Fruit and vegetable waste management. (2023)

Gary L. Hawkins, Ph.D., Department of Plant and Soil Science

  • Disposal of fruit and vegetable waste
  • Dealing with discarded fruits and vegetables
  • Fruit and vegetable waste management for a specific packaging factory

Growing, harvesting, sorting and packing fruits and vegetables brings in nearly a billion pounds a year, according to the Georgia Annual Agricultural Report. These processes also result in rotten materials with bad stains that go unnoticed in the field or are pulled from packaging lines and not delivered to the consumer. Proper management of discarded products can reduce the potential for environmental pollution while protecting the person responsible for the discarded materials.

In Georgia, the Department of Environmental Protection regulates the disposal of all solid waste. Fruit and vegetable waste is considered solid waste as it is transported from the packing room or disposal site. While not all of the methods listed for dealing with fruit and vegetable waste are applicable in all situations, one of the best ways to manage waste or waste from packaging facilities is to reduce the amount of unusable material that enters the home.

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Disposal of fruit and vegetable waste

There are seven commonly used methods for disposing of fruit and vegetable waste. The list of methods provided here defines the management method, lists some advantages and disadvantages of that method, and discusses operational details. This list cannot be easily ranked in order of best management practices from an environmental point of view due to the status of individual producers and packers from which discards come. Management options are provided to further explain how to use them. The seven management methods are:

  1. Store discarded fruits and vegetables on site in a pile or berm area for a limited time
  2. Return fruit and vegetable waste to the field where it was grown
  3. Feeding livestock with fruit and vegetable waste
  4. Hand over fruit and vegetable waste to local food banks.
  5. Compost of discarded fruits and vegetables
  6. Process fruit and vegetable waste to separate juice from pulp
  7. Dispose of fruit and vegetable waste at a local Subtitle D landfill.

Dealing with discarded fruits and vegetables

The following list of handling methods provides a protocol for handling fruit and vegetable waste and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

  • Store discarded fruits and vegetables on site

On-site storage of discarded fruit and vegetable waste is a temporary solution for final disposal or reuse of materials. To use this method, the tailings can be transported or transferred by mechanical means to a prepared place to store the tailings. At a minimum, the storage area should be constructed to catch and retain rain and any liquids that have formed from the decay of discarded fruits and vegetables. Other options for such a location include storage in easily accessible tanks or bunkers to remove liquids or solids for later handling. If possible, waste stored in the berm area should be shredded so that the liquid present can evaporate better. Shredding discarded fruits and vegetables and placing them in a confined area helps control leaching, runoff and runoff, makes material handling easier, allows extra liquids to evaporate and reduces the volume that needs to be handled later. The advantages and disadvantages of interim storage of waste on site are:


  • Low disposal costs
  • Low transport costs to landfill due to reduced volume and distance
  • Fruit and vegetable waste usually decomposes within weeks.
  • Associated fruit and vegetable juice will seep into the soil
  • An engineered bunker area helps improve solids and liquids management
  • The same small footprint can be used year after year.


  • If the area used for storage is not properly managed in accordance with local and/or state regulations, the operator may be subject to fines.
  • Possibly unpleasant for the packhouse and neighbors;
  • Possible odors associated with the disposal of discarded fruits and vegetables
  • It may be necessary to purchase tanks, build bunkers and implement a waste shredding process.
  • Bring fruit and vegetable waste back to the field

From an agricultural nutrient management and green building point of view, returning fruit and vegetable waste to the field may be one of the best options. This management method returns waste to the field, where nutrients can be recycled, allowing pulp and juice from fruits and vegetables to help build or maintain soil organic matter levels. The cost can be very small depending on the distance to the field and the amount of liquid withdrawn. The protocol for transporting waste to a grain field is to store the waste in the packing house or in the field until the crop is finally harvested. After the last harvest, solid and liquid waste or debris can be loaded into spreaders and spread evenly across the field. In practice, the material must be incorporated, reducing the possibility of annoying drains and odors. The advantages and disadvantages of this method are:

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  • Nutrients in discarded fruits and vegetables may be available for the next harvest.
  • Organic matter in discarded fruits and vegetables increases soil carbon levels
  • Low disposal costs


  • Transferring fruit and vegetable waste from the trucks and trailers used to transport it back to the field site to the spreaders can be a problem.
  • High labor costs to unload intact fruits and vegetables
  • Trucks may need to be modified to transport and handle liquids resulting from shredded waste
  • Spoiled fruits and vegetables can lead to disease transmission between harvested plants
  • Proper distribution of discarded fruits and vegetables can be a problem.
  • Fruit and vegetable waste cannot be returned to the growing field until all crops are produced (usually three to four per year).
  • Fruit and vegetable waste should be stored on site until it can be disposed of in the field.
  • Feeding livestock with fruit and vegetable waste

The management of discards by feeding the animals with fruit and vegetable scraps can be a good option based on the general management system of the livestock farm. One of the most important issues to be addressed has to do with the nutritional benefits and implications of leftover feed for livestock. Farmers should consult animal scientists or veterinarians to confirm the effects of waste feeding to livestock. When the nutritional aspect of feeding fruit and vegetable trimmings to livestock is taken care of, further advantages and disadvantages are:


  • Low disposal costs
  • Possible low transport costs to the livestock area
  • Growing fruits and vegetables will potentially offset the cost of animal feed
  • You don't have to wait for the harvest to finish.
  • Selling discarded fruits and vegetables as animal feed can generate revenue
  • Fruit and vegetable waste can be taken to the cattle at the time of slaughter, eliminating the need for storage.


  • Cattle cannot eat rotten fruit and vegetable scraps.
  • Transport costs can be high depending on the distance to the livestock area
  • The amount of fruit and vegetables slaughtered may be too high to consume the available livestock.
  • The incorporation of fruit and vegetable scraps in the animals' diet may not improve animal productivity.
  • Removing fruit and vegetable waste from the trucks and trailers used to transport it back to the field site can be an issue due to the potential liquid content and methods of transfer to spreaders.
  • High labor costs to unload intact fruits and vegetables
  • Deliver good quality fruits and vegetables to local food banks.

Food banks can be an option to manage some of the waste that comes with sorting fruits and vegetables. Giving the disposal to a food bank can be an option and the Good Samaritan Law protects the donor company. However, as fruits and vegetables are perishable, not all discards can be used with this method. The farmer should liaise with the local food bank coordinator to inform them of harvest dates and possible availability, to see if anyone will be able to enter the packing house and if bins are available for later use. Slaughter and packaging on site for distribution to other Tafels. The coordinator must provide a means to safely transport the waste to a location for further processing, if necessary, and any remaining waste must be disposed of using another method listed in this document. Some of the pros and cons of donating fruit and vegetables to a local charity are:

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  • Provides a necessary food supply.
  • Low disposal costs
  • Tafel can offer self-pickup and delivery.


  • Tafel can only recycle part of the fruit and vegetable waste.
  • The presence of Tafel personnel on site during packing may represent an obligation for the packing company
  • The remaining part of the discarded fruits and vegetables still needs to be disposed of by another suitable method.
  • Compost of discarded fruits and vegetables

Waste used in the composting process would be trucked to the composting facility or mechanically transported if the composting facility is on site. Waste would be mixed with other organic materials in appropriate proportions, as recommended by composting professionals, to produce compost suitable for reincorporation into fields or for sale. Georgia has a number of composting policies and regulations that must be consulted to ensure adequate environmental protection and information regarding the final handling of the composted product. The advantages and disadvantages of a composting system are:


  • Low disposal costs
  • Composting possible on site
  • Possible low transport costs to the landfill
  • Fruit and vegetable waste usually decomposes within weeks.
  • The accompanying fruit and vegetable juice will be a necessary source of water in the compost pile.
  • The final product can potentially be sold at a profit.
  • The product can be returned to the growing field to provide stable nutrients and organic matter for the next crop.


  • Filler material for composting fruit and vegetable waste can be expensive
  • Additional work may be required to properly manage the compost pile
  • Additional pest control may be required
  • A drainage control must be implemented.
  • Compost disposal can be a problem
  • Appropriate permits must be obtained
  • Removing fruit and vegetable waste from the trucks and trailers used to transport it back to the field site can be an issue due to the potential liquid content and methods of transfer to spreaders.
  • High labor costs to unload intact fruits and vegetables
  • Process fruit and vegetable waste to separate juice from pulp

The process of separating fruit and vegetable waste into juice and pulp is done using a press. Typical systems are helical presses, which can effectively separate the juice from the pulp. After the split, each faction has its advantages for different reasons and purposes. If the residues are of good food grade, they can be used as juices in food applications, depending on available markets. The pulp can also potentially be used as an ingredient in foods. In the case of waste unfit for human consumption, the separated pulp can be used as a component of compost or animal feed. (If the pulp is used as animal feed, consult a zootechnician or veterinarian before feeding.) The pulp can also be used as a soil amendment or as part of a composting process. The juice can also be used as a raw material. B. for ethanol production or anaerobic fermentation processes. For both processes there must be a market for the ethanol or methane end products. Some pros and cons of separating the juice from the pulp are:

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  • Low disposal costs
  • Possibility of on-site processing
  • Low transport costs to the processing location
  • Fruit and vegetable juices evaporate faster when separated from the pulp
  • The pulp can be used for composting.
  • Less compost filler materials are needed
  • The pulp can be fed to the animals.
  • Fruit and vegetable juices are easier to transport and apply in the receiving field/pasture
  • Fruit and vegetable juices can be feedstock for anaerobic or ethanol digestion processes
  • Fruit and vegetable juices are easier to store than whole fruits and vegetables


  • There has to be a way to separate the juice and pulp from fruits and vegetables.
  • Storage for fruit and vegetable juices must be available.
  • A composting site and process must be in place
  • A tank is required to store and transport fruit and vegetable juices to location to be used in ethanol production or anaerobic digestion.
  • Dispose of fruit and vegetable waste at local landfill Sub-Title D

Disposing of discarded fruit and vegetable waste in a subheading D landfill is a method that should be considered after all other options. Disposing of this waste in a Subtitle D landfill is probably not the cheapest option from a sustainability perspective. If dumping is the chosen option, disposal management should reduce liquid spillage from the haul truck. The following are the advantages and disadvantages of selective landfill disposal:


  • Once fruit and vegetable waste is landfilled, all responsibility passes to the landfill owner/operator.
  • The juice associated with the decomposition of fruits and vegetables can increase methane production in the landfill, which would be beneficial if the landfill collects methane for energy generation.


  • High disposal costs in tip fees
  • Potentially high transport costs to landfill
  • Discarded fruit and vegetable juice is added to the leachate, which must be managed by the landfill owner/operator.
  • Rotten fruit and vegetable juice can increase landfill methane production
  • Juice from rotten fruits and vegetables that may leak from the truck/trailer transporting fruit and vegetable waste to the landfill must be collected and managed.
  • Leaks in transport vehicles can lead to complaints, bad press and regulatory issues.

Fruit and vegetable waste management for a specific packaging factory

The above methods of disposing or reusing fruit and vegetable waste are provided for all fruit and vegetable packaging operations. The specific disposal method for each baler will vary and should be a decision based on the specific location and situation. Other disposal methods may be available for specific packers, various advantages and disadvantages not listed here, and different and more comprehensive methods of disposal of discarded fruits and vegetables. Individual packaging companies should identify and consider other advantages and disadvantages. This document is only a guide to help the individual packer identify the various options that may be appropriate for disposal of discarded fruits and vegetables. Detailed questions about state and local rules and regulations should be directed to the state and local agencies that specifically deal with these issues. Contact your local County Extension Office for application rates to meet the nutrient needs of growing fields or crops.

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Status and revision history
Posted on July 27, 2010
Posted with full review on 7/1/2013
Released with full review on October 31, 2022


What is the waste from fruits and vegetables? ›

Most common wastes include pomace, peels, rind and seeds, which are highly rich in valuable bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, enzymes, polyphenols, oils, vitamins and many other compounds.

What are the methods of disposal of vegetable waste? ›

Composting – One of the most common and sustainable methods of food waste disposal, composting is when food waste naturally decomposes and creates fertiliser which can be done by businesses and individuals.

How do you dispose of fruit and vegetable peelings? ›

Leftover food, fruit and vegetable peels, and leaves of potted plants can be converted into compost by burying them in a pit dug in the ground. The compost thus prepared can be used as manure. In this way, household wastes can be disposed of.

Why fruit waste is a problem? ›

FVW poses environmental problems due to its high biodegradability, represents a loss of valuable biomass and an economic cost for companies. Different reduction, reuse and recycle strategies to tackle FVW have been proposed.

What are the 5 most contaminated fruits and vegetables? ›

EWG's list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables
  • Strawberries.
  • Spinach.
  • Kale, collard and mustard greens.
  • Nectarines.
  • Apples.
  • Grapes.
  • Cherries.
  • Peaches.
Mar 22, 2021

What can I do with old fruits and vegetables? ›

Leftover Fruits and Veggies?
  1. Make a Salad. The beauty of a salad is you can put just about anything you want to put in it, and it's still a salad. ...
  2. Blend it Into a Smoothie. It's almost too easy to be real. ...
  3. Juice It. ...
  4. Make a Dessert. ...
  5. Turn it into Stir Fry. ...
  6. Fruit Pops. ...
  7. Bake a Casserole. ...
  8. Fruit-Infused Water.

How do you get rid of food scraps without composting? ›

You can take your food scraps and put them to use in your garden without composting. That's right – you can take the cuttings, peels and roots left behind on your cutting board and deposit them directly into the soil of your garden.

What is the best thing to do with food waste? ›

Try home composting your food waste

Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. It's easy to make and use, if you have the facilities.

What is the best way to dispose plant waste? ›

Composting turns biowaste into valuable food for your garden. Most garden waste, as well as some types of food waste, can be composted. But, you must make sure that any non-compostable food waste goes into your food waste bin.

What are 3 ways to dispose of waste? ›

Name a few methods of waste disposal.

Landfill. Incineration. Waste compaction. Composting.

Can you put vegetable scraps in garbage disposal? ›

A general rule to keep in mind is that if you can feed it to your baby, you can put it down your garbage disposal. Many solid foods, such as vegetables (without peels) or fruits, can also go into the appliance. Chop them up first, so they don't strain the unit.

Can I throw fruit peels outside? ›

You finish eating an apple or a banana and throw the core or the peel out into the woods or the yard. You tell yourself "it's natural – it will decompose!" But experts say natural foods are considered edible litter, and they're actually dangerous for wildlife.

Can you throw fruit peels on the ground? ›

There is a common misconception that “natural trash” such as orange peels, banana peels, apple cores, and shells from nuts and seeds are okay to leave behind on the trail, in campgrounds, or in other outdoor spaces. While these things are natural, they are not natural to the places they are being left.

What is the most wasteful fruit? ›

Bananas. A new study from Karlstad University in Sweden reports that bananas are one of the most wasted foods and contribute to the most food waste in terms of weight and environmental impact. We get it—bananas go from yellow to overripe in a flash.

What is the biggest problem caused by food waste? ›

But wasted food isn't just a social or humanitarian concern—it's an environmental one. When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.

Why should we not waste fruits and vegetables? ›

When we waste food, we waste the labour, effort, investment and precious resources (like water, seeds, feed, etc.) that go into producing it, not to mention the resources that go into transporting and processing it. In short, wasting food increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change.

What is the number 1 toxic vegetable? ›

Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, a chemical that can cause death if a human consumes between 5.7 and 11.7 pounds of rhubarb leaves, depending on the specific leaves and the individual's weight, according to Healthline.

What are the 12 dirtiest fruits and vegetables? ›

EWG's Dirty Dozen for 2022
  • Strawberries.
  • Spinach.
  • Kale, collard and mustard greens.
  • Nectarines.
  • Apples.
  • Grapes.
  • Bell and hot peppers.
  • Cherries.
Apr 7, 2022

What are the most toxic fruits and vegetables? ›

Dirty Dozen:
  • Strawberries.
  • Spinach.
  • Kale, collard, and mustard greens.
  • Nectarines.
  • Apples.
  • Grapes.
  • Cherries.
  • Peaches.
Mar 17, 2021

What do grocery stores do with expired vegetables? ›

Once food hits its sell-by date, many markets donate products to food banks or sell them to salvage stores.

How can we make rotten vegetables and fruit scraps still useful? ›

You can compost all fruit and vegetable scraps (even if they're rotten), egg shells, old bread products and countless other items. Compost is one of the best ways to fertilize soil for gardening because it's free and all natural.

Can I just bury food scraps in my garden? ›

Food waste can be buried in empty spots in vegetable and flower gardens, or in holes dug around the drip line of trees and shrubs. The drip line is below the ends of branches, where feeder roots are connected. Use a shovel or post hole digger to make a hole at least a foot deep.

Is it OK to throw food on the ground? ›

Myth: I can toss my banana peels, apple cores, and other 'natural' foods on the ground because they'll decompose. BUSTED! These 'natural' food items will not decompose quickly. If animals don't eat the food waste, decomposition will likely take much longer than you expect.

What is the laziest way to compost? ›

Cold composting is the lazy gardener's method. While a cold compost pile needs both brown and green materials, you don't have to be as exact with the proportions. Instead of saving the materials up before creating the pile, add them when you have them.

What are three solutions to food waste? ›

Here are 7 ways you can reduce food waste in your kitchen:
  • Take an inventory. Take stock of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer before going to the store to prevent overbuying.
  • Create a meal plan. ...
  • Save and eat leftovers safely. ...
  • Store food appropriately. ...
  • Buy "ugly" foods. ...
  • Compost. ...
  • Use leftovers creatively.
Jun 4, 2021

Is it OK to put food waste down the toilet? ›

In particular, the following items – which we call the Big Offenders – are known to be major causes of clogged pipes, and should never be put down the drain or toilet: Food waste.

How are kitchen and garden waste disposed in your house? ›

It is easy to segregate waste at your home. You can use colour coded bins like green, blue and yellow for waste segregation and identification. Segregate organic and biodegradable waste such as food waste and garden waste in green. The organic waste can be used for composting.

Can plants go in general waste? ›

How to dispose of plants and plant pots. Smaller real plants and flowers can be collected via the food waste collection service. Artificial plants/ flowers, large real plants, garden waste and all plant pots are collected as general waste which is sent for energy recovery.

What 3 waste products must be removed? ›

So what happens to your body's wastes? Obviously, you must get rid of them. This is the job of the excretory system. You remove waste as a gas (carbon dioxide), as a liquid (urine and sweat), and as a solid.

What is the cheapest method of disposal of waste? ›

Complete answer: Landfill is a very cheap method for garbage disposal.

What is the easiest method of waste disposal? ›

Composting: This is one of the easiest ways of disposing of household waste like vegetables, fruit peels, or garden leaves. The waste is buried inside the ground for some time to get nutrient-rich soil or manure after decomposition. This process is called composting.

Can onion skins go in garbage disposal? ›

Onion skins should be disposed of in the trash rather than your kitchen's garbage disposal because its outer layer is thin. The thin outer layer can get caught in the drain and not get ground, which eventually causes waste to pile up in your garbage disposal.

What Cannot go down a garbage disposal? ›

Eggshells and Coffee Ground

Eggshells and coffee grounds cannot go in a garbage disposal because they don't break down quickly and can cause damage to components in your system. In addition, these items can create mild to severe clogs in your pipes that can be expensive to repair.

What kind of waste is fruits? ›

Fruit waste has become one of the main sources of municipal solid wastes (MSW), which have been an increasingly tough environmental issue. At present, the two main techniques to dispose MSW are landfill and incineration.

What type of waste is vegetable? ›

Vegetable wastes include the rotten, peels, shells, and scraped portions of vegetables or slurries. These wastes can be treated for biofuel production through fermentation under controlled conditions or else used for composting.

What do you call vegetable waste? ›

Noun. The decayed remains of organic matter that has rotted into a natural fertilizer. compost.

What is fruit waste? ›

During the processing of fruit, thousands of tonnes of solid and liquid waste are produced. Solid waste is generated in the form of skins, pips and stalks, and liquid waste from water used to wash fruit or clean equipment.


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