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Will food scrap law reach here? Hard to say

Food scraps from Petrova Elementary School in Saranac Lake are turned in a compost bin. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will hold virtual public hearings on the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Act, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022. Yet it is unclear how many businesses and institutions in the Tri-Lakes region may be affected.

Organic material is the largest component of the municipal solid waste stream in the United States, according to the Rochester Institute of Technology’s New York State Pollution Prevention Institute. About 40% of all food produced for U.S. consumption, about 63 million tons, ends up in the waste stream, occupying a lot of space and generating a lot of methane gas into the atmosphere.

“Reducing food waste has significant environmental benefits, including creating useful compost and decreasing the amount of materials that would otherwise be sent to a landfill, eventually creating methane gas that contributes to climate change,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a press release. “Perhaps even more critical now, when so many New York families are struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic, these proposed regulations support initiatives to connect hungry people with edible food and support organizations like Feeding New York State that are working to reduce hunger in our communities.”

It seems this law may be more effective in the state’s urban areas instead of the sparsely populated 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.

The law would require all designated “food scrap generators” to donate excess edible food and send food scraps to an organics recycler if one is available with 25 miles. The DEC defines a food scrap generator as an entity that generates an annual average of 2 tons of food scraps or more per week at a single location. That includes supermarkets, food service businesses such as restaurants, higher education institutions, hotels, food processors, correctional facilities, and sports or entertainment venues.

The law exempts New York City, hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities, farms, and elementary and secondary schools.

Even if some businesses and institutions in the Tri-Lakes region reach the 2 tons per week minimum, they wouldn’t have to send food scraps to a organics recycler such as a composting facility or anaerobic digester. There aren’t any publicly available organics recyclers within 25 miles of the Tri-Lakes communities. Some institutions recycle food scraps on their own but don’t accept material from the public.

Locating large food waste generators

DEC provides funding to the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute to maintain the Organic Resource Locator, which is an online, interactive map of generators and recyclers at https://www.rit.edu/affiliate/nysp2i/organic-resource-locator. Some businesses and institutions in the Tri-Lakes are on the map, but some are outdated, and some that currently exist are not included.

Types of places on the map include concentrated animal feeding operations, hospitality, food and beverage manufacturing, food service, institutions such as colleges and correctional facilities, food retail, food wholesale and distribution, organics recycling, anaerobic digestion and compost sites.

Some local places listed on the Organic Resource Locator include the Lake Placid Lodge, Whiteface Club & Resort, Price Chopper, Hannaford, Stewart’s Shops, Simply Gourmet, Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, Top of the Park, Great Adirondack Brewing Company, Lake Placid Vacation Corp. (Crowne Plaza), Adirondack Corner Store, Elderwood of Uihlein at Lake Placid, Adirondack Medical Center, Paul Smith’s College, Adirondack Correctional Facility and the Federal Correctional Institution at Ray Brook.

The map does not include venues operated by the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, the Lake Placid Conference Center, North Country Community College and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.

Just because a place in on the map, it doesn’t mean it generates an average of 2 tons of food scraps per week. For example, neither the Whiteface Club & Resort nor the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa — with its three restaurants — is on the list; however, they don’t generate that volume of food scraps, according to Sandy Caligiore, the public relations person for both properties.

And while Paul Smith’s College is on the map, in the fall of 2019 the college began diverting 100% of its food waste (pre- and post-consumer from the dining hall and the culinary program) to Moonstone Farm and Forest in Saranac Lake, according to Katharine Glenn, sustainability coordinator for the PSC Center for Sustainability.

“They compost our food waste and use some of it for chicken feed,” Glenn wrote in an email. “Our partnership with Moonstone farm extends beyond composting food waste; our students tour and work on the farm in a variety of classes and co-curricular experiences, and the culinary department makes and sells pasta in partnership with Moonstone Farm.”

Glenn said the college considered building a large-scale container compost system like one developed at North Country School in Lake Placid.

“But we found that our partnership with Moonstone Farm was a better option for us than a large compost facility,” she wrote.

Furthermore, Paul Smith’s College generates less than 2 tons of food scraps per week, so it is exempt from the new law, according to Glenn.

“At one time we had a 3-bin compost system here on campus, for both pre and post consumer food waste produced by the dining hall,” Glenn wrote. “We also managed a ‘Food Scraps for Pigs’ program, where our food waste from the culinary division was donated to Atlas Hoofed It Farm (in Sugar Bush) for pig feed.”

Public comment

The DEC will hold virtual public hearings on the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Act at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 7 via a WebEx webinar.

Those logging onto the hearing electronically must register by 10 a.m. April 6; find the registration links at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/122245.html.

To join by phone only at 1 p.m., dial 518-549-0500 (access code: 179 933 1069). To join by phone only at 6 p.m., dial 518-549-0500 (access code: 179 165 8173).

Those wishing to comment on the proposed regulations can make a statement at one of the public comment hearing webinars. Advanced registration is required by 10 a.m. April 6 electronically or by phone at 518-402-9003.

The public can submit written comments on the proposed regulations through April 27. Comments can be emailed to FoodScrapsLaw@dec.ny.gov or mailed to ORRS-Part 350, NYSDEC, Division of Materials Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7253. Include “Comments on Proposed Part 350” in the subject line of the email.

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