NYC Bill Won't Encourage More Composting, NSWMA Says

The New York City Chapter of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) recently submitted comments to the New York City Council’s Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee regarding a proposed food waste composting bill.

The bill calls for a study and a pilot project for compostable waste; authorizes the New York City Business Integrity Commission’s (BIC) to alter its rate cap; and allows city officials to reduce the tip fee for source separated compostable waste.

In its comments, NSWMA argued the pilot program is unnecessary, since licensed New York City carters already collect compostable waste from restaurants, grocers and other waste generators, and deliver it to facilities in New Jersey, upstate New York and Connecticut. New York City officials can gauge the experience of these carters to learn about the challenges and costs of managing compostable waste separately.

NSWMA commented that reducing the BIC rate cap for source separated compostable waste will not have the desired effect of reducing the amount of such waste from restaurants, grocers and other waste generators. NSWMA called on city officials to eliminate the rate cap, noting that the cap distorts the operation of the free market for commercial waste services in New York City.

Tom Toscano, chair of NSWMA’s New York City Chapter and the Chief Financial and Legal Officer for Mr. T Carting, stated, "NSWMA supports efforts to compost food waste generated in New York City, but the bill creates precisely the wrong economic incentive for generators of compostable waste. Market forces should determine the price of composting material."

Toscano continued, "While composting waste is more environmentally sound than putting it in a landfill, such a program requires additional trucks for collection and, in New York City, further distances to dispose of it, reducing some of the environmental gains. Further, New York City is trying to reduce transfer station capacity that could be used for this material to consolidate compostable materials to send to compost facilities."

In its comments, NSWMA noted that no composting facility in New York City is available to commercial carters, and there is insufficient capacity at composting facilities outside the city. If such a facility was available and competitively priced, it would encourage more carters and their customers to divert food waste from the commercial waste stream. Because carters are currently required to travel at least an additional hour each way to tip food waste at composting facilities outside the city, the cost associated with that added transportation often outweighs the savings associated with the lower tipping fees at such facilities.

NSWMA and its members have met with City Council staff several times over the past few months to explore the extent to which the existing transfer station infrastructure in New York City can accommodate source-separated food waste. NSWMA advised them regarding serious operational, regulatory and permitting obstacles that exist.