Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic and economic slump, Gov. Phil Murphy approved a bill on Tuesday evening that would ramp up recycling requirements for unused and wasted food. The newly signed Assembly Bill 2371 requires large generators of food waste – such as hospitals, prisons, restaurants and supermarkets – to recycle food garbage rather than send it to incinerators or landfills. The measure goes into effect in 18 months.
At its core, the bill requires generators of more than 52 tons of food per year to separate food waste and send it to the closest authorized recycling facility within 25 miles. Sen. Bob Smith, D-17th District, the bill’s main sponsor, argued that the legislation would create an entirely new industry, revolving around environmentally conscious food recycling, rather than letting it sit in a landfill where it would produce methane gas. In the years to follow, the booming industry would drive down costs and vastly outdo any expenses that businesses might incur in the near future, according to Smith.
“It’s not only progressive environmentally, but it’s very good in terms of starting new industries,” Smith told NJBIZ. Smith said that because the bill does not kick in for nearly two years, that should buy state and local officials and business executives time to first contain the COVID-19 outbreak and bounce back economically, before getting this new industry started. “This might be one of the pieces of that recovery, new industries, new jobs. Certainly not by itself, it’s not going to do that, but it’s a new industry for the state,” Smith said.