New York’s ‘Food Recycling’ Program Could Be The Future Of Waste And Energy

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New Yorkers’ food scraps will soon be turned into electricity, thanks to a new initiative announced Sunday by the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new “food recycling” program will call for the construction of a composting facility in the New York region to take 100,000 tons of food waste a year — just one tenth of the total one million pounds created by New York residents annually. Compost will be turned into biogas, with the express purpose of helping the city lower its electric bill.

The launch of the program will be voluntary, and city officials estimate that 150,000 homes will take part, along with 600 schools and 100 high-rise buildings, the New York Times reports. By 2015 or 2016, however, officials hope to have the whole city on board.

The program will be hugely beneficial for New Yorkers’ wallets. Just days ago, a report found that Americans throw out 40 percent of their food. That waste amounts to $400 per person annually.

Additionally, in 2012, the New York Citizens Budget Commission estimated that (PDF) New York would spend “$2 billion in tax dollars throwing out its garbage,” and about $300 million of that was on the process of disposing of the waste. Much of New York’s garbage is shipped out-of-state to landfills in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. The Commission estimates that it cost taxpayers “$95 per ton for the three million tons the City exports to landfills,” meaning that New Yorkers are not just wasting money on food, they’re also wasting money on throwing it out.

The new program, however, will actually bring down costs of transporting waste by bringing a composting facility to the area. At the same time, by harnessing biofuels, it will introduce more sustainable and cheaper energy: Rotting food at landfills emit 17 percent of the total methane produced by the US. That methane goes up into the atmosphere and acts as one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

The plan to harness the decomposition process of New Yorkers’ food waste and turn it into energy will kill two birds with one stone. Not only will energy be created from an otherwise useless byproduct of decomposition, but that methane will no longer be contributing to global climate change.

Over time, composting plants have become more widespread. Portland, Oregon, just recently reduced its number of garbage collection days down to two in hopes of encouraging composting and recycling. San Francisco is one of the leaders of curbside composting, an approach that now has the participation of over 100 cities. Even the airline Jet Blue announced last month that it would be piloting a composting plan in New York’s JFK Airport. Indeed, the industry is growing so quickly that compost plant workers are facing dangerous conditions thanks to a lack of oversight.

But New York’s participation in a composting program might be able to bring the practice into the mainstream. Composting is becoming more popular in other countries, and there’s good reason to think it could, and should, catch on here, too.

8 Responses to New York’s ‘Food Recycling’ Program Could Be The Future Of Waste And Energy

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Annie-Rose, it’s not correct to claim that most deforestation occurs in tropical Third World countries. The United States and Canada alone account for about 38% of all logging, and Europe and other developed countries account for more.

    The only difference is PR. When a forest is clearcut in the US or Canada, it’s called “sustainable management”, even if a big mature forest turns into spindly tree farms, scheduled to be clearcut again on 40 year rotations.

    The best way to reduce deforestation is through a carbon tax on wood products. That would make two by fours (as opposed to masonry or steel) an expensive option for construction. Rags would replace paper towels, and we wouldn’t keep getting big catalogs in the mail.

    The oil companies learned all about greenwashing from timber giants like Georgia Pacific and Weyerhauser, who continue to raze forests but now claim to be “green”. They even claim that their tree farms are really in the business of sucking up carbon. It’s time to stand up to them.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Please reroute the above comment to Jeff’s piece, sorry.

  3. catman306 says:

    100,000 tons is NOT equal to 1/10 of one million pounds. But 100,000 POUNDS is.

    Composting garbage is a promising program that will be expanded soon.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Food wastage is part of the same lack of respect for the Earth and her products that has grown rapidly over the last forty odd years. There are very few good reasons for throwing out food, ME

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Our destructocrats do the same here. A ‘protected forest’ is never safe forever. They just wait a few years for the latest, and most morally insane yet, Rightwing regime to come to power, and down go the trees. Resistance is always ‘green extremism’, the forests are always being ‘conserved’ or ‘protected’ by being clear-felled (sometimes just for woodchips, worth half of eff all)and the new generation of Rightwing thugs is moving on National Parks. While greed is central to the psychopathology, and the lust to dominate, to get your way and make others lose, I’ve always felt that a deeper level of evil is also involved. The Rightwing hardcore, the unbelievably vicious hate propagandists in the MSM (types that would never have been allowed to be published thirty years ago)and the hate-tanks, and the fanatic morons that they send to parliaments as their voters’ ‘representatives’ (unfortunately all too true)simply hate Life, and the natural world. I guess that it scares them, and its indifference to their existence outrages their pathetically prodigious egos.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You haven’t tried my cooking.

  7. Superman1 says:

    If your cooking is anything like your prose, you need to issue a warning with each meal!

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Your soufflé is in the mail.