Long Island, like the rest of the country, has a food problem. We waste too much of it, while many of our neighbors go hungry. That’s wrong. And throwing it out clogs bulging landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane, a pernicious greenhouse gas.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to tackle the problem in the 2017-18 budget, and his proposal merits passage by the State Legislature. It requires the biggest producers of food waste — supermarkets, restaurants, colleges, hospitals and others — to donate edible food otherwise slated to be thrown away to food banks and the like. It also mandates that inedible food scraps be recycled by diverting them to composters or anaerobic digesters that break down organic matter and produce energy, often more than enough to power the facility.
The legislation is aptly scaled, applying only to entities that generate an average of two tons of food waste per week — exempting, for example, small groceries and restaurants. And it requires recycling only if there is a facility capable of receiving the waste within 50 miles. A four-year phase-in would give state officials time to write regulations that acknowledge concerns of those affected, and to use funds in the proposal to encourage construction of recycling facilities and help food banks expand cold storage. If the largest generators donate just 5 percent of their food waste, state officials say food banks would get 20 percent more food, and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by the equivalent of taking 37,000 cars off the road, helping the state meet its clean energy goals. Long Island would see the effective life of its landfills extended and the number of trucks hauling waste off-Island reduced.
The numbers make a strong case. Our collective conscience should seal this deal.— The editorial board