The recycling of organic byproducts isn’t a new concept. In fact, the inherent nature of “organic” materials like food waste make them prime candidates for a circular economy. Why landfill when you can easily convert organic “waste” materials into valuable products?

Organics Recycling & Value

The organics recycling infrastructure in the U.S. offers several different landfill diversion, including feeding animals, energy generation, and compost. All of these recycling options ensure valuable nutrients (and potentially energy) are recovered from wasted food, and all are preferable to landfilling, of course after waste prevention and recovery. These ways of diverting food and other organic “wastes” – and capturing value through recycling – also are all interconnected with our food systems, land management, and ecological impact. A summary of the various methods to recycle organic byproducts is below.

The Importance of a Diverse Recycling Infrastructure for Food Waste Generators

Growth of a sustained and widespread organics commercial recycling infrastructure is still happening in the U.S., and it has come a long way in the last couple of decades. There have been two main drivers for this growth: The first was a voluntary push and investment from large retail following an increased awareness of environmental impact that resulted in the establishing of landfill diversion commitments. The second has been ongoing regulations related to organic waste outlets, food waste recycling and bans from landfilling.  When the initial push came from the business community to recycle wasted food via a nationwide outlet network, it was recognized that to accomplish this throughout the U.S. there would need to be a robust hauling network, a widespread, reliable outlet infrastructure that could accept and recycle the food, and a supportive regulatory environment. Although it is common for a customer to have some preference with regards to how their organic waste is recycled, it is key to have a service provider-partner that is strategic and experienced in the organics recycling space. In this partnership, the service provider will drive the recycling relationships to ensure a customer’s organic waste is being diverted from landfill.  It is to a customer’s advantage to be open to diversifying their organic waste outlet options. Now, let’s focus on the nationwide, reliable, and sustained outlet infrastructure needed for commercial organics recycling to be successful.

Recycling is a Business. As is common with any business, and especially in the recycling industry, it is important to have a model that is profitable to remain in business. To do this in recycling, the “waste” materials (feedstock) are the resource inputs that are needed to produce an end product. Ideally, all of these steps need to work together to operate a successful recycling business. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy in the organics industry, which is very localized, dependent on regulations, and has varying cost models. The most successful organics recycling businesses, just like any other business, operate with efficiency, focused on product(s) and make a profit. Being aware of how outlets are operating, and ensuring there are always different options to send wasted food for recycling despite regional challenges, will make sure the material is always diverted.

If in Doubt, Re-Route. From a customer perspective, when organic waste streams are segregated for recycling, it is important that these materials are actually recycled. By having various recycling options, the customer is assured that if an outlet is not up and running due to equipment failures, fire, labor, or operational issues, their source separated organic waste will still be managed as a recycled stream rather than landfilled. If the planned recycling outlet is not available, and it is not practical to hold material until back up and running, a trailer of food waste can be re-rerouted to an alternate recycling facility.

Vendor Partners to Achieve Goals. Wasted food has become a significant focus for retailers and foodservice providers over the last decade. Food waste prevention and donation are top of mind, followed by recycling, and have been the driver for public corporate goals and commitments. As awareness has increased around food waste, so have the methods to manage the material, which has reinforced the importance of choosing a long-term service provider-partner that has significant presence in the organics recycling space, can manage various organic waste streams, will work with customers to have a diversified approach to organics recycling, and can provide data and insights needed to drive progress. This is especially relevant as retailers and foodservice often have meats, compostable eatware, and packaged products that part of the waste stream. There are different ways to handle each of these organic-related waste streams, but it requires individualized programs along with the use of different available outlet options to be able to divert as much material from landfill as possible.

If you are a business or manufacturer that would like to learn more about recycling your food byproducts or other organic waste streams, contact us at Denali. We can help you set up a customized program to fit your service needs, organic waste streams, and provide the best value.


About Denali

Denali is a leading expert and recycler in the U.S. organics recycling industry. In food waste alone, Denali was responsible for managing over 600,000 tons of food waste from retail, foodservice, and industrial food processors in 2022. In recognizing the impact that food waste has on the climate, Denali is committed to working with customers to find innovative, data-driven solutions to reduce waste on the front end. Denali views what others consider “waste” as a valuable resource, manages multiple recycling facilities in the U.S., and has a sizeable fleet to transport organic wastes to a diverse network of recyclers. As a contributor to the circular economy, Denali closes the loop by producing valuable products from recycled organics, including animal feed, biodiesel, compost, tire lubricants, and mulch.


“Turning Food Waste into Feed: Benefits and Trade-offs for Nature.” WWF, July 12, 2021.

“Connections: Why Regenerative Agriculture Needs Recycled Organics.” Biocycle, May 12, 2020


“Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting.” U.S. EPA.