Latimer releases Westchester county-wide food waste recycling study


WHITE PLAINS – The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted.  At the same time, nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers struggle to have enough to eat. Additionally, food also makes up 18 percent of our solid waste stream. That is why Westchester County Executive George Latimer has made it a priority to advance “food waste recovery and recycling” here in our own backyards.

Identifying food waste as the next step in reducing waste and recycling, Latimer has unveiled a comprehensive Food Waste Study by Woodard & Curran, and announced a three-part immediate action plan to address the growing issue. 

“Food insecurity and food waste are two sides of the same problem. The county continues to support efforts to reduce food waste and encourage food donations to assist those in need, while supporting municipal endeavors to recycle food scraps. The result of the study and the action steps being proposed will assist municipalities in achieving their goals.”

According to the study done in Westchester, commercial businesses generate roughly 125,000 tons a year of food waste. Of this, 103,000 tons a year are disposed with only 22,000 tons of food waste recovered yearly (mostly done privately at supermarkets).

Most notably, 21 percent of all commercial waste is food waste.  On the residential side, roughly 85,537 tons a year of food waste is generated and disposed of. While it is unknown how much is being composted in resident’s backyards, it can be estimated that 22 percent of all residential waste is food scraps.

The study outlines both mid- and long-term recommendations for the county to consider include goals like co-locating a small “anaerobic digester” next to the Wheelabrator Facility in Peekskill, utilizing “co-digestion” at Peekskill Water Resource Recovery Facility and/or locating a large standalone “food waste digester” in Westchester County.

The county executive outlined the next steps for the Westchester County Food Scrap Recycling Transport and Disposal Program. This would work by having the county solicit bids for county-wide hauling services. The program will be opened to all municipalities within refuse disposal district #1 with two options: 1) municipalities can continue or establish a program for curbside pick-up of residential food scraps and transport those to the hauler’s transfer station with each municipality paying for the pick-up and transportation to the hauler; and/or 2) the creation of a municipal drop-off area for collection of residential food scraps where the hauler would pick up from the location, which is essentially cost-neutral for the municipalities.

In the meantime, the county’s Department of Environmental Facilities has begun planning for the creation of a Westchester County Compost & Education Facility.

Steps are currently being taken to implement a six-week pilot program where scraps from a local municipality will be delivered to the Yonkers Transfer Station. These scraps will then be hauled to Ulster County for composting.