Background: In 2019, the Ulster County Legislature enacted the “Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act”. This law requires large food scraps generators to separate food waste from the general waste stream and then either arrange for its reuse by the food insecure or for animal feed, compost it on site, or arrange for licensed services for the purpose of delivering it to a processing facility for composting or anaerobic digestion. The law will remove food waste generated on an annual basis from the waste stream incrementally from generators producing 2 tons per week (starting on January 1, 2021) to 0.5 tons per week by July 1, 2023.
The Ulster County Legislature has determined that Ulster County should increase food scrap recycling beyond the basic requirements in New York State’s Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling statute. This local law expands food scrap recycling requirements by regulating generators of smaller amounts of waste, by including schools and hospitals, and through other extensions beyond State law. The Legislature finds that Ulster County has a robust network of facilities ready to accept food scraps for the above-mentioned purposes, and that maximizing the removal of food from the waste stream is essential to reducing the overall volume of waste in the County.
- Local Law No. 5 of 2019- Composting by Large Generators
- Local Law Number 6 of 2020 (amending the commencement dates)
Ulster County uses the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute’s (NYSP2I) Organic Resource Locator (September 2020) to identify large food scraps generators who are regulated under the law in the County. The Organic Resource Locator is a web-based mapping tool that provides information on organic waste resources and utilization pathways in New York State. The goal of the Organic Resource Locator is to enable efficient and increased utilization of organic resources by connecting producers of organics with those who have a use for them, diverting a valuable resource from our landfills.
The hierarchy outlined in the Ulster County Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Act represents Ulster County’s policy for prioritizing the reduction, reuse and recycling of food scraps. The hierarchy shall be a basis for the County’s education and outreach programs, and all food scraps generators are encouraged to manage food scraps accordingly.
- Source Reduction: The first tier of the hierarchy is source reduction, reducing the volume of surplus food generated. Food scraps generators may follow federal, state or county guidelines or use other methods to reduce spoilage, monitor waste and make other adjustments to reduce food waste and save money.
- Recovery: The second tier is recovery, feeding wholesome food to hungry people. Facilities with excess edible food should distribute excess foods for the purpose of providing nourishment to the food insecure through the local network of pantries and soup kitchens and other food-reuse programs in accordance with New York State Sanitary Code Part 14 and Ulster County Sanitary Code Article II. Donations of food are covered under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996, 42 U.S. Code § 1791.
- Repurposing: Third is repurposing, feeding animals. Federal, state and municipal governments and entities regulate the use of food scraps in animal feed by setting requirements which govern the type of animals that may be fed food scraps and the kind of food scraps that may be fed to animals. When done responsibly and in conformity with applicable regulations, feeding food scraps to animals has many economic and environmental benefits.
- Recycling: Fourth is recycling, processing any leftover food such as by composting or anaerobic digestion to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment. The material that is left over from anaerobic digestion must be either composted or land applied. For the purpose of this law, pulverizers and other sink disposal systems are not acceptable alternatives for composting.
There are many benefits associated with diverting food scraps from the waste stream, including reducing food waste, cost savings, and avoiding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the decomposition of organic materials in landfills.
- Food waste reduction: EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash, constituting 22 percent of discarded municipal solid waste. Large food scraps generators can partner with local food banks or other emergency feeding programs to donate edible foods, or donate food scraps to local farms for animal feed or even for use as a land application.
- Cost savings: It may cost less to divert food scraps rather than contracting with a waste hauler to truck them away along with other solid waste. There are also tax incentives for food donation in New York State (see the legal fact sheet linked below).
- Avoided GHG emissions: According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), every two tons of food waste that is composted versus sent to a landfill avoids 1.08 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) from being emitted into the atmosphere in the form of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas approximately 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide (when measured over a 20 year period).
Every 2 tons of food waste that is composted (rather than sent to a landfill) avoids:
Greenhouse gas emissions from*
CO2 emissions from*
*from the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator
Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA): Food Waste webpage
- Compost Food at UCCRA webpage
- Fee Schedule: PRICES EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2020 (All prices subject to change)
- Food Waste Haulers list
Food Bank of the Hudson Valley: Donate Food
New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR): Strategies for Businesses & Institutions
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC): Organics Management for Businesses
- Donation & Other Resources:
- Tax Incentives for Food Donation in New York State - Legal Fact Sheet (PDF, 443 KB)
- Liability Protections for Food Donors in New York State - Legal Fact Sheet (PDF, 276 KB)
- Connect with one of the regional Food Banks across the state, a food pantry, soup kitchen or other meal center and start a conversation on how you can work together to get excess food to those who need it most.
- Businesses may partner with farms to feed food scraps to animals such as bread, spent brewers grain, vegetable peels and trimmings.
- Food processors can partner with farms to land apply food processing waste such as dairy whey, grape pomace, brewery waste, etc. to their fields.
- Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law: In 2019, NYS passed the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling law. Effective January 1, 2022, large generators of food scraps (defined as generating an annual average of two tons per week or more) must donate excess edible food and recycle all remaining food scraps if they are within 25 miles of an organics recycler (composting facility, anaerobic digester, etc.). Generators may petition DEC for a one-year waiver to these requirements.
New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I): Food Waste Diversion
- Food Waste Reduction and Diversion Reimbursement Program: Did you know that grants are still available for NYS businesses and non-profits that divert food waste from landfill disposal or incineration through the use of new equipment or technologies? Expanded grant eligibility criteria now allows food waste generators, recyclers and haulers to apply. Visit the program webpage to view more details and download an application.
- New York State Brewery Sustainability Initiative: The New York State Brewery Sustainability Initiative is a partnership between New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) and Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Cornell CALS). The initiative is focused on providing practical sustainability tools and approaches to craft breweries in New York State to measurably reduce water, energy usage and optimize cleaning procedures. This initiative provides opportunities for craft breweries to take advantage of available funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Food Waste Estimator Calculator
- Food Waste Self-Assessment Tookits: Separate toolkits for foodservice, grocery, and healthcare industries
- Organic Resource Locator
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Sustainable Management of Food
- Excess Food Opportunities Map
- Food Recovery Challenge
- Food Recovery Hierarchy
- Guide to Conducting and Analyzing a Food Waste Assessment (PDF)
- GHG Equivalencies Calculator
- Waste Reduction Model (WARM)