Food scraps, yard trimmings and other organic refuse make up 20 to 40 percent of the Hudson Valley region’s solid waste stream, according to local officials. Beyond its ability to turn trash into a nutrient-rich soil additive that diverts detritus from landfills and incinerators, composting saves money on diesel fuel and dumping fees while reducing harmful methane gas emissions. The rise of local composting programs reflects the confluence of grants, law and a grassroots groundswell that is pressuring municipalities to expand services.

“This is the new frontier for recycling,” said Kristine Ellsworth, an environmental engineer in the Division of Materials Management at the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Top-down mandates are spurring things along. On Jan. 1 of this year, the state’s Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling law took effect. It requires designated entities that generate an average of 2 or more tons of eligible refuse per week — including malls, colleges, universities, event centers, chain restaurants, large supermarkets and correctional facilities — to donate edible goods and send scraps to an organics recycler. The statute exempts hospitals, nursing homes and K-12 schools.

To support the creation and expansion of municipal and county-level food scrap recycling efforts, the DEC began accepting applications for $2 million in grants this May. That’s on top of the $3.3 million awarded in 2019 when the food law passed. Some projects that delayed their rollout due to COVID will receive funding this year, Ellsworth said. With state assistance, Greene County acquired a $160,000 commercial composting machine in March that’s the size of a minivan and turns raw material into compost within 24 hours. “Eventually, we plan to get a larger unit and move the current one to another facility,” said Shaun Groden, the county administrator.

To read the full story, visit
Author: Marc Ferris, Times Union
Image: Angelina Brandt, Times Union