Food Waste Bill Released from Committee
Today, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee released A2371 (Kennedy/Pinkin). The bill requires large food waste generators to separate and recycle food waste and amends the definition of “Class I renewable energy.”
“This legislation will help curb New Jersey’s food waste problem. We currently waste between 30-40% of our food supply each year. Requiring large food waste generators to compost food will help get this debris out of the waste stream and out of landfills. Food waste also gives off methane as it decomposes in landfills, and it can spoil recyclables when it is mixed in. Collecting compostables separately and taking it to a composter or biodigester will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also turn this food waste into useful products like fertilizer,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We are glad that this legislation does not include sending food to incinerators. We are concerned, however, that biogas is defined as a Class I renewable energy because biogas releases greenhouse gases and is not renewable.”
According to the NRDC, an estimated 40 percent of food produced in the US is wasted every year. This adds up to about 62.5 million tons, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually. Also wasted were the resources that went into producing the food, including 25 percent of all freshwater consumed, 31 percent of total carbon emissions, and 80 million acres of farmland used in the US according to the EPA.
“This bill will help get food waste out of landfills and reduce methane emissions. However, defining biogas as a Class I renewable energy is not accurate. Biogas releases greenhouse gases because it requires burning, and it is not renewable because it is generated from waste. Class I renewables should be forms of energy that are actually renewable, like solar, wind, waves, and geothermal. We believe that biogas should be defined as a different form of energy, perhaps Class II or something else. Class I renewable energy should continue to define forms of clean, renewable energy that do not produce greenhouse gases,” said Tittel. “We also need education programs to help reduce the amount of food waste that goes into our landfills each year.”
Using composted food waste as fertilizer enriches soil, helps retain moisture and suppress plant diseases, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. It also encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter.
“This bill is an important step in the right direction for handing New Jersey’s food waste, but we need another bill to expand on it and make it more comprehensive. We are in a climate crisis and our waste is a major contributor. Food waste that is brought to landfills instead of anaerobically digested or composted contributes to global warming and GHG emissions. California has already reduced their food waste by 50%, and they are moving toward 75% by 2025. We need education programs to help people and restaurants learn how to reduce and reuse food waste. As we move toward getting to zero carbon, we need to move towards getting to zero food waste. If they allow landfills to be included in this bill, specifically burning landfill gas as a Class I renewable, we would have to oppose this legislation. There is no way landfill gas should be considered anywhere near a Class I renewable,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “ This legislation will help reduce and reuse food waste in a sustainable way. Converting food to energy will produce a tremendous amount of energy while reducing methane emissions.”