Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law Goes into Effect

In the United States, 40 percent of the food produced or processed is thrown away, equaling about 58 billion wasted meals, according to Waste 360. In New York alone, 3.9 million tons of food is wasted. According to the national Conference of State Legislatures, the United States spends approximately $218 billion each year to grow, handle, deliver and dispose of uneaten food. Food waste makes up 18 percent of the solid waste stream deposited into landfills, the largest component of municipal landfills, and when that food waste breaks down, it creates methane, the most potent greenhouse gas, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Food waste represents five percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. But regardless of so much wasted food, the NRDC states that one in six Americans are food insecure, with 2.5 million New Yorkers struggling to find enough to eat. To address these concerns, New York recently adopted a food donation and food scraps recycling law.

Effective as of January 1, 2022, this new State law, codified at NY CLS ECL, Art. 27, Title 22 (the “Act”), requires businesses and institutions that generate an annual average of two (2) tons of wasted food per week or more to: (1) donate excess edible food to local food banks; and (2) recycle all remaining foodwaste and scraps if they are within twenty-five (25) miles of an organics recycler.

Facilities qualifying as organic recyclers under the Act are those that recycle food scraps through use as animal feed, rendering, land application, composting, aerobic digestion, anaerobic digestion, fermentation or ethanol production. According to the Act, “the product or material created by the recycling of food scraps must be used in a beneficial manner, and cannot be landfilled or combusted, unless otherwise approved by the department.”

Generators exempt from the new regulations include those who are within New York City (where a local ordinance regarding the diversion of food scraps already exists), hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities, K-12 schools and farms. The purpose of the Act is to increase the donation of wholesome food to those in need and reduce the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills each year. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, roughly 250,000 tons of food would be diverted from landfills each year.