Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More on Wasted Food and One Town's Wasted Opportunity

On the heels of yesterday's post about wasted food, a friend sent me an email recounting a story that he describes as "a fiscal and environmental shame."  

While many municipalities (including big, bad New York City) are having great success turning food (rotten, leftovers, kitchen scraps, etc.) into compost, cautionary tales do exist. (Full disclosure: my friend was directly involved in the operation of the facility he discusses.) 

Here is his email:
"The fact is that restaurants and retail food stores inevitably have some food that 'goes bad' before it is sold. Currently, that material is treated as non-recyclable waste, and is trucked to distant landfills or incinerators. In addition to the environmental damage caused by trucking, landfilling, and incineration, those processes cost taxpayers huge amounts of money.
"In the 1990s, [a town on Long Island] planned to turn food waste into useful compost. A $7.5-million indoor composting facility was built, and operated successfully for almost five years. It saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in avoided trucking (food waste is the heaviest component in municipal solid waste), and it produced many thousands of tons of Class A compost.

"Subsequent Town administrations -- Democrat and Republican -- refused to spend money on maintaining the plant, and it slowly ground to a halt. The huge building still stands, a monument to municipal stupidity in the name of economy. The most recent, and by far the most idiotic plan, is to turn it into a parking garage. 

"Waste food, combined with yard waste and other materials, can produce excellent compost. There is an almost insatiable local and regional demand for compost, yet we continue to treat it as . . . garbage. Will municipalities ever wake up and see the value in this material, or will taxpayers have to give them a lesson in sustainable economics?"
Later this week I'll write about New York City's successful foray into composting.


Janet said...

For the past couple of months, we've been bringing our compostable food scraps to our local farmers market where they have big bins for this purpose. They then give the compost to local community gardens. I'm always heartened to see that there are ALWAYS other people doing the same when I do my drop-off. It feels really good to help the environment and it's easy to do. I usually store my scraps in bags in my freezer until drop-off day.

Thanks for posting this, Rob.

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