Forty percent of food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten. It is then disposed of in landfills that account for over 15% of our nation’s methane emissions. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State addressed reducing organic waste and increasing recycling in the state of New York.
Proposal: Reduce Organic Waste to Lower Methane Emissions
Getting food from the farm to our dinner tables is an expensive, resource intensive process—yet 40 percent of food produced in the United States today goes uneaten. Much of that organic waste is disposed of in municipal landfills and its decomposition accounts for over 15 percent of our nation’s methane emissions. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has twelve times the atmospheric impact of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, an estimated 2.8 million New Yorkers are facing hunger and food insecurity.
To address this dual social justice and environmental challenge, the Governor will work with the legislature in 2016 to pass a bill requiring large generators of food waste to donate edible food and compost or recycle what is not donated. This legislation will require New York’s 1,200 large food waste generators, such as grocery stores, colleges, hospitals, and restaurants to donate or recycle the estimated 275,000 tons of food waste annually. This will help to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfills and reduce methane emissions while ensuring that hungry New Yorkers have improved access to quality food. The state will phase in implementation of any program over several years to allow for the state-supported development of food donation programs and recycling infrastructure. This sequencing will ensure excess food is donated to feed hungry New Yorkers, used to generate energy, repurposed as animal feed, or composted.
These efforts will dovetail with the state’s $40 million investment in waste-to-energy infrastructure and the expanded food waste audit program at the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute that takes inventory of operations at large generators to identify opportunities to reduce waste and increase recycling.