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food waste nyc

Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons per year. Of this, approximately 133 billion pounds of waste are generated in the United States, with New York contributing 3.9 million tons of this wasted food to landfills.

To reach the United States’ goal of cutting food loss and waste in half by the year 2030, a combination of federal, statewide, and local initiatives are being implemented. As the largest city in the United States, these laws are especially important in addressing food waste in NYC, with food waste regulations, recycling efforts, and increased awareness all playing an important role in improving sustainability efforts.

Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of reducing NYC food waste, where we’ll discuss various strategies that have been implemented and offer practical tips for both households and businesses.

Key Takeaways

  • The Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law requires businesses and institutions that generate an annual average of two tons of wasted food per week or more to donate excess edible food and recycle all remaining food scraps if they are within 25 miles of an organic’s recycler.
  • Local Law 146 of 2013 requires certain NYC businesses to separate their organic waste, including food scraps, food-soiled paper, and certified compostable products, making it an important NYC food waste law.
  • There are various environmental benefits of NYC food waste recycling, such as reduced landfill usage, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, decreased pollution, and the conservation of resources and biodiversity.
  • Under N.Y. Tax Law §210-B(52), eligible farmers and businesses that make qualified donations can receive a tax credit amounting to 25% of the fair market value of their donations to any eligible food pantry operating in New York, with a maximum of $5,000 per tax year.

NYC Food Waste Statistics

In New York, food makes up 18 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. Of this, a vast majority is disposed of in landfills, contributing to long-lasting environmental issues that require immediate attention.

In NYC, households are huge contributors to this issue, generating 54% of the city’s food waste, while restaurants and caterers account for 20% of the overall waste. On average, households waste 8.4 pounds of food per week, highlighting the need to raise awareness and improve everyday food-related habits.

In addition to environmental and economic concerns, these food waste statistics demonstrate how the misuse of resources also contributes to significant social issues. With approximately one in four adults in New York State facing food insecurity, more efforts are required to bridge the gap between hunger and food waste.

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New York State Food Waste Regulations

Food waste laws in the U.S. are a critical component of reducing waste and achieving sustainability goals. To better understand how New York State is contributing to these efforts, there are three NYS food waste laws worth discussing:

Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law (2022)

The Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law requires businesses and institutions that generate an annual average of two tons of wasted food per week or more to donate excess edible food and recycle all remaining food scraps if they are within 25 miles of an organics recycler. Since New York City has its own local laws in place, which we’ll discuss below, residents of NYC are not required to participate. That said, this NYS food waste law demonstrates how New York State is increasing sustainability efforts and setting an example for responsible waste management across the state.

Part 350: Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling

Part 350: Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling implements the requirements outlined by the above law. These regulations provide detailed requirements and guidelines for compliance, including defining who qualifies as a designated food scrap generator, outlining the donation and recycling processes, and specifying reporting obligations.

6 NYCRR Part 361-3.2: Composting Facilities Regulations

6 NYCRR Part 361-3.2 outlines New York State’s codes, rules, and regulations for composting and organics recycling facilities. These regulations categorize composting facilities in one of three ways: exempt, registered, or permitted, depending on the location, quantity, and type of material being composted.

New York City Food Waste Laws

To address food waste in NYC, various laws have emerged to reduce landfill use and support NYC food waste recycling, including:

Local Law 146 of 2013

Local Law 146 of 2013 requires certain NYC businesses to separate their organic waste, including food scraps, food-soiled paper, and certified compostable products. Under this law, businesses have the right to choose how they manage their food waste, whether by arranging for collection by a private carter, transporting organic waste themselves, or processing the material on-site through in-vessel composting.

Local Law 77 of 2013

Local Law 77 of 2013 requires the NYC Department of Sanitation Commissioner to establish a voluntary residential organic waste curbside collection pilot program and a school organic waste collection pilot program. Since its launch, there have been increased diversion rates, productive feedback from participants, and requests to bring the pilot to other neighborhoods, showcasing its early success.

Commercial Organics Requirements (Local Law 146 Update)

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection amended its rules to prohibit the use of devices that break down food waste for the purpose of discharging it into the sewer system, except for food waste disposers within dwelling units. This update, which became effective on September 25, 2021, prevents the backup of sewage in homes and businesses, therefore protecting the health of the general public, wildlife, and environment.

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Why Recycle and Compost Food Waste in NYC?

Enhanced food waste management in NYC offers many environmental, economic, and social benefits, making it a valuable strategy for individuals and businesses alike.

From an environmental standpoint, enhanced NYC food waste recycling reduces landfill usage, minimizes greenhouse gas emissions, decreases pollution, and promotes the conservation of resources and biodiversity. Some waste management strategies, such as composting, offer additional benefits, including enhanced soil health and increased plant growth.

There are also economic benefits of reducing food waste, including cost savings for households, increased profit margins for businesses, tax exemptions, and increased financial security for farmers. With food waste costing the U.S. an estimated $218 billion annually, better waste management opens a huge opportunity for individuals and businesses to cut costs.

Reducing food waste also provides significant social benefits that can’t be ignored. With 44 million people in the U.S. facing food insecurity, enhanced donation efforts can improve resource utilization and connect surplus food with hungry individuals. In addition, increased food waste management enhances corporate social responsibility and community engagement, both of which are important for driving large-scale change.

How to Manage Food Waste in NYC: Guidelines for Residents

Each year, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food. To reduce the economic impact of food waste, there are multiple strategies that households can implement, including:

  • Meal planning: When families create detailed grocery lists, they avoid buying in bulk and purchasing ingredients that they don’t need, therefore reducing household food waste.
  • Understanding food expiration dates: Due to widespread confusion regarding food date labels, large amounts of food are discarded prematurely. By understanding the different types of expiration dates and knowing how to identify when a product is truly expired, families can save money and ensure they consume healthy products.
  • Get creative with leftovers: In addition to practicing portion control, families should prioritize the consumption of surplus ingredients. This may include eating leftovers the next day or using extra ingredients to create new meals.
  • At-home composting: Backyard composting is a great way for households to contribute to sustainability efforts. To get started, households should collect organic waste in kitchen bins and create a compost pile that has 3 parts brown material (carbon-rich materials like leaves and wood chips) for every 1 part green material (organic waste like food scraps). To learn more about this approach, read our guide on what to do with food scraps.
  • Get involved in community initiatives: Curbside composting, drop-off sites, and community gardens in New York City are all great initiatives that get the community involved, increase awareness, and make food waste management attainable for families.

Food Waste Recycling in New York: Guidelines for Small Businesses

Businesses that want to implement food waste recycling programs should consider the following key elements:

  • Conducting a waste audit: Food waste audits help businesses identify waste sources and quantities in order to create an effective waste reduction strategy. For this reason, conducting a food waste audit is the first step to enhanced sustainability and improved operational efficiency.
  • Clearly defining goals: Setting goals is an important part of reducing waste, as it helps you create a structured plan that keeps you on track. For instance, your business may want to divert 50% of organic waste from landfills or be recognized as a zero-waste company.
  • Choosing an approach: There are multiple waste management approaches that businesses can explore, such as on-site composting, enhanced food donation efforts, or partnering with a waste management company. When choosing the right approach for your business, consider space, technology, and budget requirements.
  • Training staff: All employees should receive comprehensive training to understand the importance of reducing waste, learn their new roles in waste reduction initiatives, and effectively implement strategies to minimize food waste.
  • Understanding federal and local regulations: Businesses must be up-to-date on federal and NYS food waste laws, including liability protections and local programs. A great example of this is the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which encourages food donation by protecting donors from liability if donated food causes harm to recipients. Some programs also offer great incentives to businesses, such as the Food Waste Reduction and Diversion Reimbursement Program, which helps New York State businesses, municipalities, and non-profits cover the costs of technologies and equipment that reduce or divert large amounts of food waste from landfills or incineration. By having a clear understanding of regulations, businesses can ensure compliance and take full advantage of available incentives.
  • Monitoring progress: Having clear waste reduction targets helps your business monitor the program’s success and make adjustments if necessary. This ensures continuous improvement and helps you achieve your business’ unique goals.
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Requirements for Larger Businesses

To ensure compliance and avoid violations, businesses must understand the requirements of local laws. As one of the key food waste regulations in NYC, we’ve outlined the requirements of Local Law 146 of 2013:

  • Types of establishments that must comply: Food services, retail food stores, food preparation locations, catering establishments, temporary public events, arenas and stadiums, food manufacturers, and food wholesalers are all subject to these regulations. That said, only businesses that meet the minimum requirements must participate, which includes establishments that exceed certain space requirements or number of customers.
  • Necessary steps for compliance: There are certain things that businesses must do to ensure compliance. This includes providing labeled containers for the collection of organic waste in all areas where organic waste is handled or set out by employees, posting and maintaining signs with instructions on identifying and separating organic waste from garbage and recyclables, arranging for organic waste to be transported and/or processed separately from garbage and recycling, and more.

To better understand the requirements of Local Law 146 of 2013, read this guide.

To support these efforts, the NYC Department of Sanitation provides various resources to improve diversion rates. This includes instituting expanded rules that focus on organic waste diversion, expanding school curbside composting, and providing technical assistance and educational resources to encourage participation.

Leveraging Technology to Manage Food Waste in NYC

Food waste technology has been increasingly adopted in the fight against food waste, assisting in the collection, treatment, and prevention of food waste.

These technologies help businesses streamline various food waste management strategies, such as composting systems, anaerobic digesters, IoT devices for monitoring and reducing waste, and more.

Food waste apps have been especially important in streamlining new waste management approaches, as they provide insights into usage patterns, help improve inventory management, track waste reduction efforts, facilitate the donation of surplus food, and more. As technology continues to evolve, we expect to see even more advanced solutions that support waste reduction efforts and help businesses achieve sustainability goals.

Tax Incentives for Food Donation in NY

Is food waste tax deductible?

Yes, there are both federal and local tax incentives that promote food donation efforts.

On a federal level, the Internal Revenue Code 170 offers enhanced tax deductions to businesses that donate fit and wholesome food to qualified nonprofit organizations serving those in need.

The N.Y. Tax Law §210-B(52), on the other hand, offers additional benefits to New York residents. Under this law, farmers and businesses that make qualified donations are eligible for a tax credit, amounting to 25% of the fair market value of their donations to any eligible food pantry operating in New York, without exceeding $5,000 per tax year.

To ensure compliance with both federal and statewide tax deductions, businesses should stay up-to-date with changing regulations and work with a waste management company for optimal results.

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Criteria for Food Waste in NY

Food waste recycling programs, such as composting initiatives, generally accept the following foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat and fish scraps
  • Bread and grains
  • Dairy products
  • Eggshells
  • Leftovers
  • Coffee grounds
  • Food-soiled paper

Items that are typically not accepted include:

  • Plastic, glass, or metal
  • Pet waste and litter
  • Synthetic materials like rubber bands and twist ties
  • Diseased plants

The Bottom Line

NYC food waste recycling and waste reduction laws are an important step towards reducing the environmental, economic, and social implications of food waste.

Businesses that want to improve their sustainability efforts, comply with regulations, and take advantage of tax deductions should partner with a waste management company for optimal results.

At Shapiro, we provide commercial food waste management services that focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling food waste. To learn more about our organic waste management solutions, contact us today.

New York Food Waste FAQ

How much food is wasted in NYC?

Each year, about 3.9 million tons of wasted food from New York ends up in landfills.

What is New York doing about food waste?

To address food waste in New York, various laws and initiatives have been implemented, such as the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law (2022), Local Law 146 of 201, Local Law 77 of 2013, and tax incentives for food donations.

What is the food scrap law in NYC?

Local Law 146 of 2013 requires certain NYC businesses to separate their organic waste, including food scraps, food-soiled paper, and certified compostable products.

What food can I put in my food waste bin?

NYC food waste recycling programs typically accept fruits and vegetables, meat and fish scraps, bread, grains, dairy products, eggshells, leftovers, coffee grounds, and food-soiled paper.

Where does the waste in NYC go?

Food waste diverted from landfills is often sent to composting facilities, waste-to-energy facilities, or upcycled into new products.

Can you get fined for not recycling in NYC?

Yes, NYC residents and businesses that do not separate their recyclables and composting materials from trash may receive a fine.

What is the Zero Waste Act in NYC?

The Zero Waste Act is an initiative that aims to send zero recyclable or compostable waste to landfills by 2030.

Baily Ramsey, an accomplished marketing specialist, brings a unique blend of anthropological insight and marketing finesse to the digital landscape. Specializing in educational content creation, she creates content for various industries, with a particular interest in environmental initiatives.

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