New York Lawmakers Move to Tackle Food Waste

When food goes to waste, so does all the energy, water, and labor it takes to get it on our plates.

The New York State Senate included the Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Act in their one house budget proposal—taking a critical leadership role in both addressing climate change and getting more food to hungry New Yorkers. This important bill accomplishes two major things:

  1. Requires the state’s largest generators of food waste to begin recycling their food scraps, provided that adequate processing capacity exists within 25 miles (keeping this distance at 25 miles or higher is a critically important piece of making sure the bill meets its goals). 
  2. Increases food donations in New York by requiring the state’s largest food waste generators to separate wholesome food for donation.

Why does this matter? Nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers struggle to have enough to eat. At the same time, 40 percent of the food produced in this country is wasted—and here in New York, food makes up 18 percent of our municipal solid waste stream. The vast majority of this food is disposed of in landfills where it breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

MEND Poverty

Wasted food is a serious economic, environmental, and food security problem. If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China. Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $218 billion of food every year, in addition to consuming huge volumes of fresh water, energy, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which are used in the production of food that goes to waste.

At the same time, millions of Americans struggle to afford food to feed their families. Less than one-third of the food we throw out in this country would be enough to feed all 41 million food insecure Americans. We are throwing away wholesome food that could instead help feed our fellow citizens in need.

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Fortunately, we have the opportunity to tackle these challenges, and a strong proposal to do so here in New York. We can begin to address food production, consumption, and disposal more sustainably by discouraging the production, distribution, and preparation of excess food; by recovering excess food for those in need; and by recycling food scraps that remain. The Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Act includes critical steps to accomplish precisely these objectives.

The New York State Senate is taking bold action by including this Act as part of their one house budget proposal. It has has the potential to feed hungry New Yorkers, fight climate change, and generate jobs in communities across New York. We now look to the Assembly and Governor Cuomo—who advanced similar proposals in previous sessions—for their leadership in ensuring this common sense bill is included in the final budget.

About the Authors

Margaret Brown

Senior Attorney, NY Regional, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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