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For Release: Wednesday, August 11, 2021

DEC Announces New Regulations to Improve Food Scrap Recycling and Prevent Food Waste

Regulations Promote Food Donation and Fight Climate Change by Reducing Emissions

Latest Statewide Effort to Reduce Food Insecurity in Communities Statewide

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the adoption of final regulations to implement New York's Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law. The law and implementing regulations are a critical step in addressing contributors to climate change and assisting those in need by supporting the donation of quality food. The regulations require large generators of food scraps to donate wholesome food to the maximum extent practicable, helping New Yorkers struggling with food insecurity by increasing the amount and variety of food available through relief organizations across the State.

Commissioner Seggos said, "Americans currently waste about a quarter of all the food purchased, which directly leads to the creation of methane and other greenhouse gases and negative environmental impacts. These wasted food resources can now be used to help people in need instead of contributing to climate change. The regulations released today are a perfect example of a common-sense approach to promoting food recycling while also helping the hungry and reducing waste to build healthier, environmentally sustainable communities."

Wasted food has significant environmental, social, and economic impacts. Removing organics from landfills is a key recommendation under the Climate Action Council's Waste Panel to help achieve New York's ambitious Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act's goals to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and put the State on a path to carbon neutrality economy-wide by 2050.

The regulations implement the 2019 Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law's requirements for all designated food scrap generators to donate excess edible food and send food scraps to an organics recycler if one is available within 25 miles of the generator. The resulting increase in food donation will help New Yorkers in need and create jobs to assist the not-for-profits that handle food donations. The law also requires generators to recycle food scraps by using organics recyclers (composting facilities, etc.) to reduce the amount of food scraps that would otherwise end up in landfills and ultimately produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting facilities and other organics recyclers produce beneficial organic soil conditioners that are needed to improve the quality of poor soils and reduce erosion.

DEC's regulations define a food scrap generator as an entity that generates an annual average of two tons of food scraps or more per week at a single location. These entities include, but are not limited to, supermarkets, food service businesses such as restaurants, higher education institutions, hotels, food processors, correctional facilities, and sports or entertainment venues. New York City, hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities, and elementary and secondary schools are exempt.

The regulations also detail requirements to donate excess food and recycle food scraps if an organics facility is available, as well as annual reporting. In addition, the regulations include a temporary waiver provision for generators that demonstrate a need to be excluded from certain requirements, such as a lack of food scraps transporters nearby. The regulations also outline requirements that apply to transporters, transfer facilities, landfills, and combustion facilities to ensure that once the food scraps are separated by the generator, they are ultimately recycled and not disposed.

The full and final regulations can be found on the DEC website. For more information about food waste, go to DEC's website.

New York State has taken decisive action to combat food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the launch of the Nourish New York program (leaves DEC's website) statewide and a pilot partnership with HelloFresh to provide fresh meals to veterans, military families, and other residents in New York City, among other initiatives. Last July, Governor Cuomo announced (leaves DEC's website) $1.5 million in funding for Feeding New York State to support its network of 10 regional food banks, as well as local farms to help provide milk and produce to food insecure New Yorkers in response to the increased need for food bank services due to the economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant built upon more than $4.3 million announced by the Governor earlier last year (leaves DEC's website) for projects across the state that will help prevent hunger and reduce the disposal of food waste though food donation and recycling.

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