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Turning garbage into energy is an attractive idea: When done right, it reduces waste being sent to landfills and incinerators while producing low-carbon natural gas as a renewable energy source.

NJBIA supports this idea, but the legislation making it a requirement has two problems with it, which NJBIA Vice President Ray Cantor says can be easily fixed with amendments.

The bill cleared the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on Monday without amendments, and the Senate version is scheduled for a floor vote on Monday.

Both bills would require companies that produce 52 tons of food waste a year and are located within 25 road miles of a recycling facility that uses anaerobic digestion to produce the gas.

The problem with the definition, as Cantor pointed out when he testified before the committee, comes from companies that have more than one place of business, such as a chain of restaurants. If all of the facilities of one company collectively meet the 52-ton threshold, does that mean all its facilities have to recycle food waste? And if some of those places of businesses are located outside the 25-mile limit for recycling facilities, would they still have to recycle food waste because of their parent company?

“In the last session, legislators clarified that the mandate would only apply to individual establishments that meet the requirements,” Cantor told the committee. “We are asking the committee to add that clarification to the bill again.”

The second problem involves costs, specifically a provision in the bill that allows recyclers to charge up to 10% over disposal costs. Cantor said that is a recipe for making New Jersey even more unaffordable.

“By ignoring market principles, the bill would needlessly drive up the cost of recycling, thus harming businesses seeking to comply. It would also create an economic incentive to try to avoid compliance,” Cantor said.

The committee released the bill without amending it, but a number of lawmakers have indicated they are open to the changes. NJBIA will continue to push for these changes so that any food waste recycling requirement is practical and does not burden employers.