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Organic Materials Management

Organic materials are carbon based compounds that come from living things and are readily biodegradable, making them a valuable resource rather than a waste. It is the organic matter and nutrients in these materials that lead to the useful products (e.g., compost, biogas, digestate, etc.) created at organics recycling facilities. From farm wastes to residential lawns, cafeteria scraps to biosolids, organic materials are a part of life. Managing these materials through reduction, reuse, and recycling is a high priority in New York State.

Waste management hierarchy logo

Following the waste management hierarchy, reduction and reuse are at the top, representing the highest priority for materials management. This is followed by recycling and then disposal. Recycling organic materials by composting, anaerobic digestion, land application, and other organics recycling technologies reduces the generation of greenhouse gases, creates soil amendments, energy, and jobs, and reduces reliance on waste disposal.

NYSDEC provides regulatory oversight, technical assistance, education and outreach, and funding for organics reduction and recycling in New York State.

Types of Organics Wastes

Some of the common organic materials that can be recycled include:

  • Animal Manure - Includes both manure and bedding materials.
  • Animal Mortalities - Mortalities are an unfortunate but real component of managing farm animals, wildlife, and pets. Visit Cornell Waste Management Institute's mortality composting for more information.
  • Biosolids - Biosolids are the solids or semi-solids resulting from wastewater treatment. When managed properly to destroy pathogenic organisms, biosolids can be used as a valuable soil amendment due to their organic matter and nutrient content.
  • FOG (Fats, Oils, and Greases) - FOG is generated from commercial food preparation including frying foods, cooking meats, and managing creams, sauces, and dairy products. Many commercial food preparers are required to install and maintain FOG interceptors to avoid disposal to the sewer system.
  • Cow
  • Food Processing Waste - Includes the preparation of produce, grains, dairy, and meats for human consumption. These businesses can generate a variety of organic wastes such as skins, rinds, pumps, whey, off-spec products, and process washwater/residuals.
  • Food Scraps - Includes food unfit for human consumption, unwanted cooking preparation/kitchen scraps and table scraps, including items such as vegetable trimmings, banana peels, apple cores, bones, egg shells, etc.
  • Food Soiled Paper - Includes paper products that are not recyclable due to contact with food residues or wax coatings, including napkins, paper towels, pizza boxes, uncoated paper plates, used coffee filters, etc.
  • Yard Trimmings - Includes leaves, grass clippings, garden and other plant debris, tree branches and limbs, aquatic weeds, etc. resulting from the maintenance of lawns, gardens, and public spaces.

Additional Resources:

Orange peels in a bucket

More about Organic Materials Management:

  • Funding Opportunities for Food Pantries and Municipalties - Funding Opportunities for Emergency Food Relief Organizations and Municipalities to implement waste reduction, donation and food scraps recycling projects.
  • Home Composting and Reducing Wasted Food - Information on easy backyard composting.
  • Food and Food Scraps from Businesses and Institutions - Managing excess edible food and food scraps most efficiently starts with reduction of wasted food followed by feeding hungry people, feeding animals, organics recycling including composting, anaerobic digestion or other technologies, and finally disposal.
  • Food Scraps as Animal Feed - The feeding of breads from grocery stores and bakeries to animals on farms has occurred for decades.
  • Composting and Organics Recycling for Municipalities - State and federal law gives localities the responsibility for planning and implementing materials management strategies. Each municipality and county in New York State is required to be part of a solid waste management planning unit.
  • Organic Recycling Facilities and Regulations - Organic recycling facilities include composting, anaerobic digestion, land application and other technologies. Under New York State solid waste regulations, there are three levels of regulatory oversight for facilities: exempt, registered and permitted.
  • Recycling Biosolids from Wastewater Treatment Facilities - Wastewater treatment results in two major outputs, effluent and biosolids. Effluent is discharged to a receiving water, typically a stream or river. The solids can be recycled, incinerated, or landfilled.
  • Composting/Organics Recycling Technologies - There are many methods to recycle organic materials. Deciding on a method is dependent on a number of factors including the type of material, quantity, agricultural land availability, facility siting availability, markets for soil products, technology cost, government incentives available and other factors.