A $4 million in grant has been made by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner, Basil Seggos, for generators of excess wholesome food and food scraps.
The funds will enable producers to expand their capacity to donate wholesome food or divert it to organics recycling facilities.
An estimated 40% of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten while about 2.5 million New Yorkers are food insecure. In addition to wasting natural resources, including water and nutrients, to produce food that will never be consumed, much of this organic waste is disposed of in solid waste landfills where its decomposition accounts for more than 15% of US emissions of methane.
"New York is already transforming the way we look at food waste and its implications for local communities by recognising the importance of food scraps on our environment, economy, and health,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos.
“The grants announced today will bolster Governor Cuomo's efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change while providing food for hungry New Yorkers and diverting waste from landfills," he continued.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky added: "The grant funding we administer will ensure New York's businesses continue to recycle and operate in an efficient and environmentally-conscious manner, all while combating food insecurity and giving back to the state's communities."
New York's large food scraps generators-supermarkets, restaurants, colleges, and hospitals are said to generate more than 250,000 tonnes of wasted food and food scraps each year, some of which is edible food.
According to the DEC, if just 5% of this material were donated, food banks would see an increase of 20% in the amount of food available for consumption by those in need. If these food scraps were diverted from landfills, more than 120,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence reduction could be achieved each year.
The funding is provided by the State's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and is administered by Empire State Development (ESD). ESD has contracted with the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (P2I) to operate the funding program.
P2I is working closely with DEC on multiple efforts to reduce the generation of food scraps and recycle food scraps that remain and this funding will help generators expand their sustainability efforts.
"The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is proud to play a key role in managing this important program designed to reduce food waste statewide," said Charles Ruffing, P2I's director.
"These grants will assist New York state businesses in reducing waste and capital costs by helping them make important investments in equipment or technologies that will divert food waste from landfill or incineration," he added.
This grant program is expected to help food waste generators implement waste reduction recommendations, purchase capital equipment used in food donation, and create, improve, and expand diversion efforts to on and off-site compost and anaerobic digestion facilities.
To be eligible, proposed projects must reduce and/or divert wasted food at a New York State business including, but not limited to, supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals. Additional information is posted on the Food Waste Reduction & Diversion Reimbursement Program webpage (leaves DEC's website).
New York places a high priority on reducing wasted food, donating excess food to food insecure people and recycling food scraps through composting or anaerobic digestion and today's announcement complements the State's on-going efforts to address food waste.
An estimated 37 million tons of municipal solid waste are managed each year in the State. To reduce the amount of waste and the associated emissions from landfills and waste to energy facilities, New York's local governments and solid waste planning units can adopt climate smart solid waste management strategies that include waste prevention, reuse, comprehensive recycling and organic material recovery programs.
In 2016 and 2017, DEC awarded Climate Smart Communities program grants totaling more than $5 million to 10 projects to enhance food recovery and management of food waste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the Food Bank Association of New York State will be administering a $2.8 million grant program to help regional food banks capture more food for donation. Many healthful foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products often require refrigeration. This funding will help 10 regional food banks collect and store this perishable food longer so it can better reach the soup kitchens, food pantries, and other emergency feeding programs serving food-insecure people throughout the State.
Senator Tom O'Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, commented: "We need to keep taking commonsense actions and encouraging initiatives to stop perfectly good, fresh, nutritious food from ending up in landfills and waste incinerators and, at the same time, to help combat food insecurity."
Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, said: "Food scraps are a key source of waste that we can divert from the waste stream and these grants are a great way for New York to address climate change by reducing a major source of methane, as well as assist localities by preventing the waste from being landfilled.
“We need to constantly be thinking of ways to mitigate climate change and reduce harmful emissions using a multi-pronged approach, and this is one example of that. By diverting wholesome food from the landfills, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and benefitting the environment, while at the same time ensuring that those in need have access to healthy foods. I applaud the Governor for utilizing these funds in a way that will benefit all New Yorkers."
Mike Durant, President & CEO, Food Industry Alliance of NY noted: "New York's grocery industry continues to be leaders in working with food banks and other charitable organizations across the State to help feed the hungry while working diligently to promote effective organic recycling.
“For those stores that have not had the resources to increase their engagement, this funding will help provide the financial boost they need to contribute to this laudable cause. We are grateful that the State Department of Environmental Conservation is making these funds available to help our industry continue to responsibly invest in our communities and environment."
Melissa Autilio Fleischut, CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association said: "Food waste recycling grants will provide valuable and much needed resources allowing New York's hospitality industry to partner with the State to fulfil our mutual commitment to protect our environment and eliminate hunger."
For more information on how food scrap generators can implement programs to reduce and divert wasted food, visit New York State P2I's Food System Sustainability Clearinghouse (leaves DEC's website), an online clearinghouse of information and resources for businesses including guidance on food waste self-assessment, donation practices and source separating protocols.
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