The Bloomberg administration announced that it is rolling out an ambitious plan to begin collecting food scraps across the city following successful pilot programs for food waste collection. Adding food waste to the list of materials collected for recovery takes a big bite into the largest waste stream in New York City. NYC Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway said on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer radio show today that, "what we’re trying to do is make the program as simple and straightforward as possible. If its paper or plastic or metal - and soon if its food - you can recycle it and we will collect it."
Already, the City is collecting food waste from 3,500 homes in Staten Island and over 90 schools. Two leading candidates for mayor, Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, expressed strong support for the expansion of the program.
Food waste collection and recovery is often confronted by a “chicken or the egg” dilemma. It is hard to separate food waste from the trash if there is nowhere to send it; and if routes are not in place for collection. On the flip side, it is hard to invest in new composting infrastructure if there’s not enough material to send to these facilities.
The City is boldly breaking through this impasse. Initiatives like Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement, and the City’s Commercial food waste Challenge - for which Global Green is a technical advisor, - allow more food waste to be source separated for composting.
Global Green is a proud to have played a leading role in supporting food waste recovery in New York City over the past 4 years through our Coalition for Resource Recovery program. Over this time period, we hosted four successful organic-waste conferences from 2010-2012 wherein we engaged key stakeholders in targeted discussions as a means of exploring the feasibility of different food waste diversion practices and policies, and highlighted case studies of waste diversion technology and systems used in cities around the world. Our most recent food waste conference in November 2012 featured speakers and participants from New York City Department of Sanitation and Mayor’s Office, national industry leaders – and regional state officials from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
Implementing residential food waste separation lifts all boats. Residential and commercial solid waste systems are inextricably linked – they share transfer stations and in some cases the same processing facilities. To outline the current economics for commercial food waste recovery in NYC, we wrote a report in 2012 outlining the economics of composting versus landfill for the NYC’s commercial food waste. This report used the Peninsula Compost facility as a baseline (see video here), and outlined how these economics could be improved by building closer infrastructure, increasing participation, and utilizing or investing in improved collection vehicles and technologies.
We’re delighted that the City is taking this huge step toward making New York City one of the leaders on food waste recovery globally, and we look forward to supporting the City as the program expands.
To hear Cas Holloway, New York City deputy mayor for operations, and Ron Gonen, New York City's deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling, and sustainability, discuss composting in NYC on today’s WNYC’s radio Brian Lehrer Show click here.