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“In Other Words, It’s A Joke”

Groundhog Day for Food Waste

Impacts of animal agriculture ignored 

Legislation portrayed as innovative actually is weaker than historical policy

We put our conclusion in the headline – logically ass backwards, but totally fitting and appropriate for this issue.

On Monday, the Senate Environment Committee heard a package of bills related to food waste.

Cynics might see that as cover for special septic legislation I wrote about, which just so happened to be the last bill considered, after the food waste love-in transpired and the press was long gone.

NJ Spotlight loyally reported that cynical spoon fed spin, see:

But today, I want to write about the historical perspective on food waste.

I was prompted to mentioned it briefly in my testimony to the Committee, after former Gov. Codey asked me how long I worked at DEP during my testimony on the Special Septic bill.

The Florio Administration’s DEPE  – no typo: Gov. Florio had the vision to integrate energy into the environment to form DEPE – based upon Gov. Florio’s 1990 Executive Order #8 and the recommendations of the Solid Waste Assessment Taskforce,  developed enforceable numeric goals, policies, and programs for food waste way back in the 1993 Solid Waste Plan.

Food waste has high moisture content and low BTU content, so the incineration engineers did not oppose diversion of food waste from the then dominate incineration technology.

The issue of climate change – then called global warming – and the impacts of animal agriculture were not sufficiently developed by the scientific community at that time, so they were not foundations of the 1993 Plan or food waste policy.

The 1993 DEP Solid Waste Plan included mandatory county planning, financing of food waste programs from disposal tip fees, and integration with DEP solid waste permit regulations. The Plan was based on a new materials management based waste analysis, material specific recycling goals, and a new source reduction policy. (Sorry, I can’t seem to find the 1993 Plan on-line, so can provide no excerpts or links).

At that time, all of these were innovations and national management models.

Shortly after its adoption, the Florio solid waste planning initiative was attacked by the Whitman/Shinn DEP in 1994 and was safely ignored by the Counties and never enforced by the DEP.

But again, 13 years later, in the 2006 Solid Waste Plan Update, DEP revived and reiterated this food waste policy, noting:

The establishment of programs designed to encourage the increased recycling of food waste is recommended. Supermarkets, grocery stores, bakeries and institutions, such as hospitals and universities, generate large amounts of food waste. Residents also generate significant quantities of food waste in their homes. At this time, much of this waste is not recycled, but rather landfilled. In fact, 15.1% of the food waste generated in New Jersey was recycled in 2003. In light of the fact that the tonnage of food waste generated per year in New Jersey is greater than the combined tonnage of old newspapers, glass containers and aluminum cans (three of the most commonly recognized recyclable materials), food waste recycling represents a great opportunity for achieving recycling gains in this state. If new programs are developed to the extent where the tonnage of food waste recycled is twice the current rate, New Jersey would realize the recycling of nearly an additional 300,000 tons of food waste.

Not much was done to implement the 2006 plan either.

The food waste legislation discussed yesterday by the Senate Environment Committee and loyally reported in the NJ Spotlight story actually WEAKENS the historical DEP policy and program – the goals are less ambitious, the program is VOLUNTARY, ASPIRATIONAL, UNENFORCEABLE, the PRIVATE SECTOR GETS A PASS, and there is NO FUNDING.

In other words, it is a joke.

We’re going backwards, folks. Celebrating rollbacks as progress. We know what works – and we know that voluntary unfounded programs do not work. Don’t be fooled.

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