New York fights food waste with ambitious new plan

A truck dumps food waste at the Cornell Composting Facility. Photo: Robert Barker/Cornell University

After the most pro-environment budget agreements in many years, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature reached an agreement to enact a congestion pricing plan, a new law to ban plastic bags as well as an ambitious new goal to cut food waste. As NRDC explained, the bill is “a first-of-its-kind food waste bill that will help direct more healthy food to disadvantaged New Yorkers while also slashing climate pollution around the state. With this new law, New York becomes one of the largest states in the country to develop a powerful mandate around food waste.”

As the Times Union reported, “starting in 2022, large food generators — including supermarkets, colleges, hotels and sporting venues — will be required to donate leftover edible food. The remaining scraps will need to be prepared as animal feed or compost if a recycling facility is within 25 miles.” The regulations wouldn’t apply to New York City which has its own food scrap program in place already.

Food waste is a big issue, according to NRDC:

  • Overall, 40 percent of food in this country is wasted.  At the same time, nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers struggle to have enough to eat.
  • Further, when we waste food, we waste all the energy, water, and labor it takes to get that food on our plates. In fact, if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China.

Why This Matters: The Times Union explained that food waste makes up about 18 percent of the municipal sold waste in New York and what ends up in landfills will eventually release methane, a greenhouse gas more harmful to the environment than carbon. Additionally, a 2017 report by the state determined that a comprehensive food recycling program could have the environmental impact of 37,093 cars coming off the road. This new program enacted by the State of New York, if successful, could not only increase the amount of green waste/compost facilities but could also serve as the blueprint for other states to replicate.

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