We waste an enormous amount of food. The disposal of this waste in landfills has significant effects on our environment. It occupies an enormous amount of landfill space and, when it decomposes, it produces methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is contributing to the climate change and its attendant impacts.
Through the State Energy Plan, New York has established a goal of reducing climate pollution 80% by 2050. It is a goal that is going to require complete transformation of our economy and a rethinking of our patterns of consumption. To achieve this goal every sector of the economy will be addressed; including waste. This bill requires all New Yorkers and our big institutions to think “beyond waste” towards the concept of materials management.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) assessed the benefits of reducing food waste and the scraps that still require recycling and found that it would exceed costs of compliance by tens of millions of dollars. Setting aside the financial benefits, we must also look at this from a broader societal lens; especially when opponents raise their arguments to thwart progress. What does it say about our consumption patterns that we have generators of food waste in New York that ‘produce’ on average more than two tons of food waste per week? This is roughly equivalent to the weight of the average-sized car.
By setting up a hierarchy of reducing the volume of waste first and then diverting the remaining scraps, this bill is a prudent and necessary response to sheer volume produced. This bill also responds the recommendation in section 8.4.7 (c) of the 2010 New York State Solid Waste Management Plan that urged the creation of the very system and requirements embodied in this bill. Nearly eight years have passed since the State identified the issue of food waste and recommended a pathway forward. It is time for action.
This bill amends the Environmental Conservation Law to add a new title that establishes “Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling.” The bill requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt regulations to implement the provisions, sets dates for reporting important data and exempts facilitates that are located in New York City where strong local laws already establish food waste reduction goals.