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Industrial Uses

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Industrial Uses

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Food not fit for human or animal consumption can make valuable feedstock for some industrial uses of food waste. Depending on the industrial use, feedstock can range from general food waste to food processing waste, to fats, oils and greases. These industrial uses can convert these feedstocks into energy or other beneficial products such as biodiesel, soap or soil amendments.

Find a digester near me

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What do I need to know?

  • In New York State, anaerobic digestion is the most prevalent type of industrial use in practice for processing general food waste.

  • Rendering is quite common for processing of fats, oils, greases and other high concentrations of animal tissues. Though some of these materials can come from the food retail and service sector, most is a byproduct of food manufacturing.

  • Like with any diversion technique, sending food waste to an industrial use should be done in conjunction with prevention and donation.  In practice, however, it is common to start diverting first and then work up to prevention. 

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What type of food is appropriate?

  • Theoretically, any type of food waste can be sent to an anaerobic digester, however not all facilities will accept any type of food waste for several reasons:

    • Lack of pre-processing capability (sorting, grinding, mixing)
    • Lack of de-packaging equipment (mechanical or manual)
    • Labor constraints
    • Digester capacity
    • Location
    • Hauling constraints

Because of this, it is best to contact your local facility to find out accurate details. You can use the interactive Organic Resource Locator map to see if there are anaerobic digester facilities near you.

  • Fats, oils and greases (FOG) are quite useful for certain industrial uses, like rendering, that general food waste cannot be used for. For this reason, FOG waste should typically be collected separately from the general food waste stream.

  • Packaged food can be valuable feedstock, but must be de-packaged to be used in an anaerobic digester. Some facilities that accept general food waste have some sort of de-packaging equipment, but some pay employees to manually de-package food, which can drive cost up considerably. This is one reason why it is worthwhile to determine whether or not the packaged food under question is fit for donation before sending it to an anaerobic digester or other diversion pathway.

Practical Aspects

  • Anaerobic digester services range widely throughout New York State. This includes variations in:

    • Pricing structure
    • Hauling services
    • Materials accepted (Many digesters process manure only, while others will accept only food processing waste. Only a small number accept general food waste.)
    • Quantities accepted
    • Frequency of pick-up

Because of this, it is best to contact your local facility to find out accurate details.

  • Anaerobic digesters are used primarily as a manure treatment for the State’s large dairy industry. Since the farming industry is primarily concentrated in western to central New York, the availability of anaerobic digestion is as well.

    • Although most anaerobic digesters in New York State process manure alone, some facilities will accept food waste as an additional feedstock which is then mixed with manure to undergo a process called co-digestion.
    • The more valuable your food is as a feedstock, the farther an anaerobic digester facility or organics hauler will likely be willing to travel to collect it. Contacting your local facility is the best way to find out more about this.
  • Anaerobic digesters will usually accept FOG, but FOG is viable for use in rendering processes or the production of biodiesel as well. 

  • To be able to send your food waste to an anaerobic digester or any industrial use, it will need to be source-separated, or collected in separate containers at the point of generation. Learn more about how to source-separate here.

How do I get started?

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Other Information / Resources

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion is a process in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of gaseous oxygen. As the microorganisms break down the feedstock, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide called biogas is produced. This biogas can be combusted to generate heat and electricity or processed into natural gas and fuel. The material remaining after the digestion process is complete is called digestate, which can be used as animal bedding, applied directly to farmland, or composted for use as a soil amendment.

Anaerobic Digester Feedstocks

  • Food Scraps
  • Manure, animal slurry
  • Biosolids
  • Fats, oils, grease (FOG)
  • Slaughterhouse & meat-packing waste
  • Dairy factory waste
  • Brewery & distillery waste
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Animal tissues, fats, oils and greases can be converted into stable useful products through the process of rendering.  Rendering is used mostly within the meat processing industry, however restaurant, supermarket and butcher shop waste can many times be appropriate for rendering as well.  The feedstocks can be rendered into either edible or inedible products. Edible rendering plants, which are usually operated in conjunction with meat processing plants, process fatty animal tissue into edible fats and proteins. Inedible rendering produces products such as high protein meal, tallow and grease which are used in animal feed, soaps and fatty acid production. These plants are usually run independently and accept a wider range of feedstocks than edible processing plants.


Fats, oils and greases from food service can be converted to an alternative fuel called biodiesel through a process called transesterification. First the inputs go through a purification process to remove any impurities caused by cooking, etc., and any water is removed. Then the purified feedstock is reacted with alcohol, producing the end product biodiesel and some byproducts including glycerol, alcohol and water. Once these byproducts are removed, the biodiesel can be used as a fuel.

Other Resources

National Renderers Association:

US Environmental Protection Agency