Food Waste & Leftovers

Below are suggestions and resources for reducing food waste or reusing or recycling it. 

Food Reduction

The U.S. EPA has a toolkit to reduce food waste and packaging. Visit the website for food waste calculators, guides for restaurants and food service and paper tracking waste logs.

Food Rescue

Many restaurants and caterers don't participate in food rescue because they are under the impression that food safety regulations prevent it. Let them know the Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 was created to protect businesses and grocery stores when they donate to non-profit organizations. So as you dine out or hire catering companies, ask them to participate and break down the misconceptions that exist. 

Food Pantries

Food pantries typically need non-perishable items and not your leftover prepared food. Baked items, fresh fruits and vegetables with some shelf life left might be welcome. But to be safe, ask first.

Shelters & Meal Sites

These locations vary what they accept. Please inquire on how you can donate food before you arrive.

  • Central Iowa Shelter & Services accepts leftovers from any occasion – even if the amount can't feed everyone at the shelter. All food is inspected before it is served again and is distributed within 12 hours of donation. 
  • Eat Greater Des Moines - Lists area meal sites
  • Food Bank of Iowa - List of soup kitchens and shelters (search by county)

Food Conversion

Metro Park East Landfill

Not all landfills capture methane gas and recycle it for energy. Metro Park East Landfill does have this technology. Methane gas generated by the breakdown of food waste is captured and converted to electricity (renewable energy). As many companies pursue sustainability or zero waste practices with measurement tools, Metro Waste Authority created a Download Food-to-Energy Calculator

NOTE: When using this Excel file, type in the amount of food waste generated on an annual basis and the rest of the fields will populate data for your end use.


Restaurants, Businesses & Haulers

  • Metro Park East Landfill & Metro Compost Center - Metro Waste Authority manages these facilities, which are Iowa DNR-permitted composting facilities. Both of these locations can accept limited quantities (up to two tons per week) of pre-approved, commercially generated food waste. Not Accepted: Meat, dairy and compostable service ware and bags are not accepted. Commercial and institutional food waste generators must contact us and provide a description of the material including type and amount of food as well as delivery schedule. Acceptance of the material is on a case-by-by case basis.  
  • Iowa Waste Reduction Center - A statewide map to search for compost facilities

Purchasing Compostable Products

When starting a program, careful consideration is needed if you plan to purchase "compostable" products, which is different than "recyclable." The U.S. Composting Council offers a toolkit and food serviceware guide:

Yard & Garden Waste Curbside Collection (Compost It!)

Residents living in cities who participate in Compost It! may place garden waste in their yard waste bags and carts along with grass clippings, brush and other yard trimmings. Food scraps are not allowed. Learn more about program guidelines.

Backyard Composting

The yard waste curbside collection program does take garden waste, but not food waste. For those items that make it to your plate, start your own backyard compost pile. Here's websites on how to get started.

Also Applies to:

food, food scraps, food waste, leftovers, organics