Category Archives: News

New York City Announces Business Organics Rules

Beginning July 19, 2016, certain New York City businesses will be required by law to separate their organic waste. If your business meets the minimum requirements outlined below, you must comply with the business organics rules.

Establishments covered by Business Organics Rules

  • All food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms
  • All food service vendors in arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
  • Food manufacturers with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • Food wholesalers with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

Businesses covered by this proposal are given the option to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves, or process the material on site. Suitable processing methods include composting and aerobic/anaerobic digestion. A food waste grinder is not permitted.

Business Resources: materials and trainings offered by DSNY.

Self-Transport: Businesses choosing to haul their own source-separated organics must register with the NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC).

On-Site Processing: Businesses covered by these rules that choose to process organics on-site must register with DSNY within 30 days of installing on-site processing equipment.

NYC Commercial Organics Law

organic-waste-11414NYC Commercial Organics Rule

New York City Moves One Step Closer


Administration proposal expands organics diversion program to the commercial sector.

On July 1st, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration unveiled their proposal to expand organic diversion to the commercial sector. The program would be mandatory for some 357 New York City businesses that generate large amounts of food waste, like the Barclays Center, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium; restaurants inside hotels with more than 150 rooms; and large food-processing plants. The city is planning to eventually require all restaurants to participate in the program, which began under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The program is designed to cut methane emissions from landfills and make waste disposal practices more sustainable in the nation’s largest city.

Specifically, the program will affect 132 hotels, 7 arenas, 58 manufacturers and 160 wholesalers, according to the city. The City estimates that these waste generators produce approximately 50,000 tons per year of food waste that can be either composted or handled in another sustainable manner approved by the Department. City Hall said this program is environmentally responsible and would save space in the region’s overcrowded landfills. Kathryn Garcia, the city’s sanitation commissioner said the regulations wouldn’t cost the public any money because they would be the responsibility of affected businesses to comply.

Those affected businesses would be given a six-month grace period, after which violations would result in fines, though the amounts haven’t yet been disclosed.

“We want to be at the forefront of cities that are going to zero-waste-to-landfill,” Kathryn Garcia, said.

In total, the city’s commercial establishments generate roughly one million tons a year of organic waste. So this action will need to be followed up with more expansive directives over the next several years, so that the program ultimately includes all significant food waste generators in New York City.

With the Mayor’s recently released OneNYC sustainability plan, this is apparently what the de Blasio administration plans to do.

Hearings on the proposed regulations will begin in the fall, and the city hopes to see them go into effect next year.

This program brings New York City one-step closer to declaring its independence from environmentally troublesome, methane-generating, climate-altering landfills.

New York City Marine Transfer Station Plan Could Triple Costs

A tug boat pushes a garbage barge past the Statue of Liberty

While residents of the Upper East Side continue to fight the opening of a rebuilt Marine Transfer Station that would handle some of the island’s waste it still doesn’t address the underlying problem of too much trash.

New York City’s current day-to-day approach to trash – shipping most of it elsewhere – is not fundamentally sustainable. The more than 10,000 tons or greater of commercial waste generated every day is taken by private carters, both directly to New Jersey and to waste transfer stations in the other boroughs for shipment to out-of-state landfills.

Trucking this trash out of New York City every day is also not cheap. NYC taxpayers spend over $330 million annually in landfill costs and then there is also the additional cost on the environment

The basic philosophy behind the Solid Waste Management Plan, that includes the marine transfer stations, is to establish a more equitable -and less impactful- waste processing system, with infrastructure in every borough.

Opponents argue that while there may be less trucks on the road this plan will not contribute to a more environmentally sustainable waste management system in New York City and that the City should be focused on reducing the actual waste stream, and not on large capital projects.

According to the city’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), this proposal will triple the cost of waste management for the city. The IBO estimated that the waste management costs per ton at a new facility proposed for the city’s Upper East Side would be $278 in its first year of operation, 2016. The current interim plan of shipping waste to transfer stations in New Jersey and Yonkers, N.Y., is $93 by comparison.

The higher cost per ton for the marine transfer station is due primarily to “the more costly multimodal method of transporting waste from transfer station to its final destination via barge and rail.

The Department of Sanitation is continuing the Bloomberg administration’s late-term efforts to expand what is recycled in the five boroughs by introducing organics recycling but at what cost?

The Clock is Ticking


Starting October 1st, food waste from large institutions and supermarkets — not residents — will be collected. And only some of that will be headed to anaerobic digesters.

Massachusetts’ state-wide food waste ban, which was a decade in the making, puts the commonwealth among leaders in the United States in addressing an indulgence that is not unique to our modern existence: throwing away large quantities of food.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is hoping to find alternative methods of disposal because landfilling is expensive as well as send the message to discourage the creation of waste altogether.   The hope is that ordering and preparing will be questioned to ensure less ends up going to the trash as a part of their process.

The more complete solution however, according to many environmentalists and an increasing number of businesspersons, is utilizing the process of Anaerobic Digestion. Food scraps fed to microbes in a heated tank without oxygen is converted, in a month or less, into biogas — mostly methane — that can be captured and used to generate electricity.

There are currently six wastewater treatment plants in the state that use the process. The egg-shaped buildings visible on Deer Island in the Boston Harbor do that to make power for the sewage treatment process.

There are also three Anaerobic Digesters in Massachusetts, which will gladly be accepting food waste under the new regulations, however there is a considerable amount of pre-sorting and processing of the food waste before it can be converted into a pumpable slurry for injection into the digesters.

While Anaerobic Digestion is a forward thinking option, it is still scarce in the United States because it is an expensive undertaking. When Anton Finelli and his partners did the research they were shocked to discover you could count on one hand the anaerobic digestion projects in North America designed specifically to take and process food waste. So, his company, Common Wealth Resource Management Corporation decided to build a pilot plant at the landfill site in Dartmouth, and hopes it attracts customers.

The state hopes the ban will spur construction of more anaerobic digestion and other solutions to turn organic waste into a resource.

L.A.’s $400 Million Trash Train to Nowhere


The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County have spent a decade and $430 million building a railway system to haul trash to a desert landfill, but the system is sitting idle because it is too expensive to use.

Instead, Los Angeles County is dumping its trash in Orange County, where space in the Brea and Irvine landfills is plentiful and half the $80-per-ton cost of using the trash train.

County sanitation officials acknowledge that they miscalculated when planning the trash train, and they say it won’t be economical enough to use for at least five years, maybe not for 15 years. And an independent environmental engineer who monitors trash markets in California said it could take even longer.

“The market is over-saturated with capacity and is extremely competitive,” said Evan Edgar of Edgar & Associates Inc., a Sacramento-based environmental engineering and lobbying firm. “Southern California has 2 billion cubic yards of remaining disposal capacity that could easily last the next 100 years.”

When the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County started considering the rail system in 1991, the county appeared headed for a trash crisis. Landfill space was running out, getting more space looked unlikely, and the public didn’t want more dumps in L.A. County.

So the district came up with a plan: raise fees for trash haulers, which they passed on to the residents and businesses, and use the money to help pay for a railway system running to a huge new desert landfill.

But major changes in the trash markets happened — Local landfills got permits to expand their business, opening up lower-cost alternatives for trash haulers, the economic downturn caused consumers to buy and build less, meaning less trash overall, and the economy increased their recycling efforts.

There was no longer a need for waste-by-rail.   So, the new rail stations, bridges and track running 200 miles into the desert will remain on standby. Estimated cost: $300,000 per year.  The 4,000-square-acre Mesquite Regional Landfill will remain empty, save for a single geologist in charge of overseeing the property.

A Documentary on Food Waste in North America


Just Eat It is a 75-minute documentary looking at the issues of food waste and food rescue.

The film makers try to explain that as a society, we consume countless cooking shows, culinary magazines, and foodie blogs, yet many countries throw nearly half of their food in the bin.

Just Eat It looks at our systemic obsession with expiry dates, perfect produce, and portion sizes, and reveals the core of this seemingly insignificant issue that is having devastating consequences around the globe.

The film follows the filmmakers as they dive into the issue of waste from farm, through retail, all the way to the back of their own fridge.

After catching a glimpse of the billions of dollars of good food that is tossed each year in North America, they pledge to quit grocery shopping for a six-month period, cold turkey and survive exclusively on foods that would otherwise be thrown away.

Adopting a life of freeganism, the practice of reclaiming and eating food that has been discarded, often referred to as “dumpster diving” got its start int he 1990s.  Retail suppliers of food such as supermarkets and restaurants routinely throw away food in good condition.  By foraging, freegans believe they are keeping edible food from adding to landfill clutter.

The debut of the film is set for April 27th at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.  Watch the Just Eat It trailer below.

Turning Food Waste Into Fuel Takes Trillions Of Bacteria


A Brooklyn waste treatment plant has become an unlikely lab for an ambitious effort to turn millions of tons of food scraps from New York City’s apartments and restaurants into renewable energy.

Every year, Americans send millions of tons of food to the landfill.  What if you could use all of those pizza crusts and rotten vegetables to heat your home?  That’s already happening in one unlikely laboratory:  the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn.

The plants longtime superintendent, Jimmy Pynn, shows off the plant’s crown jewels:  eight huge, shiny, oval-shaped steel tanks knows as digester eggs.  Each one contains millions of gallons of black sludge that’s roughly the consistency of pea soup.  Pynn calls it ‘black gold.”

“The digesters like to be fed like us:  three times a day.” He says.  “They like to be kept warm, 98 degrees.  And whether we want to admit it or not, we all make gas.  And that’s what we have these guys for:  to make gas.”

In this case, the gas is methane, which can be used to heat homes or make electricity.  Right now, what these bacteria re digesting is mostly sewage sludge.  But they’re being introduced to a new diet:  food scraps.  The hope is that this plant will soon take in hundreds of tons of organic waste from houses and apartments.

“Rather than paying millions of dollars to send it to landfill, we could be taking all of Brooklyn’s organics to the Newtown facility and converting it into clean renewable energy,” says Ron Gonen, New York’s Deputy Commissioner for recycling.

The Newtown facility is an example of anaerobic digestion, which is not a brand new idea.  What is new is the idea of adding food waste in to the mix.

Past-prime produce, rotten tomatoes, fats, oils, greases from fryers, past-prime dairy products and loaves of moldy bread are all great food-stuffs for anaerobic digestion.

The problem lies in the complexity of implementing a food waste system in New York City because of its huge quantities of waste.  One challenge is the amount of extra work it would be to separate the organic material from the rest of the trash in a city as dense as New York.  Another challenge is that the Newtown Creek facility can only handle a small fraction of what is coming in.  The costliest part will be finding enough locations to build more facilities to handle the volume.

Still, this is a great first step.

Massachusetts Bans Food Waste


Massachusetts has banned commercial operations from sending food waste to landfills as part of its climate action plan.

As of October 1, 2014, (only 3 months later than originally hoped) any entity that generates at least one ton of organic material per week has to either donate or re-purpose useable food and send the rest to a biogas facility, where it will be converted to clean energy or composted.

The ban will help the state meet its twin goals of reducing waste disposal to landfills and increasing clean energy production.

It affects about 1700 businesses and institutions, including supermarkets, colleges, universities, hotels, convention centers, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and food service and processing companies.

Another boon from the ban is the growth of biogas plants across the state, needed to manage all the incoming organic material. MassDEP is working to site them on farms, wastewater treatment plants and other public and private locations by providing technical assistance and up to $1 million in grants. Currently 6 of Massachusetts’ wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters capable of transforming effluent from on-site food waste digesters to clean energy or compost.  The use of municipal sewer systems to transport digested food waste offers the added benefit of taking excess trucks off the roads which helps to reduce pollution and save additional costs.

We hope MassDEP can convert more wastewater treatment facilities to anaerobic digesters before October 1st.

Groundbreaking Legislation Passed in NYC


On Thursday, December 19th New York City passed important legislation requiring large food waste generators to separate food waste ensuring waste does not go to landfill, effective July 2015.

Proposed Int. No. 1162-A would require restaurants, grocery stores, caterers and other food service establishments of a certain size or number within the City that generate significant food waste to source-separate organic waste beginning July 1, 2015 for composting, aerobic or anaerobic digestion or any other method approved by the DSNY commissioner.

“This legislation is a giant step forward in the city’s efforts to recycle organic waste,” says Mayor Bloomberg.  Bloomberg called the vote “a significant step towards our PlaNYC goal of diverting more waste from landfills.”

The city is looking to double its recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017. Two organics-related trade groups endorsed New York City’s move.

“With the passage of this initiative, (New York City) is taking a bold and decisive step toward establishing a sustainable environment for its citizens. This move will benefit generations to come,” said Lori Scozzafava, executive director of the Bethesda, Md.-based U.S. Composting Council.

An approved method for disposal includes use of the Eco-Safe Digester, an on-site aerobic digestion solution.  For the 20 or more NYC businesses already using the digester, they are clearly voluntarily ahead of the ban but for those that are thinking about their best course of action, the Eco-Safe Digester waits for your call.

Using Satellites to Provide Better Data


Approximately 200 miles above the Earth’s surface, two satellites circle the planet together, measuring and sending data about changes of many things.  The satellites are referred to as Grace, (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment).  While they live in space, they’re providing invaluable assistance in managing one of our natural resources on the ground, groundwater.

GRACE has created a unique picture of groundwater storage level changes over the past 11 years. This information already is helping water users and policymakers manage scarce groundwater resources in California, the Tigris-Euphrates Basin and several other locations around the world. It’s also providing an example of how satellites and remote sensing are reshaping the water world, opening new frontiers for water resources management and making remarkable progress in spotlighting global water risks.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), approximately 26 percent of the freshwater withdrawn in the United States every day comes from groundwater.  That number varies in different regions and countries, but groundwater-storing aquifers are an important source of drinking water and a primary buffer against drought around the world, offering more stable supplies when surface sources such as lakes and reservoirs are depleted. But in many parts of the world, little or no information is publicly available on how much water a given aquifer contains. It’s rare to know how much water people are withdrawing or how this relates to replenishment rates.

Even in a developed state such as California, land owners can pump underground water without any reporting or metering. The specifics, of course, change around the world, but ignorance of groundwater levels and sustainable withdrawal rates is the common denominator.

That’s where GRACE comes in.

As the two satellites orbit the earth, they provide transparent but necessary data that can make up for the lack of on-the-ground monitoring of water resources around the world.

At times, some countries have refused to release their water-related data, citing security concerns, but the GRACE remote-sensing technology has created a bypass around the reluctance of many countries to release their data providing us with greater precision mapping and understanding.

River basins must be managed efficiently, equitably and sustainably which is not possible without data.  The goal of all this is to create leverage for water managers and for politicians to hopefully start acting on the best management solution for groundwater.  Thanks Grace.