Restaurant Composting Project

Restaurant Composting Project

You can help by supporting restaurants who choose to compost, recycle and demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Look for the “We Compost Our Food Scraps” window decal at your favorite restaurants and let them know you appreciate their high level commitment to sustainability.  

Project Details

The City of Charleston was awarded a grant from SCDHEC for a food recovery pilot project in the Upper Peninsula’s EcoDistrict intended to divert restaurant food waste from being landfilled and direct it toward donation and composting instead.  The grant was written to cover costs associated with initiating food waste composting programs at restaurants, including:

  1. Providing “slim jim” compost bins (and recycling if needed) to fit each unique kitchen needs
  2. Training and educational materials
  3. Promotional and marketing materials
  4. Approximately 4-6 months of food waste collection service and exterior food waste collection cart


Pictures of the project can be found on Facebook in our Restaurant Composting Album.


All food and beverage establishments in the Upper Peninsula Initiative study area were invited to take part.

The following restaurants have chosen to participate:
1. Butcher and Bee
2. Cortaditos Cuban Cafe
3. Edmund’s Oast
4. Home Team BBQ
5. Lewis BBQ
6. Local 616
7. Martha Lou’s Kitchen
8. Nana’s Donuts
9. Spero
10. Taco Boy

Butcher & Bee and Taco Boy are proven leaders in sustainability both having composting programs in place as we got started- these programs will be expanded to capture more food waste with the help of this project.

Food Waste Hauler:

We are excited to be partnering with Smart Recycling as our contracted food waste hauler. Smart Recycling is also managing employee trainings at each restaurant and will consistently be checking in with each restaurant during the pilot period to answer questions, provide additional trainings, and adjust service frequency as needed.

Smart Recycling will haul the food scraps to Charleston County’s Award Winning Compost Facility at Bees Ferry, and will keep track of metrics from each restaurant so we can measure how much food waste is diverted  from our landfill.  Smart Recycling is also offering us in-kind donations in the form of extra pickups to extend the program for the participating restaurants beyond what the grant funds allow.  Thank you Smart Recycling!


Also known as an EcoDistrict, the Upper Peninsula Initiative has many related sustainability objectives all intended to guide responsible growth of the area.

Specifically, this project will address 4 of our objectives:

  1. Eliminate practices that produce waste wherever possible
  2. Inspire children to learn about the connection between land and food
  3. Encourage food recovery programs to donate extra food from restaurants to shelters and compost remaining scraps
  4. Capture greatest residual value of organic wastes (including food) through energy recovery and/or composting
At Nana’s Donuts, we believe each and every one of us has a duty to protect the health of our planet.
Because expanding landfills cause many problems, including air and water pollution, we are committed to our recycling and composting program.”
-Leslie Armstrong & Alan Berger, Nana’s Donuts

Environmental Benefits. Food scraps occupy valuable space in the landfill and when buried in layers of garbage without ample oxygen, cannot decompose cleanly producing a harmful greenhouse gas, methane.  Instead, food scraps can be composted to create a nutrient rich soil amendment that area farmers can apply to replenish exhausted soils. Restaurants can complete the composting loop by purveying from local farmers.

Economic Benefits. The project aims to calculate how each restaurant’s garbage fees can be significantly reduced to more than offset an increased cost to hire a compost hauler. For example, a reduction in dumpster size and pickup frequency will not only lower private waste hauler fees but also the annual Charleston County Solid Waste User Fee of $172 per cubic yard of garbage.

Your business can reduce the user fee charged by the County’s Revenue Collections Department by participating in the County’s Food Waste Composting Program.

For example, an 8 cubic yard garbage dumpster serviced once per week has a user-fee charge of $1,376 per year. (8 cubic yards x 1 service/week x $172 = $1,376)  Another example, two 8 cubic yard garbage dumpsters serviced twice per week has a user-fee charge of $5,504.  (16 cubic yards x 2 services/week x $172 = $5,504)  The size of the dumpster is counted regardless of the content inside, meaning two dumpsters that are often only half full equal the same user-fee as two dumpsters that are completely full.

Reducing the size of the container by taking advantage of Charleston County’s recycling and Food Waste Composting programs could reduce the amount of your business’s user fee bill. Reducing the dumpster by 2 cubic yards to a 6 cubic yard dumpster and by diverting recyclables and food waste could save a business $344 in yearly user fee charges (less any food waste collection costs).

Food waste recycling is not only good for the environment – it’s also good for your business’s bottom line.


  1. (Sept. 2016) Invitation to participate and obtain interest from area restaurants.  Obtain bids from compost haulers.
  2. (Oct. 2016) Conduct a Waste Assessment at each restaurant with City, County and compost hauler for a holistic review of current waste habits & recommended steps moving forward.
  3. (Nov. 2016) City to order slim jim bins to fit each kitchen (compost and recycling, as needed).
  4. (Nov.-Dec. 2016) Training sessions with restaurant staff and distribute slim jim bins, educational materials, and marketing materials.
  5. (Nov.-Dec. 2016) Begin collecting food waste on site once training begins (for about 4-6 months)
  6. Ongoing metrics will be recorded.
  7. Ongoing reassessment of quantity of bins, pickup schedule, training, marketing, as needed.
  8. Towards end of project, each restaurant to receive:
    • Metrics of food waste diverted from landfill
    • Estimated cost to continue composting on own

Hopeful Outcome

When the grant period ends, it is the hope all the pilot establishments will have experienced firsthand the economic and environmental values in donating and composting and will choose to continue these actions on their own. It will ultimately be up to the restaurant to decide what the right choice is for them.

It is also the hope the project will bring greater awareness in our region about diverting food waste from our landfill and it will be beneficial for other restaurants interested in obtaining readily available data about streamlining their waste.

You’ve heard of farm to table, but what about table to farm?
Restaurants can reduce disposal costs and their impact on our environment by composting food waste to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment that area residents and farmers can purchase and apply to their crops.  Local restaurants can complete the composting loop by purveying from local farmers.

More Information + Resources

Participating restaurants received a folder at their “Waste Assessment” with lots of information to help get them started:

  1. Flyer: “General Information
  2. Flyer: “Food Donation Basics” which lists local shelters and provides information about the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
  3. Window Decal “We Compost Our Food Scraps”
  4. Charleston County Recycling sticker
  5. Flyer: “Acceptable Food Waste Materials”
  6. Signage: 3 premade signs to label “Composting“, “Recycling” and “Garbage” receptacles
  7. Flyer: “Table to Farm”
  8. Flyer: “Recycle Right”
  9. Flyer: “Frequently Asked Questions about Charleston County’s Food Waste Program”



  1. Charleston County Environmental Management
  2. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC)
  3. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  4. Smart Recycling
  5. Compost Rangers
  6. The Green Heart Project