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Bill Would Expand Food Recycling To Smaller Restaurants

A bill that aims to boost food scrap recycling could hurt small restaurants throughout the state.

The state Assembly recently passed A.5906A by a 99-46 vote and will now be discussed in the state Senate, where it failed to move out of committee during the 2021-22 legislative session. The legislation amends Section 27-2201 of the state Environmental Conservation Law by adding that a food scraps generator can average two tons or more of food per week between Jan 1, 2023, through Dec 31, 2024, one ton or more of food per week between Jan 1, 2025, and Dec 31, 2026, and then a half ton or more of food per week starting Jan. 1, 2027. It also expands the maximum distance food scraps generators are required to find a place to take their scraps from 25 miles away to 50 miles away.

Assemblywoman Mary Jane Shimsky, D-Tarrytown, sponsored the legislation in the Assembly and said in her legislative justification that she was moved to introduce A.5906 after reading a New York Times report that detailed how food production and food waste are contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. She said too often, food scraps are perfectly safe to eat, but end up being thrown out, where they sit in landfills to decompose and release methane.

“According to the CLCPA scoping plan, food scraps make up 18% of the total solid waste stream and are the most significant source of methane in landfills,” Shimsky said on the Assembly floor. “We know that methane is up to 80 times, not 80% stronger, but 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a climate change generator. We need to continue moving forward to take more and more food waste out of our waste stream. This bill gives another gradual push in that direction. We will be taking more and more food out, but we’re doing it at a gradual pace, which will allow the market and facilities to catch up. I think this is a great balance between being business friendly and making sure that climate change does not destroy us all.”

Assemblyman Andrew Goodell was among the votes against the proposal in the Assembly. The Jamestown Republican said he doesn’t disagree with the idea to get more food scraps to recycling centers, nor with making sure larger food waste producers are required to recycle. He disagreed with the sliding scale, particularly when the tonnage requirement reaches its lowest point.

“Nobody is going to get a citation,” Goodell said. “What is this about? Is it just coming up with new ways to impose statutory requirements on small restaurants and try to drive them out of business with endless regulations that are unenforceable, unmeasurable and incomprehensible to anybody who’s in the field? I understand requiring recycling for a college, a regional institution or large supermarkets. They collect that food. There’s a high volume. They can deal with it. But to impose the standard on small restaurants and require them to make arrangements to transport (scraps) to a recycling facility that could be 50 miles away … just doesn’t make sense. It’s taking a good idea and running it to the extreme.”

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