Almost 40% of food produced in the United States currently goes uneaten, while an estimated 2.8 million New Yorkers are considered food insecure. Looking to reduce food waste and aid its hungry residents, New York State passed the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law in April 2019. This new law will go into effect on January 1, 2022, requiring large generators of food scraps to donate food where needed and to send food scraps to organic recycling facilities.

1. What is New York State’s objective?

Diverting edible food to needy members of the community will reduce hunger.  Most food that is not consumed is discarded and ends up in a landfill.  The organic food wastes break down in landfills and generate methane.  Methane is a greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.  Food wastes can be recycled for beneficial use, further decreasing the amount of landfilled organic material and associated methane emissions.  By implementing the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law, the State is taking action to address the hunger crisis and climate change.

2. What types of facilities do the rules affect?

The law will apply to businesses and facilities that generate more than 2 tons of food scraps per week on average.  Such facilities are considered large generators of food scraps and may include:

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores
  • Hotels
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Other eating and food manufacturing establishments

The law does not apply to hospitals, nursing homes, elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.  In addition, generators in cities with populations of one million or more which already have regulations in place are not subject to the New York State rule.

3. New York City has already rolled out a program to reduce food waste

New York City is excluded from the New York State law because it already regulates organic wastes (such as food scraps) under the Department of Sanitation’s Commercial Organics Requirements. The NYC requirements for food-related businesses to separate organic wastes are specified in Local Law 146 of 2013.  Since 2015, NYC has phased in different classes of businesses, increasing the restrictions on organic waste handling in order to keep this material out of landfills and to promote recycling.

4. What will large generators of food scraps have to do to comply?

Once the law goes into effect, all designated large generators will be required to separate food scraps and donate edible food to help those in need.  All other non-edible food scraps are to be directed to an organic recycling facility if the generator is located within 25 miles from such a facility.  Organic recycling options include the following:

  • Composting facilities which convert organic food waste to fertilizer
  • Anaerobic digesters which capture energy from food waste and generate power

New York State provides a number of resources to help connect food scrap generators with food banks and recycling facilities.  In addition, businesses making food donations may be eligible for tax incentives.

5. Anticipated scheduled for implementation of the law

The NYSDEC is currently in the process of developing regulations to implement the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law and anticipates releasing these regulations for public comment in late 2020 – early 2021.  The final regulations are expected to be issued in the spring or summer of 2021.  The State plans to notify all large generators of their designation around June 1st, 2021 so they can prepare and make arrangements to properly manage their food scraps.  Generators will have the option to apply by September 1, 2021 for a one-year waiver to qualify for additional time to comply with the regulations if they can demonstrate need.  The regulations are slated to go into effect on January 1, 2022.

How Walden Can Help

Walden’s environmental professionals are experienced in waste reduction, recycling and innovative energy technologies.  If your facility generates large amounts of food scraps and you are looking to learn more about the upcoming regulations, developing a program to manage your food waste to comply with the rule, how to get ahead of the waiver process, or opportunities for grant funding to offset your costs, call Walden Environmental Engineering today at 516-624-7200.