December 10, 2022

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Another Voice: A food waste economy is emerging in our region | Opinion

A green economy is emerging in Western New York and across the nation. Noco, known for distributing energy products across our region for almost 90 years, is responding by developing new, more sustainable lines of business.

Having long been invested in waste recovery and recycling, we are now expanding operations into managing food waste. Each year, New Yorkers discard 3.9 million tons of food waste into landfills, straining our current waste systems. Deposited in landfills, food waste emits large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

In January 2022, New York implemented the Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law. The law requires entities that generate at least two tons of wasted food per week to donate excess edible food and, if they are within 25 miles of an organic recycler such as a composting facility, to recycle all remaining food scraps.

Diverting food waste to an organic recycler is no more costly than shipping it to landfills and it allows the waste to be upcycled into valuable products. Compost, different from mulch, is one such product. Compost is an environmentally beneficial soil amendment created by combining food waste with other materials, such as leaf litter and wood chips.

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While diverting food waste from landfills is the right thing to do, it can be overwhelming for those just starting. According to the U.S. Composting Council, “using compost is a good first step, but using high-quality compost is even better.” High-quality compost is perfect for pollinator habitats, restoration projects and home gardens.

Noco, through an affiliated business Buffalo River Composting, is partnering with other composters to maintain quality assurance standards that are critical to the industry’s success. Working to maintain compliance with strict state regulations and good standing with the USCC’s Seal of Testing Assurance is the gold standard for a successful composting business.

For instance, the process at Buffalo River Composting involves heating compost for approximately 15 days at a temperature of 160 degrees. This ensures all vectors and pathogens, such as weed seeds, are destroyed. To add to the local touch, our facility incorporates animal manure and bedding from the Buffalo Zoo into some of our compost products

As New York forges ahead to meet the statutory emissions thresholds in the Climate Law and Community Protection Act, we ask state officials to keep in mind that new innovations are needed to fully address the opportunities presented by food waste recycling. More should be done by our leaders to promote food waste diversion and to stimulate the development of new food waste technologies.

James D. Newman is president of Noco.