Food Waste and the Complexity of Latest York City’s Garbage
Working steadily day-after-day, “Latest York’s Strongest,” town’s Department of Sanitation, works to clear our streets of mountains of garbage. The Department is well-managed, and its commissioner, Jessica Tisch, is a creative and effective public manager. But waste management is a political backwater, and no mayor ever desires to hold a press conference to chop the ribbon on a recent waste transfer station or an anaerobic digester to process food waste. As I often say, most individuals assume all those green bags someway magically get transported to solid waste heaven. They don’t want a waste management facility of any kind sited near their home.
To realize environmental sustainability, we’ll eventually need to make use of most of what we now call waste as raw materials for brand spanking new products. The implementation of a circular economy—where all materials are reused, and there isn’t any waste—is crucial to the long run of our species and our planet. Recycling is a constructing block on the road to a circular economy, but as essential because it is as a primary step, it’s deeply flawed as a long-term solution. As a primary step, it educates the general public about waste and its potential reuse, and it could actually reduce the amount of waste that’s dumped in our landfills. The issue though is that recycling rates are inclined to be low in the USA, and the marketplace for the waste we get well is unstable. The long-term answer is an automatic system of waste management that uses artificial intelligence and automation to sort waste and mine it for resources. That technology is under development, however the capital to pay for these facilities and the political noise that should be addressed to site them make waste mining a long-term solution. The concept is that a number of the capital cost of waste facilities might be recovered by generating a revenue stream for resources mined from the waste stream. This might also require an organizational effort to market the products of waste, likely a personal firm with experience in mining and marketing raw materials. Sanitation departments should not known for expertise in sales and marketing.
Within the short term, we’d like to develop the capability to gather and process the types of waste which are most easily separated from the waste stream. Materials like paper and bottles have somewhat successfully been isolated from mixed waste. A couple of weeks ago, Latest York’s City Council enacted mandatory residential food recycling. On June 8, Mariana Simões reported in City Limits that:
“The Latest York City Council passed a long-awaited “Zero Waste” legislative package on Thursday, which is able to expand the pick-up of food-based waste citywide and require all residential buildings to participate by fall of 2024. As a substitute of being dumped in a landfill, the bills mandate that organic waste be reused for environmentally friendly purposes. That features composting, which is the means of recycling organic material to reuse it as fertilizer for soil and plants, in addition to processing waste to generate alternative types of electricity that emit less greenhouse gasses. The carbon dioxide released from food waste represents 20 percent of Latest York City’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, making it the third largest contributor behind buildings (35 percent) and transportation (21 percent).”
It isn’t yet clear if the mayor will sign the bill, but when he does, three questions remain:
- How can the mandate be enforced?
- Where will we get the cash for the extra weekly waste pick-up?
- Where will the food waste go?
The enforcement issue pertains to the undeniable fact that 70% of Latest Yorkers live in multi-family dwellings where typically the waste from one apartment is combined with the waste from others. It’s true that almost all of the land in Latest York City sits beneath single-family homes, but most people in Latest York live in apartments. The second issue is how will the cash-strapped city afford city-wide separate food waste pick-ups? The third issue is that if the mandate were effective, it might overwhelm our region’s ability to process food waste in anaerobic digesters or compost heaps. If we’re really serious about food waste, we’ll need to construct many anaerobic digesters. It is not sensible to construct a system that requires us to ship untreated food waste hundreds of miles from town. As a substitute, we’d like to construct regional anaerobic digesters to treat the waste. In response to the EPA:
“Anaerobic digestion is a process through which bacteria break down organic matter—corresponding to animal manure, wastewater biosolids, and food wastes—within the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic digestion for biogas production takes place in a sealed vessel called a reactor, which is designed and constructed in various styles and sizes specific to the location and feedstock conditions (learn more about AD system design and technology). These reactors contain complex microbial communities that break down (or digest) the waste and produce resultant biogas and digestate (the solid and liquid material end-products of the AD process) which is discharged from the digester.”
Digesters produce fuel and fertilizer and could be scaled to the scale needed to process the huge amount of food waste produced in Latest York. Nevertheless, as noted above, the organizational capability to gather and process isn’t similar to that needed to sell the products of a recycling plant. Latest York should get creative and work out a option to generate revenues from its food waste. While avoiding landfill tipping fees is an excellent option to get monetary savings, most of those savings will should be spent on collecting and processing food waste. The following step can be to sell the recycled products to assist pay for the waste management system.
The excellent news about Latest York’s recent law is that the impact of mandatory food recycling is prone to be similar to voluntary recycling, and so it’s likely that town’s meager food reprocessing capability will meet the needs created by the initial food waste stream. Latest York has had a lower than stellar record on food waste recycling up to now. Within the apartment constructing I live in, we once had brown and orange sealed containers for food waste that helped train residents to separate their food waste while reducing the rat population. These early efforts were working, but as I observed back in 2021:
“Through the height of the Covid crisis, Bill DeBlasio suspended a really promising food waste recycling program that had already reached 500,000 city residents. When the budget gets tight, recycling is a simple goal.”
The truly sad a part of DeBlasio’s motion was that attributable to closed restaurants and increased take-out dining, the quantity of residential food waste soared at the exact same time town ended its residential food recycling program.
As for the brand new mandatory food waste recycling included within the City Council’s bill, the mandate is comparatively harmless if no effort is dedicated to enforcement. While I feel a voluntary program makes more sense, mandates do communicate seriousness of purpose. The issue with enforcing a mandate is that the one place it is possible is single-family homes, and it isn’t difficult to assume a negative political response from a poorly targeted and arbitrary enforcement effort. The opposite issue omitted from the City Council bill is recycling the non-residential food waste picked up by the Sanitation Department. While for the past decade, large restaurants, stadia, catering operations, food retailers, and wholesalers in Latest York City have been required under Local Law 146 of 2013 to separate their organic waste and have it collected by private recyclers, the brand new law ignores the nonprofits which have their waste picked up by the Sanitation Department: What happens to their food waste? Latest York City’s waste management system is complicated, and food waste recycling mandates add to the complexity.
Despite these design problems, the goal of reusing food waste is worth it. The quantity of food we waste is stunning and is really an artifact of our fast-paced lifestyles and incredible plenty. In additional traditional societies, there may be very little food discarded. In my grandparents’ generation, every a part of a chicken was cooked, with some parts ending up in soups or stews. Back then, people ate nearly all of the food they were fed and saved what they couldn’t finish for one more meal. In lots of parts of the world, those traditions proceed. In Latest York City, a terrific deal of uneaten food isn’t discarded but repurposed as meals for people in need. When food isn’t eaten, it needs to be reprocessed as fertilizer or fuel. That’s the goal of the City Council’s recent food waste law, and either in its current or revised form, it needs to be enacted, signed, and implemented as soon as possible.