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Turning food waste into energy instead of just dumping into a landfill is an appealing idea, but the details on how it gets done are important.

The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee tackled that issue this morning when it approved A-2371 (Kennedy, D-22; Pinkin, D-18). NJBIA’s Ray Cantor was there to ask for amendments.

Food waste recycling turns food scraps into renewable natural gas through a process called anaerobic digestion. NJBIA generally supports the goal of food waste recycling, Cantor said in testimony submitted to the committee, but some provisions of the bill need to be changed.

The first issue with the bill concerns ambiguity of the term “large food waste generator,” which the bill defines as an entity that produces over 52 tons of food waste per year. A-2371 would require a large food waste generator located within 25 road miles of a recycling facility to recycle its food waste.

But what if the entity involves more than one place of business, like a restaurant chain? Would all of its establishments be subject to the mandate if collectively they generate more than 52 tons of waste, even if some of them are not within 25 miles of an appropriate facility?

“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.”

NJBIA also is concerned that the cost cap could be too high. Recycling facilities would be required to charge an amount equal to the disposal cost of the waste plus 10%. Cantor said the cap should be set at the cost of disposal, period.

“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.