New York State Poised to Pass a Commercial Organics Law

Connector Winter 2017

New York could soon become one of the largest states to enact a commercial organics recycling requirement, which businesses would have about four years to meet.

After much discussion and previous attempts to pass legislation, Governor Andrew Cuomo has included the plan in his proposed executive budget for FY18. If this survives the budget process, then New York would join California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island as one of the few states with some form of organic waste diversion requirement.

The requirement would apply to any commercial operation that has two tons or more of food waste per week. Donation for human consumption is encouraged over processing and all affected generators would have until at least January 2021 to comply. Existing organics diversion laws in cities with more than one million people (i.e., New York) would be exempt from these requirements.

As written, the diversion requirement would apply to any supermarket, restaurant, educational institution (not grade schools), food processor, correctional facility, hospital, entertainment venue or sports arena. According to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), about 1,200 of these large commercial generators are wasting 275,000 tons of food per year, yet DEC estimates that if 5% of this wasted food was donated then food banks would see a 20% increase in the amount of food available.

To assist in this process, the state would offer funding to food banks for capital improvements and set up a database to connect generators with recovery organizations.

Any food that can’t be donated for human consumption “to the maximum extent practicable,” or used as animal feed, would have to be transported to a processing facility by a hauler. Processing options include composting, aerobic digestion, anaerobic digestion or ethanol production. Grants would be provided to help municipalities expand their composting options and generators would only be required to divert their organic waste if a processing facility is within 50 miles.

By March 2022, all generators would have to begin submitting an annual report to the state about how much food they had diverted, where it was going and who was taking it there.

Source: Waste Dive