Public Works and Environmental Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 448, Fairfax, Va 22035

John Kellas,
Deputy Director, Solid Waste Management

Organic Waste

Organic waste comes from plant or animal sources. Commonly, they include food waste, fruit and vegetable peels, yard waste; even the food left on your plate can be classified as organic waste. They are biodegradable (this means they are easily broken down by other organisms over time). Many people turn their organic waste into compost and use it in their gardens.

Food Recovery Hierarchy

Here are some typical organic waste categories that can be found inside and outside your home:


CompostingComposting is the way that nature recycles. In nature, when a leaf falls to the forest floor, it is consumed and digested by a host of creatures, from worms and insects to microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. Many homeowners create their own compost from their organic waste by combining food waste and yard waste including grass clippings, leaves, twigs, and branches to help bring vital nutrients back to the soil. In order to compost correctly and efficiently, there are four ingredients to be used in the recipe: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Water, and Carbon. The ratio of each depends on the weather conditions and type of organic waste you have.

By mixing these ingredients, the result is usually a dark, crumbled mixture comprised of organic decaying material. Here's some useful information from the Environmental Protection Agency about Composting At Home.

Whether you decide to compost yourself or take your organic matter elsewhere, know that you will be doing your part to help the environment be a safe, cleaner place for everyone.

Food Waste Donations

There are times when a retail or wholesale business, restaurant, or caterer will have leftover food that could be donated, and there are several organizations in the area that attempt to match sources of food with organizations that can distribute it to those in need. Organizations in Fairfax County that accept donations of food can be found in the Human Services Resource Guide search: Food.

Virginia law protects those who donate food from civil liability in certain cases:

A. Any farmer, processor, distributor, wholesaler, food service establishment, restaurant, or retailer of food, including a grocery, convenience, or other store selling food or food products, who donates food to any food bank or any second harvest certified food bank or food bank member charity that is exempt from taxation under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c) (3), which maintains a food storage facility certified by the Department and, where required by ordinance, by the State Department of Health, for use or distribution by the organization shall be exempt from civil liability arising from any injury or death resulting from the nature, age, condition, or packaging of the donated food. The exemption of this section shall not apply if the injury or death directly results from the gross negligence or intentional act of the donor. If the donor is a food service establishment or a restaurant, such donor shall comply with the regulations of the Board of Health with respect to the safe preparation, handling, protection, and preservation of food, including necessary refrigeration or heating methods, pursuant to the provisions of Code of Virginia § 35.1-14.

Waste not, want not

We've all done it - buy food that doesn't get eaten, only to be dumped in the trash when we clean out the fridge. If it feels wasteful, it is! There are lots of strategies for making better use of the food we buy - check out, which has lots of great ideas about smart shopping, meal planning, food storage, and more.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant