Conference Report: Taking on the Trash

bl_food_waste_confAt the Commercial Food Waste Conference we hosted in New York on July 26, the hot topic was the more than 33 million tons of food waste discarded in the U.S. each year. That's a problem that needs a solution. This conference was the kick-off event for our new initiative to help plan and develop a cost-effective, environmentally sound commercial organics recovery infrastructure for New York City. We started by addressing NY’s food waste problem and the more than 1,100 tons of food waste generated every day by New York City’s accommodation, food service, and retail sectors. Currently, this food waste is heaped in with the trash that’s hauled to landfills outside the city. The high cost of discarding the waste is a burden to local businesses and also has an environmental impact. Simply put, energy is wasted on transporting all those tons of trash and much of the food waste could be repurposed (composted, for instance).

More than 100 attendees from government, business, and the non-profit sector who work with waste collection, economic development, composting, food service and hospitality, city planning, environmental advocacy, and finance joined us for the event -- all integral players with the power to improve food waste recovery options. Speakers included representatives from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability, Whole Foods, GE Energy, Peninsula Compost, Waste Management, Sustainable South Bronx, New York City Department of Transportation, Action Environmental Group, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and Columbia University, and topics of discussion ranged from an examination of cutting-edge technology options to the history of solid waste management in New York City. In addition to talking about the situation in New York City, we discussed case studies from successful projects from as far away as Germany and Spain. Next step for us: we will continue our research into infrastructural and logistical options for recovering the value of the Big Apple's food waste. Stay tuned....