Hurricane Ian Update

New Hanover County is no longer under any storm watches or warnings. Visit for more information.

New Hanover County services and attractions will resume normal operations on Saturday, October 1. Learn more here.

Food Waste Composting

New Hanover County’s Composting Program diverts food waste from the landfill, and makes a meaningful step towards reducing the amount of waste the county generates. The program began with a successful partnership between the county, UNCW, and UNCW’s Dining Services by diverting pre-consumer food waste from UNCW’s Wagoner Dining Hall. It has grown to a full-scale program that diverts food waste from the university, local restaurants, Live Oak Bank, Tidal Creek Co-op, and local residents.

UNCW’s Campus Dining Services recently hit an important milestone – 100 tons of food waste diverted!  UNCW has been diverting pre- and post-consumer food waste from the landfill and into the composting program since November 16, 2017.  As of August 26, 2019, 100 tons of food waste has been turned into nutrient-rich compost!

Residents can bring unpackaged food waste to the county’s composter or HazWagon, free of charge. You can also set up food waste collection at your home or business by contacting the Wilmington Compost Company by emailing Learn more about where to bring food waste, and what is accepted below.

Residents can bring the following food waste materials to be composted:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps (remove plastic stickers)
  • Meat, poultry, and fish (no bones larger than your index finger)
  • 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, rice, 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 (these can be taken to our Household Hazardous Waste facility)
  • Clam and oyster shells (take these to the New Hanover County Landfill, where they are used to build new oyster reefs)

The composter is located at the New Hanover County Landfill (5210 U.S. Highway 421 N.). Residents and businesses can bring food waste to the composter during normal business hours free of charge. In addition, residents can bring food waste to the county’s HazWagon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

When you bring food waste to 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 commercial use.

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

New Hanover County is pleased to announce that the composting program won the Carolina Recycling Association (CRA) award for Outstanding Performance in Recycling and Waste Reduction at its annual conference on March 19, 2019! Watch the video below to learn more.

Recycling & Solid Waste: 3002 U.S. Highway 421 North • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4400 • Fax 910-798-4408
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