NY law to require large businesses to donate excess food to relief organizations

State News

FILE – In this Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 file photo, students discard food at the end of their lunch period as part of a lunch waste composting program at an elementary school in Connecticut. A United Nations report released on Thursday, March 4, 2021 estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million tons of food, or about double what researchers believed was being wasted a decade ago. And most of the waste — or 61% — happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)

NEW YORK (WWTI) — New York State is adopting new regulations to improve food scrap recycling and prevent food waste.

On Wednesday, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the adoption of final regulations to implement the state’s Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law set to take effect next year. This is the latest statewide effort to reduce food insecurity in communities.

According to Commissioner Seggos, the new regulations require large generators of food scraps to donate as much “wholesome” food as possible. This will increase the amount and variety of food available through relief organizations across New York.

Food scrap generators, as defined by the DEC, is an entity that generates an annual average of two tons of food scraps or more per week, at a single location. These entities may include supermarkets, food service businesses such as restaurants, higher education institutions, hotels, food processors, correctional facilities and sports or entertainments venues.

“Americans currently waste about a quarter of all the food purchased, which directly leads to the creation of methane and other greenhouse gases and negative environmental impacts,” Commissioner Seggos said in a press release. “These wasted food resources can now be used to help people in need instead of contributing to climate change. The regulations released today are a perfect example of a common-sense approach to promoting food recycling while also helping the hungry and reducing waste to build healthier, environmentally sustainable communities.”

Specifically, the new regulations will require all food scrap generators to donate excess edible food and send food scraps to an organics recycler, if one is available in a 25 mile radius. The law also requires generators to recycle food scraps by using organics recyclers to reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills. Organic recyclers can include composting facilities which are known for producing beneficial organic soil conditioners that are needed to improve the quality of poor soils.

The DEC also detailed new requirements to donate excess food and recycle food scraps if an organics facility is available. Food scrap generators will also be required to report annually to the state.

However, the regulations also include a temporary waiver provision for generators that demonstrate a need to be excluded from a certain requirement. This includes a lack of food scrap transporters in the 25-mile radius.

The DEC stated that wasted food has significant environmental, social and economic impacts. The Climate Action Council’s Waste Panel lists the removal of organic waste from landfills as a key recommendation in achieving New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s goals. This aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make New York carbon neutral by 2050.

Final regulations can be found on the DEC website.

The Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law was enacted in 2019. The law will take effect on January 1, 2022.

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