Bethlehem gets $240K to divert food scraps from landfill

BETHLEHEM — The town of Bethlehem is among the municipalities in New York State to receive a total of $3.5 million for organic recycling projects and for food donation.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation awarded Bethlehem $138,615 to expand its food-scraps composting operation by purchasing a compost screener and aeration equipment, and another $100,000 to pave a portion of the compost facility and improve operation of aerated static pile food-scraps composting project.

The DEC estimates that 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten — that’s more than 20 pounds of food per person each month. In addition to the water and nutrients that are used to produce food that is simply thrown away, wasted wholesome food represents a lost opportunity to feed the estimated 14 percent of New Yorkers that are food insecure, and wasting food waste eliminates the potential to convert this material into energy or useful soil products through composting and anaerobic digestion.

In late 2017, the DEC awarded $800,000 to the Food Bank Association of New York State to help increase food donation. In addition, grants totaling $1.2 million were awarded to municipalities in 2017 and January of 2018 to support food donation and food waste recycling.

New York’s supermarkets, restaurants, colleges, hospitals, and other large food-scrap producers generate more than 210,000 tons of wasted food and food scraps each year, much of which is edible, according to a release from the DEC. If just 5 percent of this material were donated, food banks would see an increase of 20 percent in the amount of food available for consumption.

And if these food scraps were diverted from landfills, New York could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 120,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 37,000 cars off the road each year, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

A 2017 NYSERDA report found that collectively large food-scrap institutions could reduce costs by up to $12 million per year by recovering and recycling food waste. To encourage food-waste recycling, the 2017-18 State Budget included $2 million to support food donation and recycling projects.

In addition, the Empire State Development Corporation provided $2 million in grants to expand cold-storage capacity at food banks, as well as $4 million in grants over three years to large generators to implement recommendations from waste audits, purchase storage bins and coolers for food donation, and improve and expand on-site compost facilities.

The NYSERDA report estimates the current cost associated with hauling, tipping (dumping), greenhouse gases, and the damages from disposing of food wastes from large producers is approximately $41 million annually. If the use of food waste recycling facilities is expanded throughout the state, it could reduce those costs by $15 million to $22 million a year. According to the report, large food waste generators could save $3 million on hauling and $5.3-$9.9 million on tipping costs, for a total of $8.3 million to $12.9 million in savings.