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New Jersey Governor Tightens Food Waste Recycling Legislation

New Jersey Governor Tightens Food Waste Recycling Legislation

The governor returned a bill to legislators with recommendations to remove exemptions allowing food waste to be sent for final disposal to incinerators and landfills.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed A3726, which would require large food waste generators to separate and recycle food waste and amend the definition of Class I renewable energy. Murphy returned the bill to the legislature with recommendations to remove the exemptions that allow food waste to be sent for final disposal to incinerators and sanitary landfills.

“I am concerned that these two exemptions will disproportionately impact environmental justice communities that are already overburdened by waste facilities, especially incinerators which emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming,” said Murphy in a statement. “My recommended changes will ensure that more food waste is properly recycled and will also protect disadvantaged communities, which are disproportionately located near landfills and incinerators, from the harmful environmental effects of food waste that is improperly disposed. I will continue to work with my partners in the legislature to battle the food waste epidemic in a manner that is fair to the communities most affected by food waste.”

“This legislation will send less food waste to our landfills, and instead send it off to be converted into energy,” said Senator Bob Smith in a statement. “As we work to expand our use of sustainable energy, this legislation will be crucial in moving us toward a greener, more environmentally conscious energy grid.”

The bill, according to NJ Advance Media, aims to boost the development of dedicated food waste facilities that process food waste via composting or anaerobic digestion. It would require businesses and organizations generating at least 52 tons of food annually to separate and recycle those scraps.

The New Jersey Sierra Club had sent a letter to Murphy asking for the following amendments to the bill:

  • Clarify the definition of “food waste.”
  • Clarify the definition of “alternative authorized recycling method” to provide that the gas recovered by anaerobic digesters includes renewable natural gas.
  • Clarify that the bill’s provisions apply when the large food waste generator generates at least 52 tons per year within 25 road miles of an authorized food waste recycling facility.
  • Provide that the requirements of the bill apply beginning on January 1, 2020, when a large food waste generator generates at least 52 tons per year.
  • Add language that a large food waste generator would be deemed in compliance with the requirements in the bill if it sends its food waste to a sanitary landfill facility that delivers landfill gas to a gas-to-energy facility, only if the gas-to-energy facility was in operation prior to the date of enactment of the bill or to a resource recovery facility that, beginning no later than four years after the date of enactment of the bill, processes the food waste it receives in an anaerobic digester.

“The governor is doing the right thing on climate change by conditionally vetoing this bill. Incinerators and landfills are not an environmentally or economically sound option for reducing and reusing food waste,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, in a statement. “Incinerators and landfills must be opted out of food waste bills. Garbage incinerators are not net zero and are large emitters of air pollutants that are hurting families and children, especially in environmental justice communities. Landfills produce methane and contribute to global warming. For all of this pollution, incinerators generate very little electricity. The Camden facility only generates around 21MW [megawatts], Newark at 65MW and Westville at 14MW. We need to be using greener technologies to reduce and reuse food waste. With 100 tons of food waste per day, anaerobic digestion can generate enough energy to power 800 to 1,400 homes each year.”

A copy of the governor’s conditional veto is available here.

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