New York businesses now required to put food waste to beneficial use

New York businesses now required to put food waste to beneficial use

The new rules are expected to divert about 50,000 tons of food waste from landfills every year.

February 17, 2018

The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) announced new rules Feb. 15 expanding the city’s commercial organic waste separation program. Some larger restaurants, chain restaurants and grocery stores will now be required to put their food waste to beneficial use instead of sending it to landfills where it releases methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change. The rules, published in the City Record, are expected to divert about 50,000 tons of food waste from landfills every year.

Businesses covered under the new rules include:

  • Restaurants with a floor area of at least 15,000 square feet;
  • Chain restaurants with 100 or more locations in the city that operate under common ownership or control, are individually franchised outlets of a parent business or do business under the same corporate name; and
  • Food retailers (grocery stores) having a floor area space of at least 25,000 square feet.

“Businesses need to reduce, reuse and recycle their food scraps and waste. It’s critical to meeting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals,” New York Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia says. “The department incorporated feedback it received from a public hearing and from citizens, business owners, industry representatives and other interested stakeholders as we worked through the rulemaking process. We are beginning our outreach to the covered businesses to educate them on the new rules. We are confident they will be able to succeed and meet our expectations.”

To comply with the new rules, covered businesses can hire a private carter, self-transport or process their food scraps onsite, as long as the material goes for beneficial use, such as for use as compost or in anaerobic digestion, a way of generating renewable energy. Businesses may also donate food that would otherwise be thrown away to a third-party charity or food bank, sell or donate the food to a farmer for feedstock or sell or donate meat byproducts to a rendering company.

To allow time for education and outreach, the rules takes effect in August 2018 and will be enforced starting February 2019. The department’s outreach staff, along with other relevant agency partners, will work to educate and inform businesses of the new rules. This includes mailers, trainings and in-person visits before the rules are enforced.

The new rule is a result of Local Law 146 of 2013, which requires the sanitation commissioner to evaluate whether there is sufficient capacity at regional food waste processing facilities to require additional city food waste-generating businesses to separate it from their refuse for its beneficial use. The department’s most recent assessment found that substantial available capacity exists to handle material from the newly covered establishments.

Food scraps and other organic waste make up more than one-third of all commercial putrescible waste in the city. Some businesses are already putting their food waste to reuse, both voluntarily and via a previously established rule, which covered businesses such as arenas and stadiums with more than 15,000 seats, food manufacturers with 25,000 square feet or more, food wholesalers with 20,000 square feet or more and food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms. Those rules, which included about 300 businesses, became effective in January 2016, and were enforced starting in January 2017.