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Food Reuse and Waste laws

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Published on January 11, 2018. Last modified on September 24, 2019


Food Scraps Management

  75% Source Reduction

Californians throw away nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year. This represents about 18 percent of all the material that goes to landfills. In order for California to reach its goal of 75% source reduction, recycling and composting, food waste must be addressed.


Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling

scraps2California’s new Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law requires businesses to recycle their organic waste. The links below provide more information on food waste management as well as examples of how various business groups and public entities are managing food waste.

Everyone has a role in saving resources and wasting less food. Creative food rescue projects like the UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign work to save healthy fruits and vegetables from becoming waste. Rather than throwing away excess food, find ways to manage it more thoughtfully, such as working with groups to ensure that it goes to disadvantaged people, and composting for soil restoration. To further educate the public about food waste, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council have initiated a food waste reduction campaign known as Savethefood.com. Their web site offers a complete media kit with posters, videos, social media postings, and more.

Tips for large scale reduction management

Hotels & Restaurants

Hotels and restaurants can save money and reduce waste by donating edible food to disadvantaged communities to help reduce hunger; and by including waste prevention and recycling programs. Proper purchasing, handling, and careful food preparation and storage are fundamental to these efforts.


To reduce the amount of food scraps discarded by campuses, many institutions have implemented environmental programs that address sustainable practices.

Stadiums/Special Events

Collecting food scraps at stadiums, theme parks, fairs, festivals, and catered events creates unique challenges. Coordination between event staff, food preparation staff, consumers, waste haulers, and compost facilities is important to successful food scrap collection and composting efforts.

Health Care Industry

To reduce the amount of food scraps disposed by the health care industry, food waste recycling programs are being developed in many health care organizations. There are several ways to avoid wasting food: for example, prepare only what is needed, donate excess food, or implement composting programs.

Grocery Stores

Grocers can reduce waste by donating edible food to disadvantaged communities and by instituting best management practices for waste prevention.

Additional Information

How does the law protect businesses from liability?

The "Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act" (Public Law 104-210) makes it easier for businesses to donate to food rescue and food bank programs. It protects donors from liability when donating to nonprofit organizations and protects donors from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith cause harm to the needy recipient.

Tax benefits for donating food

Food donors are advised to consult with their tax adviser for information on tax deductions. For information on tax credit in California, please see the Chapter 503, Statutes of 2011 (Fuentes, AB 152), regarding donations to food banks, voluntary contributions, and income tax credits.

Food Donation

The US EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy ranks food donations to feed hungry people as a top priority to help reduce wasted food. The top levels of the hierarchy are the best ways to prevent waste and bring most benefits for the environment.

Safe Surplus Food Donation Toolkit

This toolkit was created for use and distribution by Environmental Health Departments across California to educate food facilities about safe surplus food donation, including information on liability protections, state mandates, and safe surplus food donation practices. Download the toolkit here!

Food Donations in your community

  • Food donors include food processors and manufacturers, grocers, wholesalers, farmers, and organized community food drives.
  • Perishable and prepared foods are typically collected from restaurants, caterers, corporate dining rooms, and hotels for prompt distribution to hungry people in their communities.
  • Donated food includes edible food from events, products affected by labeling regulations or manufacturing glitches, expired coupons, or code-dated products.
  • Donating surplus food inventory to food rescue or food banks reduces warehouse storage and disposal costs.