Thursday, March 30, 2023

New Hanover County’s composting program is free, and now open to the public

Residents and businesses can now drop off their compostable food waste at the New Hanover County landfill without making an appointment.

New Hanover County Commissioners approved the purchase of a $369,884 in-vessel composted in Jan. 2017. (Port City Daily photo /JOHANNA FEREBEE)
New Hanover County Commissioners approved the purchase of a $369,884 in-vessel composter last year. The county’s composting facility is now accepting food waste free of charge from the public. (Port City Daily photo /JOHANNA FEREBEE)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY—Residents and businesses can now deliver their compostable food waste to the county’s landfill, free of charge.

On Monday, New Hanover County announced its Food Waste Composting Program would begin accepting food waste without requiring appointments. Still operating at a fourth of its capacity, the county’s composting facility is in need of all the food waste it can get.

RELATED: As landfill grows, New Hanover County’s composting program needs food

“At this point, we’re simply just focusing on generating the compost,” Joe Suleyman, New Hanover County’s director of environmental management, said.

Suleyman first pitched the composting system to New Hanover County Commissioners in January 2017. The in-vessel composter now sits off Highway 421; it is capable of diverting 72 tons of food waste away from the landfill each month.

Operating as a temporary pilot program, Suleyman said he is in daily communication with the state to obtain a long-term permit.

“We’ve got until August 15 until our current permit expires,” Suleyman said.

Starting out

For residents just getting started composting, Suleyman recommends an inexpensive, five-gallon bucket available at area home improvement stores. If there will be a lot of food waste generated, composters may need to consider keeping food waste secure to prevent foul smells or animals from tampering with the container if it is kept outside.

“It does depend on how often you going to be disposing of it,” he said. “If it’s going to be a long-term thing in the backyard or something, you’ll need a secure lid.”

The county will accept all food waste free of charge. Though a public pickup service is not yet available for composted materials, Suleyman said private businesses may be able to pick up the need in the interim.

“It should be easy to make it part of your routine,” he said.

What you can and can’t compost

Restaurants, residents and businesses can add the following food waste materials to the county’s composter:

  • Eggs and egg shells
  • Pasta, flours, cereal, grains and other bread products
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps with plastic stickers removed
  • Spoiled, expired or uneaten food
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Herbs and spices
  • Any plastic or paper material marked “BPI Certified Compostable”

Materials that cannot be accepted at the county’s composter include:

  • Cans, foils and other metal materials
  • Liquids including but not limited to milk, soda, and juice
  • Styrofoam products
  • Plastic packaging or products not labeled “BPI Certified Compostable”
  • Oyster and clam shells
  • Grease and oils

Just off Highway 421, vehicles arriving at the landfill should weigh in at the truck scale upon arrival. For detailed directions, visit New Hanover County’s website.

The county’s landfill is open six days a week at 5210 US Highway 421 North. Compostable material will be accepted from 6:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday, the facility will remain open between 6:30 a.m. and noon.

Send tips to Johanna Ferebee at or follow Johanna on Twitter @j__ferebee

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