Complete the Table to Farm Circle with Commercial Food Recycling

It's unlikely you eat every morsel from your plate every time you dine at a restaurant. Sure, you might take some of it home, but not if the leftovers amount to a few bites. But a few bites left on every plate adds up to plenty of food waste.

Food is what Americans throw away the most, accounting for 21 percent (35.2 million tons) of the nation's waste in 2013, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. South Carolina produced an estimated 607,000 tons of food waste in fiscal year 2015.

That's a lot of uneaten leftovers, vegetables gone bad and table scraps. Charleston County's Food Waste Composting Program enables food scraps generated from businesses to be composted, which diverts this valuable resource from being disposed in the landfill.

The table-to-farm initiative transforms food scraps generated from local restaurants, cafeterias and cafés into compost, a nutrient-rich soil amendment, which area farmers can apply to their crops. Local restaurants can complete the composting loop by purveying from local farmers. Local landscaping companies and individual consumers also can purchase the compost created at Charleston County’s Bees Ferry Compost Facility.

Here’s how it works:

  • Participating food waste generators, such as restaurants and grocery stores, place their food scraps and compostable serve ware in specially marked collection containers in the kitchen and food preparation areas.
  • Local food waste collection companies collect the organic waste for a fee.
  • Charleston County processes the incoming food waste at the Bees Ferry Composting Facility, turning it into quality compost that is sold to the public.
  • Local farmers are encouraged to apply Charleston County’s compost as a nutrient rich soil amendment.
  • Charleston-area restaurants are urged to support those local farmers by purchasing their products.

It’s a full-circle process that supports local business, local farmers and provides an affordable compost product to farmers, businesses and individuals growing a backyard garden.

More than 50 local businesses and organizations are composting their food scraps as part of the table-to-farm program. With the vast number of restaurants in Charleston that leaves a lot of businesses untapped.

Andrew Quigley, Charleston County Environmental Management’s Director, says that’s where the public can help. “When you visit your favorite restaurant or coffee shop, ask if the business participates in a food recycling program,” Quigley says. “The more people ask, the more a business might consider participating in the County’s program.”

A waste composition study conducted by Charleston County found that more than 37 percent of the county’s commercial waste is organic, compostable material (food, non-recyclable paper and yard waste), which can be diverted from the landfill by starting a composting program in commercial kitchens.

The county is also promoting a statewide effort, Don’t Waste Food S.C., aimed at educating and empowering individuals, businesses and communities to take action by preventing, composting or donating surplus food. The campaign is working toward a goal of reducing food waste in the state by 50 percent by the year 2030.

Consumers also can support the program by purchasing the compost generated by the program. It is available at Bees Ferry Compost Facility, 1344 Bees Ferry Road in West Ashley for $8 per yard, $3 per bag or 25 cents per 5-gallon bucket. Compost may also be purchased by the bag or bucket at Charleston County’s Recycling Center, Downtown at 13 Romney St. Compost.

To learn more about Charleston County’s environmental management efforts, visit


Sponsored by: Charleston County Environmental Management