After six years of back-and-forth discussions, the New Jersey Senate on March 5 gave final legislative approval requiring large generators of food waste to recycle the material instead of sending it to landfill.
The bill, which ultimately passed as A2371, requires large food waste generators—hospitals, prisons, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.—to separate and recycle food waste. It also amends the definition of “Class I renewable energy.”
Specifically, under the bill, every large food waste generator that is located within 25 miles of an authorized food waste recycling facility and that generates an average projected volume of 52 or more tons per year of food waste within that radius would be required to source separate its food waste from other solid waste. They would then need to send that source separated food waste to an authorized food waste recycling facility that has available capacity and will accept it. This only applies to an individual establishment or location that generates an average projected volume of 52 or more tons per year of food waste, so individual schools would not apply.
Under the bill, if a large food waste generator is not located within 25 miles of an authorized food waste recycling facility, the generator may send the food waste for final disposal at a solid waste management facility. In addition, a large food waste generator would be deemed in compliance with the bill if the generator performs enclosed, onsite composting or recycles food waste using an alternative authorized food waste recycling method.
Finally, recycling facilities would be required to employ minority and women applicants that reside near the facility.
The legislation was sponsored by Senate Environment and Energy Chair Senator Bob Smith and Sen. Christopher Bateman.
“Food waste in this country and in New Jersey is a major problem and a serious waste of resources. The purpose of this legislation is to encourage the construction of more food waste-to-energy facilities, which can use food waste to generate electricity,” said Smith (D-Middlesex/Somerset) in a statement. “This process will ensure a constant source of separated food waste at our sanitation facilities across the state.”
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 22 to 17 and is on its way to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.
The New Jersey Composting Council touted the bill's passage as a "legislative win," explaining that the bill will do the following:
- Create a Food Waste Recycling Market Development Council to provide recommendations on how to increase demand for products and energy generated by food waste recycling facilities.
- Require state departments or agencies that engage in landscaping or construction to use compost, mulch or other soil amendments generated from recycling of organic materials where competitively priced and feasible.
- Provide a financial incentive for energy generated at a food waste recycling facility by giving the facility a “class I renewable energy certificate,” which in turn can be sold on an open market or to energy suppliers and can be used by energy suppliers to meet renewable energy portfolio requirements.
Getting this bill through the Senate has been rocky, to say the least. The New Jersey legislature passed a different version of the measure in June 2019, but Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed the legislation at the urging of a number of industry and environmental groups. That version contained broad exemptions from the recycling requirement for food waste sent to an incinerator under certain conditions or to a landfill with a landfill gas capture system. The exemptions were championed by several county governments over concerns that the recycling requirement would deprive public landfills of valuable feedstocks and thereby undermine the financial viability of their landfill gas capture systems. Murphy’s veto recommended that the legislature pass the measure without the landfill and incinerator exemptions.
Last month, the New Jersey Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee advanced A2371. Opponents of the bill have maintained it would be too costly for supermarkets to comply with the law, while environmentalists claim this legislation will help curb New Jersey’s food waste problem and are glad that the legislation does not include sending food to incinerators.