Food waste is a nation-wide issue. According to Feeding America, US$218 billion worth of food is thrown away each year. Twenty-one percent of landfill volume is food waste, and 21 percent of freshwater is used to produce food that is then discarded. Additionally, 72 billion pounds of food is lost each year, not including waste at home.
In effect as of January 1, 2022 the New York Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law focuses on two main goals: One, to decrease food insecurity in New York State and two, to keep food waste out of landfills.
Although California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont have similar acts in place, the hope is that New York’s size and visibility will add even more momentum to these efforts’ country wide.
“Compared to most organic recycling mandates, the New York Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law emphasizes and codifies the food recovery hierarchy system as well as includes solutions that will feed hungry New Yorkers,” states Margaret Brown, Senior Attorney at the National Resource Defense Council. Brown has advocated for more just and sustainable food systems in New York for years.
Currently, the law requires businesses and institutions that generate an annual average of two tons of wasted food per week or more to first, donate excess edible food, and second, recycling all remaining scraps if they are within 25 miles of an organic’s recycler through a composting facility, anaerobic digester, or other option.
“We should view the current version of this law as a starting point. At the very least, it would be great to see the two-ton threshold lowered over time, as processing capacity increases across the state,” explains Brown.
To maximize the effects of the law, The New York Department of Conservation and Feeding New York State (FNYS) are working in partnership to ensure food generators connect with food banks and recyclers to reduce food waste.
In the past, organic waste bans and food scraps recycling mandates have had significant impacts on increased donations.
Feeding America estimates that 2.2 million individuals needed charitable food in New York prior to the pandemic. Currently there are over 3 million food insecure individuals—a 46 percent increase since 2019.
In preparation for the uptick in donations and assistance, FNYS has created a Call Center and outreach plan that helps food generators understand how to donate edible foods and where to direct food scraps. Their staff will provide on-site assistance and logistics coordination to help move more edible food, 3.7 million in the next three years, to food banks and food programs. Feeding New York State is also working to secure funding, through their Food Recovery Program, that will cover transportation costs to ensure the wholesome foods gets to the essential destinations of food banks and food programs.
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Photo courtesy of Foerster, Wikimedia Commons