Food Waste

Food waste costs the country nearly $218 billion per year, but money is not the only issue associated with food waste. Along with food, valuable resources like water and farmland are wasted when food is thrown out.

Organic waste, including food and yard waste, make up 28% of what we throw away into landfills, which takes up space and releases methane, a greenhouse gas. Pittsburgh has identified the goal of being a “Zero Waste” City by 2030, and as part of Pittsburgh’s Climate Action Plan, we want to work towards eliminating organic waste from our landfills. This requires composting mechanisms for individuals and businesses.

Eliminating food waste has the potential to be extremely impactful in Pittsburgh. As part of The Natural Resource Defense Council’s Food Matters Cities Project, NRDC used a Food Waste Calculator to estimate Pittsburgh’s food waste and assessed the potential areas of impact for decreasing food waste.

Pittsburgh is taking steps to educate, pilot, and implement proven strategies to reduce our food waste, and there are steps you can take, too!


Reduce. Reuse. Rescue. Recycle.

Food Rescue Pyramid


  • A little planning goes a long way to helping you buy only what you need. With all the recipes available on line, make a list, and substitute what you already have in stock when you can.
  • Shop local, in season, and at farmers markets when you can: Local food is fresher and lasts longer.
  • Start big and then mix it up: Roast a whole chicken, then have stir fry, chicken salad, and chicken pot pie. You can also make your own stock from chicken bones and vegetable scraps. (see Reuse below)
  • Store food properly: Tomatoes, potatoes, garlic should never be stored in the fridge; some vegetables like bananas and avocados release ethylene gas while ripening, and can cause other foods to prematurely spoil. If you’re not able to use vegetables right away, many can be chopped and frozen for use later.


  • Food scraps can also have a second life in some unique ways. Bones and vegetable scraps can be used to make stock for soup, and some foods like lettuce hearts and pineapple tops can be used to grow more food. Having animals like chickens can be a great way to “reuse” your food scraps, too! Make it into eggs!


  • Food rescue relies on people who truly care about the problem of food waste. Organizations like the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank have been rescuing food from retail locations and gleaning from farms for many years. In addition, 412 Food Rescue has the largest volunteer-led food transport network in a single urban region, and does an incredible job of connecting leftover food to people who can use it.


  • At a certain point, there is no other option but to discard spoiled food, however, it can be recycled to enrich soil through composting. The City of Pittsburgh encourages its residents to compost their organic waste.
  • Composting is a method of turning organic waste into usable soil, and has many benefits including enriching the soil, retaining soil nutrients, and reducing methane emissions. As a resident of the City of Pittsburgh, you can begin composting to help keep Pittsburgh clean and sustainable, and to do your part in helping our planet.
  • If you don’t have a space at home to begin your own composting, the city of Pittsburgh has a Food Waste Drop-Off system. Simply drop off your food waste at our city-run farmer’s markets at East Liberty on Mondays or Northside on Fridays. These food scraps will be collected by a local compost company to be transformed into fertile soil amendment to be used on local urban farming and gardening projects! Collect your food waste at home in large yogurt containers or other plastic covered containers. To reduce odor, store in your freezer or refrigerator and place a layer of shredded newspaper at the bottom of your storage container.

Current Laws

Section 619.14 of City Ordinances Composting activities are classified as Urban Agriculture in Section 912.07 of the Pittsburgh Zoning Code. Any and all composting activities, including residential accessory use permitted by right as described in Section 912.02.