New York City’s slow march towards zero waste has reached yet another milestone: as of July 19, certain large businesses are required by law to separate and recycle organic waste. The law applies to about 350 establishments, including stadiums, hotels, food manufacturers, and wholesalers.
Businesses that must comply are those who meet the following criteria:
- 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
These businesses are given the option to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves, or process the material on site.
If handling the waste themselves, businesses can use a machine called an ORCA, which can “digest” more than a ton of food waste per day. Using continuous motion, a proprietary “natural Microorganism solution” and “recycled plastic Bio Chips,” the ORCA turns food waste into “environmentally safe water” that can be disposed of into the municipal sewage system.
Part of a Larger Picture
New York City’s organics collection plays a key role in Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious OneNYC plan, which sets forth a goal of “Zero Waste” by 2030.
Organic waste (food scraps, yard waste, and soiled paper not suitable for recycling) comprises nearly one-third of all waste NYC residents discard at the curb—approximately 1.1 million tons per year. In landfills, this organic material decomposes, releasing methane gas, a greenhouse gas six times more potent than carbon dioxide.
If composted, however, this material can be converted into a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer that can replenish our city’s soil. It can also be processed through anaerobic digestion, releasing methane gas that can be captured and used as an alternative to natural gas.
Since the launch of a pilot program in 2013, curbside organics collection has expanded include approximately 50,000 households and 700,000 residents across the city. By the end of 2016, DSNY plans to serve more than a million New Yorkers.
The goal is to make curbside or drop-off programs available to all residents by the end of 2018.
In April 2016, DSNY reported collecting more than 55 tons of organic material across the five boroughs—a 50% increase over the amount collected in April 2015.