The state preps for New York’s food waste law

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As we ring in the New Year, 1,334 businesses and organizations that serve food in New York will legally need to handle their food waste in a specific way. The Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law aims to help the hungry and overflowing landfills, but it is up to the business whether to comply. 

Have you ever wondered what makes up a landfill? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the biggest category is food waste.

“I don’t think they realize it can be repurposed,” Mairead O’Donnel, Siena College Environmental Scholar, said. “People think, I’m not eating it, I’m just going to throw it away.”

An estimated 30 to 40 percent of the overall food supply becomes waste. In 2010, that waste added up to 133 billion pounds and $161 billion in food.

By January 1, any business or institution that creates an average of two tons of food waste per week must handle their food waste in a specific way.

Under the law, they must donate the edible food and compost the remaining scraps if the entity is within 25 miles of an organics recycler. 

However, some will be excluded from the new requirement; Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Adult Care Facilities, Farms, and K-12 Schools don’t have to make any changes. 

Colleges and Universities are a different story. The Senior Director of Dining Services at Siena College said they are ahead of the game because the college already has a composting system in place.

“We have about 3,500 students on campus, and they all have meal plans,” Rachel Miller said. “Composting isn’t pretty, but it’s effective.”

The biggest challenge for Siena’s Dining Services will be implementing a sustainable plan for donating any leftover edible food. 

“We might see an increase in expense, especially in the containers we need to put things in,” Miller said. “People are hungry, and if they can use the food, we should get it to them.”

Come January, Siena will also be utilizing some of their student population who are passionate about environmental issues.

“Especially in our generation, we can’t keep doing what we are doing,” O’Donnell said. “We only have one Earth.”

Although the deadline for the new law is swiftly approaching, NEWS10 couldn’t locate how the law would be enforced or what penalties these entities would face if they didn’t adhere. 

NEWS10’s Stephanie Rivas reached out to Feeding New York State, and the Executive Director, Dan Egan, said this particular environmental law has no enforcement penalties. 

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