February 22, 2011 | General

Funding Food Scraps Recycling

BioCycle February 2011, Vol. 52, No. 2, p. 31
A tip fee surcharge for waste disposal would provide the most significant source of funds to meet New York State’s Beyond Waste goals. For now, tapping into existing grant and loan programs is most realistic.
Sally Rowland

IN 2009, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) held regional workshops across the state to discuss donation and recycling of food and food scraps. The workshops included representatives from commercial and institutional generators, the donation community, government entities and organic recycling facilities. At the conclusion of this statewide outreach, one thing became abundantly clear – the issue is capacity, capacity, capacity.
Institutional and larger commercial generators are ready and willing to enhance their environmental footprint through recycling food scraps but there is no place for the materials to go. New York State has many on-site composting systems but few merchant facilities. The state is blessed/cursed with large landfills and relatively low tip fees. This, along with the siting and collection hurdles related to handling food scraps, has not yet led to the opening of the floodgates of private or public investment in food scrap recycling facilities.
In an era of austerity, making funds available for infrastructure development and/or expansion requires a creative approach. NYSDEC is evaluating ways to increase funding for food scraps recycling. The State General Fund coffers are empty so the Department is looking to optimize existing funding sources and to propose new means to obtain funds.

NYSDEC recently issued a new state solid waste management plan, titled Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Materials Management Strategy for New York State (www.dec.ny.gov/ chemical/41831.html). Beyond Waste sets very aggressive goals for reducing the amount of waste that is combusted and landfilled, starting with a baseline of 4.1 lbs/person/day in 2010 and reducing to 0.6 lbs/person/day by 2030 (Table 1).
The plan recognizes that significant investment on both the public and private sector sides is needed to achieve these goals. Food scraps recycling will be a needed step to help achieve the significant decreases in disposal rates New York State wants to achieve. Beyond Waste outlines a number of means to obtain additional funding for recycling. The proposal that is likely to make the biggest difference is a tip fee surcharge for disposal facilities. New York State does not currently have any surcharge on disposal activities. Using current disposal figures, New York State could generate more than $100 million annually to fund recycling activities if a moderate $5/ton tip fee was imposed. Tipping fees would provide a huge source of funds for recycling activities, and along with product stewardship initiatives, would help make Beyond Waste a reality in New York State.

Until new revenue streams are in place, the state is focusing on achieving better outcomes by coordinating the programs at agencies that are currently engaged in organics recycling. New York State has a number of state entities that provide funding for sustainable materials management related to activities in New York. Some of these funding sources may be used to enhance food scraps recycling. Each fund has its own process and criteria. To better understand these funding sources and develop guidance on how they can be used by those interested in organics recycling, NYSDEC has established a workgroup with the key players, including: NYSDEC; New York State Empire State Development (ESD); New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC); and New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSAg&M).
Each of these entities has at least one funding or loan program that could be applicable to food scraps recycling. The amount of funding available, the application criteria and the process of applying all vary depending on the program. Table 2 outlines these potential funding sources (type of funding, fund name, purpose and coverage). Table 3 outlines the eligible applicants and eligible/ineligible costs for each program, award evaluation frequency and web sites for the programs.
To assist companies interested in establishing or expanding organics recycling projects and programs in New York State, Empire State Development has created a website that serves as a portal to other agency programs: http://esd.ny.gov/business programs/OrganicsRecyclingPortal.html. NYSDEC will continue to work to provide guidance on its web site concerning all the funding sources available for food scraps recycling and how additional information can be obtained.

Sally Rowland, Ph.D., P.E. is in the NYSDEC Division of Materials Management, Organic Recycling & Beneficial Use Section.

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