New York City amps up food recycling, while San Francisco shows the way.
A number of other cities around the country already require food scrap recycling, including San Francisco and Seattle, but the idea has been slower to catch on in New York, where critics worried that the urban density may make it more difficult—and possibly smellier.
In his State of the City address in February, Bloomberg had called food waste "New York City's final recycling frontier." The mayor said, "We bury 1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 per ton. That waste can be used as fertilizer or converted to energy at a much lower price. That's good for the environment and for taxpayers."
The administration says it will soon be looking to pay a local composting plant to process 100,000 tons of food scraps a year, or about 10 percent of the city's residential food waste. In the Big Apple, only residential refuse is handled directly by the city, since businesses must hire private disposal service providers.
A few businesses have already been diverting food scraps for composting on the private market, especially from high-profile "green buildings" like the Hearst Tower and Bank of America Tower.
The city says it also intends to hire a company to build a plant that will turn food waste into biogas—methane that can be burned to generate electricity just like natural gas. The food waste program is expected to ramp up over the next few years, starting with volunteers, until it reaches full deployment around 2015 or 2016.
New York will also likely be able to tap into an existing network of composters, since private groups have been sowing the seeds for some time. The Lower East Side Ecology Center, for example, has operated a popular composting program for city residents since 1990. Some people also report saving up their kitchen scraps and bringing them to drop-off locations at farmers markets and other locations.