With some new rules, New York is trying to rein in one aspect of decadence in the city that always bites: food waste.
Picky dieters and the wasteful “I could eat” crowd leave behind a million tons a year of uneaten meals that saturate landfills.
The rules take effect on Tuesday, but fines won’t start for another six months. Businesses producing lots of food waste, like hotels and stadiums, will have to hire private carting services to take away their leftovers.
The rules affect hotel restaurants with more that 150 rooms, stadiums with more than 15,000 seats, food manufacturing plants bigger than 25,000 square feet and food wholesalers bigger than 20,000 square feet, according to a release from the mayor’s office.
Leftovers rotting in landfills aren’t just gross, they’re bad for the whole planet, emitting methane and carbon dioxide as they decompose. But special facilities are able to turn scraps into compost, useful as fertilizer. Mayor de Blasio has called his push to compost part of his plan to achieve zero waste by 2030.
The new rules come after the closure in December of a Delaware facility that had been handling the city’s food waste.
The stench got so bad — keeping children from playing outside nearby — that the state decided to shutter the plant, NPR reported.
Restaurant groups haven’t grumbled too much — in part, that’s because reducing food waste saves money in the long run.
One company, BioHiTech America, which operates in other cities with similar rules, is trying to sell its product, a big metal stomach that “digests” food waste and then sends it down the drain to wastewater treatment plants.
Chief Executive Frank Celli says his product, leasable for anywhere between $5,000 and $12,000 a year, will let restaurant owners track how much food they’re wasting.
“Every time a customer puts food in, we immediately transmit that data back to cloud. Our customers in real time can see in each one of their assets how much waste was generated,” he said.
Not wasting food in the first place is much cheaper than having it carted away, Celli said. And while pushback from the industry has yet to materialize, fines don’t go into effect for months.