The 2018-2019 New York State Executive Budget is due out soon and one important new program NYLCV is expecting to see in there is the Food Recycling and Recovery Act. The proposal, which was included in the Executive Budget last year but removed from the final version when a compromise between the Governor and the two houses of the state legislature could not be reached. The program mandates large generators of food waste to donate edible food and recycle the rest through anaerobic digestion or composting. It also sponsors grants for the creation of food waste processing facilities, and it supports local food banks in collecting money and distributing food to those in need. By including this item in New York’s budget, the state can reduce emissions and sustainably help those in need. Of the 62 million tons of food waste produced annually in the U.S., New York State produces at least 4 million of those. 97% of this edible and non-edible food waste adds to already-swelling landfills, producing methane gas that contributes to climate change. The landfills themselves consume valuable resources: 20% of potential US crop land and 21% of US freshwater is used in landfill creation and maintenance.
Recycling facilities allow for the conversion of organics into natural gas that can go back into the energy grid and compost for landscaping and gardening.. The Food Recycling and Recovery Act mandates that consumers of more than two tons of food waste per week (think large-scale food wholesalers, universities, hospitals, and the like) recycle waste and scraps.
The funding promised by Cuomo’s bill will facilitate the next steps in this process: mainly, the expansion of already existing facilities production capacity, as well as the construction of new food recycling facilities within a reasonable distance of large-scale food waste producers so as to keep emissions and transportation costs down. In sum total, NYSERDA reports that the construction of compost facilities could reduce the costs of transportation of food waste by $22 million from the $41 millions spent by NY state annually for this service.
Passing this bill would be a strong statement of intent from Governor Cuomo to bring New York State’s standards for food recycling in-line with those of New York City. Mayor De Blasio has already taken steps towards New York City’s goal of 80% reduction in carbon footprint by 2050 through its curbside pickup program and Bloomberg’s Local Law 146, which mandates that large-scale food waste producers must recycle food scraps and waste at facilities within 100 miles of New York City. This bill would also help New York City by ensuring that facilities exist to process its organic waste locally by stimulating a statewide market.
Inclusion in the budget does not by any means ensure this is a done deal. Just like last year, the diverse coalition of supporters of the Food Recovery and Recycling Act will need to fight back against those lobbying against it and also respond to the concerns of a handful of legislators who are hesitant to support it. We will keep you updated on how this effort progresses and how you can pitch in to help.
By: Willy Kane