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SmallBytes Winter 2013 Edition
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It’s All About Garbage


Among the many initiatives of Mayor Bloomberg there is a very quiet campaign to transform New York City’s waste stream.  This campaign will no doubt have a broad impact on the hospitality industry - the largest generator of food waste in the City at nearly 320,000 tons of wet waste per year.  To address this issue New York City has set a goal to divert 75 percent of the City’s waste stream from landfills by 2030.

While the NYS Restaurant Association and the City had initially addressed this issue through the voluntary NYC Food Waste Challenge, there are now mandatory reductions being sought by the Mayor and City Council through an organic separation bill – Intro. 1162-2013. This bill would mandate a subset of restaurants, including chains, most catering halls, and restaurants 7,000 square feet or larger, to engage in organic separation.

Organic separation is commonly thought of as composting.  And the vision of composting is an interesting one for restaurants.  It could lead to an economic panacea – reduced carting costs, cleaner streets, and environmental benefits via less organic material in landfills. More importantly, compostable material could become a commodity (like used grease oil) that carters would pay operators for.

But with the visions of opportunity come the realities of organic separation in one of the oldest and most expensive cities in America.  Intro 1162 - 2013 seeks to have organic separation implemented in covered restaurants by July 1, 2015.  With no commercial composting facilities within the City, and the nearest one in Delaware, there are serious concerns about the feasibility of that implementation time frame, even if the three one-year extensions built into the bill are utilized.  While composting is not the only solution for organic separation, other technologies (such as anaerobic digesters) are cost-prohibitive for most operators and adding new machines to already existing kitchens raises serious concerns about space restrictions, redesign, and construction costs.

Beyond organic separation, the City has quietly – through rule making before the Business Integrity Commission – sought to raise commercial carting rates by up to fifteen percent.  While most restaurants are not even near the current rate cap set by the Business Integrity Commission for carting costs, there will undoubtedly be a raise in carting costs for restaurants in the near future, especially if organic separation is mandated. 

Separately, outgoing New York City Councilwoman Reyna, a long-time ally of Speaker Christine Quinn, has introduced a bill (Intro. 1170-2013) that would dramatically reduce the transfer station capacity in the City.  This bill has been revised and is expected to pass the Council shortly.  If passed, this bill could lead to a large increase in your garbage removal costs within the next two years.  The NYS Restaurant Association was the only association to oppose this bill and the rate increase.  

If you could be impacted by the organic separation bill, you should consider how you would implement such separation in both front and back of house operations.  Where would additional bins be placed, how many additional bins would you need, and how often would you need a separate organic waste pick-up from your carter?  As to opposing the other quiet increases on your bottom-line, make sure to keep supporting the NYS Restaurant Association, who alone stands on the front line to challenge these numerous regulations and laws that will impact your operations.

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