New York City proposes expansion of organic separation requirements

More businesses in the city will be required to separate organics if the proposal passes.

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July 18, 2017
Waste Today Staff
Commercial Waste Conversion Technologies Legislation and regulations Organics Zero Waste to Landfill

New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia has announced a proposal to require additional commercial food establishments to separate organic waste. The proposal is expected to increase food waste diversion by more than 50,000 tons per year.

Food scraps and other organic waste make up more than one-third of all commercial waste. Diverting this material from landfills to be used as a natural soil amendment through composting or clean, renewable energy through anaerobic digestion is a key component of the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030.

“Businesses in New York City produce more than 650,000 tons of food waste annually, much of which is sent to landfills where it emits harmful methane gas,” says Garcia. “Expanding requirements for businesses to reduce food waste and divert organic material from landfills is an important part of meeting Mayor de Blasio’s sustainability goals. Establishments such as Citi Field show it can be done and done well.”

Later in summer 2017, the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) will propose rules that would require the following types of businesses to separate and ensure the beneficial use of their organic waste:

  • food service establishments, such as restaurants, larger than 7,000 square feet;
  • chain food service establishments with 50 or more locations in New York City; and
  • retail food stores, including grocery stores and big box stores, larger than 10,000 square feet. 

Businesses covered by this proposal would be given the option to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves or manage it on-site using in-vessel composting, aerobic or anaerobic digestion systems, subject to registration with DSNY and compliance with the city’s sewer discharge regulations.

The proposed rules will be subject to a public hearing and comment period and would take effect six months after they are adopted. From that point, there would be a six-month grace period before any fines can be imposed. DSNY will consider all comments received during the public comment period before it publishes final rules.

In 2015, DSNY adopted rules designating the first set of businesses required to comply with commercial organics separation requirements according to Local Law 146 of 2013. Those rules, which became enforceable in January 2017, cover large food manufacturers and wholesalers, arenas and stadiums with more than 15,000 seats and food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms.

To develop the new proposed rules, DSNY surveyed organics processing facilities, including composting sites and anaerobic digestion facilities, across the region.