When waste prevention isn't possible, diverting food waste from landfills is the next best option. Landfills emit greenhouse gasses as waste breaks down. In 2020, an estimated 615,500 tons of wasted food and 238,500 tons of food scraps were disposed of in Wisconsin landfills. Keeping this amount out of landfills saves the equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions as taking 592,035 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

There are a few different options when it comes to keeping food waste out of landfills. Here are a few to consider:

  • Small amounts of food scraps (no fats, oils, or greases) can be disposed of down your kitchen sink garbage disposal. Check out NEW Water's Guidance here.
  • At home composting
  • Composting via subscription service

Through The Edible Schoolyard Project, try this home experiment for growing food from food scraps!


Compost is an environmentally friendly way to create healthy soil for Wisconsin's landscape. Compost made from yard materials and other organics, like food scraps, can replenish soil with microorganisms and nutrients. Compost is a soil-like material rich in stabilized carbon produced from the breakdown of organic materials. It is considered a "soil amendment" rather than a fertilizer because it usually contains smaller amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than mineral-based commercial fertilizer products.

Benefits of applying compost include:

  • restoring or enhancing the ability of sandy soil to hold moisture and clay soils to drain;
  • repairing or preventing damage caused by erosion; and
  • aiding plant growth – e.g., in residential gardens, public landscapes or after construction and mining projects are completed.


Consider home composting for food materials such as peels and rinds, eggshells and coffee grounds. If home composting isn't possible for you, subscription services could be your solution. 

Home Composting options:

Subscription Services

  • De Pere residents have the opportunity to work with Greener Bay Compost for subscription services for composting organic waste


Because not all food can be composted at home, preventing food waste is also an important step in reducing what goes to landfills.

  • Take an inventory before leaving your residence. Determine what food you already have at home, what needs to be used soon and how much space you have for new items.
  • Shop with a list. Save time and reduce impulse buys by skipping aisles with unwanted items.
  • Eat before shopping. Hungry shoppers are more likely to make extra purchases. This goes for the kids, too!
  • Meal plan. Use online tools to calculate how much of each ingredient to buy based on how many servings you need.
  • Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is worth it only if you can use all the food in a timely manner.
  • Track excess. After a few grocery trips, take note of what goes uneaten and cut back on buying those items.
  • At larger gatherings
    • Get a headcount. Use online calculators to determine how much food you need based on your number of guests. Create a menu that accommodates dietary restrictions rather than making extra alternatives.
    • Build a buffet. Let guests dish their own plates to avoid overserving. Making pre-cut foods mini can also help guests grab the right portion.
    • Fill when empty. Open extra packaged food only if the first round has run out.
    • Potluck style. If guests are contributing to the meal, fill them in on how they can help reduce waste, too.
    • Store and share leftovers. Put leftovers in containers to eat later or send home with guests who want them. If you have lots of extras, consider sharing with the neighborhood or office or donating the leftovers.
  • Store food properly to extend its life.
Food Items Location
Garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash A cool, dry place
Avocados, bananas, mangos, kiwis, peaches, pears, melons, oranges, tomatoes The countertop until ripe; once ripe, place in refrigerator
Berries, cherries, grapes The refrigerator in a container with vents that allows moisture to escape
Mushrooms The refrigerator in a paper bag to absorb moisture
Beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peas, peppers, zucchini The refrigerator in a high-humidity crisper drawer to slow wilting
Apples, counter fruits moved to the refrigerator The refrigerator in a drawer away from other produce to contain ethylene gas given off that speeds ripening
Asparagus, herbs, leafy greens The refrigerator in an airtight container with damp towels
Nuts, seeds, and any produce, meat, seafood, tempeh, tofu, seitan, breads, baked goods and herbs you do not plan to use quickly The freezer


Donating food for those in need is a great way to keep edible food out of the garbage. Be sure to check with your county health department and nearby food banks to get local information about how to donate food safely and what is accepted.

Both state and federal laws protect food donors from liability. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act encourages the donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations for distribution to needy individuals. The law protects donors from civil and criminal liability should a fit and wholesome product donated in good faith later cause harm to a recipient.

Wisconsin law, s. 895.51, Wis. Stats., also provides protection to any person engaged in the processing, distribution or sale of food products, for-profit or not-for-profit, who donates or sells qualified food to a charitable organization or food distribution service. They would be immune from civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual caused by the qualified food donated or sold by the person.