More NYC restaurants, stores may have to compost to cut down organic waste

DSNY wants restaurants to compost their waste. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

That unfinished pizza crust or the leftover fruit salad may be leaving the landfill for the compost bin.

The city’s Sanitation Department announced Thursday a proposal to expand its rules to food stores and restaurants that mandate owners separate their organic waste from their trash. Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said food scraps and organic waste take up too much space in landfills, and contribute to greenhouse gases and methane in the air.

Currently, large food establishments, such as arenas, chain restaurants with more than 100 locations or retail stores that are larger than 25,000 square feet, are mandated to separate their organics. Under the proposal, which if approved would go into effect in 2020, smaller venues, such as chain restaurants with at least two locations, catered parties with 100 or more attendees, and retail food stores greater than 10,000 square feet would have to comply with the same rules. 

Turning those products into compost would reduce 100,000 tons of food waste from landfills, according to the Sanitation Department.

“Thousands of businesses in New York City, from coffee shops to baseball stadiums, separate their organics for composting or to create renewable energy,” Garcia said in a statement. “Today’s announcement begins the final phase of implementing the city’s landmark law requiring large businesses to separate their food waste, and it represents an important step toward our zero waste goals.”

The businesses will have to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves, or manage it with a city certified on-site “using in-vessel composting, aerobic or anaerobic digestion systems,” according to the Sanitation Department. 

The public will have the chance to voice their views on the proposed change at a public hearing on Nov. 25 at the Sanitation Department’s headquarters at 125 Worth St. Comments can also be posted online at https://rules.cityofnewyork.us/