Food Waste Composting

The public can bring unpackaged food waste to New Hanover County’s composter free of charge. The composting program diverts food waste from the landfill, and makes a meaningful step towards reducing the amount of waste the county generates. Learn more about where to bring food waste, and what is accepted below.

Residents can bring the following food waste materials to the composter:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps (remove plastic stickers)
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products, including yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter
  • Spoiled or uneaten food, cooked or raw
  • Breads, crackers, cookies, and other baked products
  • Eggs and egg shells
  • Pet food
  • Pasta, cereals, grains, and flours
  • Herbs and spices
  • Coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea bags
  • Any bags, plates, flatware, straws or cups marked “BPI Certified Compostable”

The following materials are not accepted at the composter:

  • Plastic food packaging material
  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam cups, trays, plates
  • Plastic knives, forks, spoons
  • Liquids (juice, milk, soda, etc.)
  • Metals, including cans and foils
  • Grease and oils
  • Clam and oyster shells

The composter is located at the New Hanover County Landfill (5210 U.S. Highway 421 N.). Residents can bring food waste during normal business hours free of charge.

When you arrive at the landfill, follow these simple steps:

  1. Weigh in at the truck scale, then go straight until the road curves to the left.
  2. Proceed past the yard waste processing area until you see the composting area on your right.
  3. If you have small quantities of food waste, drop it directly into the gray containers marked “FOOD WASTE.”
  4. If you have large quantities of food waste, drop it directly into the recessed pit area of the composter.
  5. Once you have unloaded, proceed back to the truck scales to weigh out.

The county’s composting system is unique because it utilizes the “in vessel” method of composting – all of the material is composted in an enclosed vessel in which temperature, air flow, and turning are managed in a controlled environment.

The compost generated is a mixture of ground yard waste, ground untreated dimensional lumber and pallets, food waste, and animal bedding. The recipe was carefully selected to provide the right balance of nutrients and consistency. The compost is processed to eliminate potential pathogens and destroy weed seeds and fungus spores, and screened to remove any potential contaminants or oversize material.

Compost is an amazing soil amendment that helps plants retain moisture, encourages strong root growth, provides a slow, steady release of nutrients, and inoculates the soil against some common pests and diseases. Soils amended with compost support healthier plants that can withstand longer periods of drought, while producing higher yields of fruits and vegetables. Using compost instead of fertilizers helps reduce pollutants found in storm water runoff that affect our natural wetlands, rivers, and streams.

Currently, the compost is used for New Hanover County Parks and Gardens, including Airlie Gardens and the New Hanover County Arboretum. The compost is not available for purchase or private use.

Community organizations and non-profits interested in using the compost for research, education, or community gardens can contact Environmental Management Director Joe Suleyman.

Environmental Management: 3002 U.S. Highway 421 North • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4400 • Fax 910-798-4408