Walltown Food Waste Collection Pilot

Welcome to the City of Durham’s pilot program for the curbside collection of food scraps and thank you for your willingness to assist us as we develop our program!

One of the primary goals for the Solid Waste Department is to learn how best to communicate to our residents about what is, and is not, acceptable to be put in the food scraps collection carts.  And we know that one of the most important things for participants is that the program be as easy to use and free of problems as possible.  We encourage you to share information with us, to let us know if you have questions or are experiencing any problems.

The most common complaints that are heard about food waste collection generally concern either odors or fruit flies.  We believe that by providing residents with both an indoor countertop container and an outdoor cart, these problems can be minimized.   The indoor countertop containers have lids that seal and some have built in filters.  We are looking for our program participants to tell us how well these containers work (or don’t) for them in order to help us make wise decisions before we expand the program.

Here's how the process will work:

  • All program participants are asked to separate food scraps that they would normally place in their garbage container for disposal, and instead place them in the provided food scraps cart for collection each Friday. To help with this process, we are also providing a countertop container for use in your kitchen when preparing food and cleaning up after meals.collect food waste at your house
  • We then need you to place your food scraps cart at the curb by 6:00 am each Friday for collection by our City truck. Please set your cart out each Friday regardless of its level of fullness, as this will assist us in recording quantities collected for future program development.food waste collected by Solid Waste Management Department
  • >Instead of going to the landfill for disposal, the food waste will be transported to the City’s composting facility to be composted by our composting contractor.food waste goes to landfill for composting

What can I include?

list of appropriate food scraps

How can I reduce odor?

tips for reducing smell

Is there anything else I need to know?

We ask that all participants complete two surveys, take part in brief feedback interviews, and share their experiences with us so we can learn what works and what doesn’t, directly from program participants. We need your help to design a program that works and meets residents’ needs before we start to expand the program. 

learn more about the project


Why Walltown?  

One of the community goals in Walltown is to improve environmental sustainability, something that aligns very well with composting. Since this is a pilot program, we also wanted to select a region of Durham that was representative of the demographic makeup of our city. 

Why collect food waste?  

Food waste can be as much as 30% by weight of items that get disposed of as garbage. Did you know that food waste is the primary source of methane at landfill sites? Composting diverts food waste from the landfill and reduces greenhouse gas production. Food waste not sent to landfill can be composted to create a valuable soil amendment. The City is already collecting food waste as garbage. The pilot program will instead collect it in a different truck and deliver it to our composting contractor, Atlas Organics instead of it going to disposal in landfill. Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, like food scraps, into fertilizer that feeds soil and plants.    

Where will my food waste go? 

We are working with our partners Atlas Organics who will receive and process your food waste to turn it into rich compost that can be used in vegetable beds, parks and gardens. Learn more about Atlas Organics.

What happens after the pilot ends?

At the end of the 12 weeks, each participant will be asked to complete a final survey because your feedback is valuable and we want to know your thoughts on what worked, what didn’t work and why. Your input will help determine if this type of program can be offered to more neighborhoods and what types of resources will be needed to make that successfully happen. 

I have a friend/family member who would like to be a part of the program.  What should I tell them?

Please tell them to e-mail us at the [email protected] e-mail with their name and address to let us know of their interest so that we may consider them for the second phase of the our pilot program.

Frequently Asked Questions


"What all can be included as "food related paper products"?" 

For this pilot, we are limiting it to paper towels, paper napkins, paper coffee filters, pizza boxes and molded paper fiber trays, paper plates and paper towel roll cores.  Printing on the items is not an issue.   

"Can I include oil and grease in the cart?"

Oil and grease is acceptable on paper towels or napkins that have been used to wipe off a plate or pan, but not in larger quantities.  

"Will you be adding reminders to the City of Durham Roll Out App for those who are participating in the food waste collection pilot?"

We are currently working with our vendor to get a reminder set up for the participants in the food scrap collection pilot, so standby and we will let you know as soon as we are able to have it ready!  If you do not currently use the very Roll Out app, we encourage you to consider doing so --  see the logo in the column to the right.    

"Why are we not allowed to use "biodegradable" bags or include other "biodegradable" products?"

Unfortunately, not all products claimed to be "Biodegradable" truly are, at least not as part of the composting process used by the City's contractor.  While some certainly are, those that are not become contaminants in the composting process which could result in entire loads of food scraps ending having to be thrown away rather than composted.   

"Why do I have to remove stickers from fruit and vegetables? They are so small - is it really a big deal?"

The small stickers attached to many fruits and vegetables are plastic and so do not break down during the composting process.  They become contaminants in the composting process, remaining visible in the finished compost, making it undesirable for buyers.  The same goes for twist ties and rubber bands, so please be sure to leave them out as well. 

"Why can't I include shredded paper?"

All too often, shredded paper ends up including plastic from window envelopes, plastic credit card samples, etc. that, like the items noted above, do not decompose and so likewise become contaminants in the the final compost product.  Paper towels and napkins can be included.  

"Can I put leaves, grass clippings or other yard materials in my food scraps cart?"

This pilot is only for collection of food scraps so leaves, grass and other trimmings from your yard are not to be included in the food waste cart.  

"I'm also a yard waste customer - can I just put my food scraps in my yard waste cart?"

This pilot is only for collection of food scraps so it is important that only food scraps be placed in the food scraps cart and only yard waste continue to be placed in yard waste carts.