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, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (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 have 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 emailing the Wilmington Compost Company. 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)
- How Is The Compost Created?
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, airflow, 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 long periods of drought while producing higher yields of fruits and vegetables. Using compost instead of fertilizers helps reduce pollutants found in stormwater runoff that affect our natural wetlands, rivers, and streams.
- How long does it take to make compost?
Typically, it takes about 30 days for compost to fully cure - 3 days in the composting unit and 4 weeks in the curing bunkers.
- How Is The Compost Used?
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 for commercial use.
Community organizations, gardeners, and non-profits interested in using the compost for personal use, research, education, or community gardens can email Environmental Management Director Joe Suleyman.
- Can I get some of the compost for my home garden?
Yes! Please contact the Department at (910) 798-4400 to set up an appointment. Remember that you will need a tarp to secure your load if transporting compost in the bed of a pickup truck!
- Where Do I Bring Food Waste?
The composter is located at the New Hanover County Landfill, 5210 US Highway 421, Wilmington, NC 28402. 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:
- Weigh in at the truck scale, then go straight until the road curves to the left.
- Proceed past the yard waste processing area until you see the composting area on your right.
- If you have small quantities of food waste, drop it directly into the gray containers marked “Food Waste.”
- If you have large quantities of food waste, drop it directly into the recessed pit area of the composter.
- Once you have unloaded, proceed back to the truck scales to weigh out.
Carolina Recycling Association (CRA) award
New Hanover County is pleased to announce that the composting program won the Carolina Recycling Association award for Outstanding Performance in Recycling and Waste Reduction at its annual conference on March 19, 2019! Watch the following video to learn more.