should be collected as often as necessary to prevent a nuisance. Refer to the Composting toolkit for restaurants and schools available at and funded by MassDEP for more detailed information on composting programs.

Compactors: Usually 20 yards or more, compactors are used by large food waste generators that also have the space to site a container of this size at their facility. A self-contained compactor typically has a chute with a door leading from a loading dock or from the inside of a building to feed it and has no area open to the air.

  • In summer (April-September), it is recommended that food waste collected in compactors be hauled away for processing once per week.
  • In winter (October-March) it is recommended that food waste collected in compactors be hauled away for processing once per week.

Location of the compactor relative to sun exposure may affect hauling need frequency. The condition of the compactor should be checked regularly for leaks or rusting. If the compactor has an open chute leading directly from the inside of the building, odors may create problems inside the establishment. Compactors should be emptied as often as necessary to keep the area clean, sanitary and free of odors and insects. Extending the time frequency of pick up should be agreed upon by the establishment, hauler and health department.

III.  Outdoor Storage Practices

Type and location of containers will vary. There is also considerable variability in local trash area requirements and space availability, especially between dense urban centers and less dense or space constrained areas.

  1. Storage: Outdoor storage surfaces should be nonabsorbent (concrete or asphalt), smooth, and durable and sloped to drain. Some communities require trash/recycling areas to be fenced in or otherwise out of view. It is best for businesses/institutions to check with the local Health Department to determine if this is required. The storage area must be maintained in good repair, clearly marked with no-parking signs, easily cleanable and if necessary/possible, enclosed by fencing to contain wind-blown litter. No food debris, residue should be outside of the containers, and no unnecessary items should clutter the storage area.
  2. Container Maintenance: Dumpsters, carts or compactors should be closable and cleanable, leak-free, water tight and capable of being locked. All doors/hatches/tight-fitting lids should be closed or in place when not in immediate use to prevent pests from entering the container. Plastic bags and wet strength paper bags may be used to line closed outside receptacles.
  3. Cleanliness: Carts, dumpsters, compactors and other bins should be cleaned often enough to prevent odor and other pest/vector attractions. High pressure pumps, hot water, steam and detergent are cleaning materials that should be used as necessary.

About this Document

Two meetings with local health officials were held; Springfield (February 28th, 2013) and Worcester (March 28th, 2013). A survey was then sent in April to over 100 public health professionals, yielding 17 responses. RecyclingWorks presented an early draft to the MassDEP Organics Subcommittee meeting held on June 10. In addition, a draft document was shared with representatives of all of the major public health organizations in Massachusetts, who were given a chance to provide comments. This BMP document is based on the results of this process.


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