Food Donation and Food Waste Recycling Support Governor Cuomo's Goal to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 40 Percent by 2030
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that in 2017 DEC awarded $3.5 million to support the donation of wholesome food and municipal organics recycling projects across the state through the Environmental Protection Fund's Municipal Recycling and Climate Smart Communities grant programs. Directed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York is making significant investments to encourage donation of food and recycling of food waste, resulting in less waste directed to landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"Through Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is becoming a national leader in pioneering a variety of investments and initiatives to encourage wholesome food donation and food waste recycling," said Commissioner Seggos. "Diverting food and food waste from landfills stands to benefit all New Yorkers by putting good, wholesome food to use at area food banks, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and saving resources. New York State is making significant investments in the capability to donate food and municipal organics recycling infrastructure across the state, facilitating increased food donation to food banks, and providing funds for larger generators of food scraps to divert material from landfills."
DEC estimates that 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten-that's more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. In addition to the water and nutrients that are used to produce food that is simply thrown away, wasted wholesome food represents a lost opportunity to feed the estimated 14 percent of New Yorkers that are food insecure, and wasting food waste eliminates the potential to convert this material into energy or useful soil products through composting and anaerobic digestion.
In late 2017, DEC awarded $800,000 to the Food Bank Association of New York State to help increase food donation. In addition, grants totaling $1.2 million were awarded to municipalities in 2017 and January of 2018 to support food donation and food waste recycling:
- $420,490 to the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency to support food scraps composting by purchasing a grinder for bulking material, skid steer, and temperature monitoring system.
- $205,500 to the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority to fund three food distribution centers to distribute fresh produce and non-perishable items to smaller community food pantries. Purchases will include refrigerated trucks, walk-in coolers/freezers, small refrigerator/freezers, and shelving for food storage.
- $138,615 to the town of Bethlehem to expand its food scraps composting operation by purchasing a compost screener and aeration equipment.
- $100,000 to the town of Bethlehem to pave a portion of the compost facility and improve operation of aerated static pile food scraps composting project.
- $33,350 to the town of Brookhaven's "Brew to Moo" project that will increase the town's efficiency to pick up spent brewery grains and bring these materials to area ranches and farms for animal feed. The town will purchase a rack dump truck and heavy duty containers with lids for on-site storage and transport of the spent brewery waste.
- $25,637 to the Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities to purchase rocket in-vessel composting unit to process food scraps generated by a community college, medical center, and regional food bank.
- $276,407 to Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority to support the anaerobic digestion of food scraps to generate energy.
In addition, DEC's Climate Smart Communities Grants Program supports the reduction and recycling of food waste by local governments. In 2017, DEC awarded nearly $1.5 million in grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through support for organics recycling and food recovery:
- $30,000 to the town of Greenburgh, in partnership with the Greenburgh Nature Center, to develop and implement a town-wide food scrap recycling campaign and establish two municipal food scrap drop-off sites.
- $62,960 to the city of Kingston, which will partner with the Hudson Valley Regional Council to develop an Organics Diversion Plan that will include five Climate Smart Community Certification actions: 1. waste management strategy for government hosted/permitted events; 2. organics collection and composting in government buildings; 3. government waste audit and diversion tracking; 4. compost bin distribution plan; and 5. determine the feasibility of an organics collection program (residential and commercial).
- $17,190 to the town of New Paltz, in partnership with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, to continue efforts to build a Food Recovery Infrastructure program to increase the amount perishable food donated to local pantries. The purchase and installation of two insulated Cool Bot® refrigerated sheds will allow large quantities of perishable donations to be stored for several days until distribution.
- $77,500 to the Sullivan County's Division of Public Works/Solid Waste Management to hire a consulting engineering firm to conduct an organic composting feasibility study with preliminary siting and conceptual design. The resulting Organics Management Plan (OMP) will outline the best method and means for the County to implement organics waste management, and will also be a component of the County's required Solid Waste Management Plan.
- $1,300,000 to Onondaga County, which through its Onondaga County Water Environment Protection will construct improvements at the Metropolitan Waste Water Treatment Plant in Syracuse on the eastern shore of Onondaga Lake that will allow the plant to utilize the methane gas produced as a result of accepting food waste into its digestion system.
New York's supermarkets, restaurants, colleges, hospitals, and other large food scrap producers generate more than 210,000 tons of wasted food and food scraps each year, much of which is edible. If just five percent of this material is donated, food banks would see an increase of 20 percent in the amount of food available for consumption. And if these food scraps were diverted from landfills, New York could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 120,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 37,000 cars off the road each year, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
New York's large food scraps producers also stand to gain from diverting wasted food from landfills. A 2017 NYSERDA report (link leaves DEC website) found that collectively these institutions could reduce costs by up to $12 million per year by recovering and recycling food waste.
To encourage food waste recycling, the 2017-18 State Budget included $2 million to support food donation and recycling projects. In addition, the Empire State Development Corporation provided $2 million in grants to expand cold storage capacity at food banks, as well as $4 million in grants over three years to large generators to implement recommendations from waste audits, purchase storage bins and coolers for food donation, and improve and expand on-site compost facilities.
The NYSERDA report estimates the current cost associated with hauling, tipping (dumping), greenhouse gases and the damages from disposing of food wastes from large producers is approximately $41 million annually. If the use of food waste recycling facilities is expanded throughout the state, it could reduce those costs by $15 million to $22 million a year. According to the report, large food waste generators could save $3 million on hauling and $5.3-$9.9 million on tipping costs, for a total of $8.3 - $12.9 million in savings.
Senator Tom O'Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation, said, "We need to keep encouraging and taking these commonsense actions to stop perfectly good, fresh, nutritious food from ending up in landfills and waste incinerators and, at the same time, to help combat hunger."
"It is well documented that there is an unnecessary amount of food waste generated overall and these grants are a great way for New York to step up and address that issue while also benefiting the greater good. We need to constantly be thinking of ways to mitigate climate change and reduce harmful emissions from a multi-pronged approach, and this is one example of that. By diverting wholesome food from the landfills, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and benefitting the environment, while at the same time ensuring that food finds its way to those in need. I applaud the Governor for utilizing these funds in a way that will benefit all New Yorkers," said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.
"Our membership is currently working with donors who donate good and wholesome food from their businesses to feed the hungry in NYS. We have established processes and systems in place to make sure the right food is donated, safely handled and then distributed. These funds will further open the door for food banks to receive food and distribute it, through a network of 2,500 food pantries and 2,500 institutions in NYS. Food Banks rely on charitable donations to feed those who are not eligible for nutrition assistance, and this is a smart way to increase supply," said Anita M. Paley, Executive Director, Food Bank Association of New York State.
"We very much appreciate the grant money awarded by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. These funds will be utilized to continue our ongoing efforts to divert recoverable organic food waste from our regional landfill conserving landfill space while at the same time generating green energy," said William A. Rabbia, Executive Director of the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority.