Municipalities (e.g. Counties, Cities, Towns and Villages) and the services they provide can play a significant role in establishing and running food waste management programs, including educating residents on food waste management and diversion. According to a survey done of NYS municipalities, 88% of the municipalities surveyed say that the issue of food waste is important to them, despite only 4% reporting that food waste is being adequately addressed in their communities. Using survey and benchmarking results to inform what is needed, NYSP2I is creating tools and aggregating existing resources into one area, to help municipalities get involved in food waste reduction. The survey and benchmarking findings as well as the resulting toolkit are all summarized below.
Municipal Involvement in Food Waste
How involved are NYS municpalities in food waste reduction? This is a question NYSP2I has been working to answer through two different approaches:
- Searching for and ranking resources available on municipal websites
- Soliciting feedback from municipalities through a survey. The results from both methods were used to focus the content of the Municipality Food Waste Toolkit.
The results from each activity are described in the following two sections, and aligned as expected:
- Municipalities that had material available online rated the importance of food waste higher than those that did not have material available online.
- Municipalities that had material available online reported higher satisfaction with the quality of materials available.
- Satisfaction with material available did not match exactly with municipalities' satisfaction with how food waste was being addressed in their own community, indicating that it takes more than access of education materials to make improvements.
Summary of Municipal Food Waste Information Online
In 2018, NYSP2I did extensive online searching across a large sample of NYS municipality websites to find and rank available food waste information. County, City, Town and Village municipalities with populations greater than 10,000 were included in the search. If a municipality had any mention or links to food waste resources, it was put into one of three tiers based on the extent and quality of the information:
- Tier 1 - Detailed information directly on site. Implementing programs or activities related to food waste.
- Tier 2 - Base information, a paragraph or two, with a helpful link(s).
- Tier 3 - No base information on site, links present to sites that provide food waste information.
Note: Information available online was used as a easily accessible gauge for a municipality's involvement in food waste, however it is only one measure.
- Of the 301 municipality websites visited, 51 of them (16%) had some level of food waste educational information.
- The vast majority of information available on municipality websites is regarding composting, with a small fraction addressing food waste prevention.
As shown to the left, the analysis revealed that the vast majority (83%) of municipalities are not sharing any information regarding food waste on their websites; and the remaining 17% are either implementing programs and sharing quality information (Tier 1), or just sharing links (Tier 3); there are very few in the middle (Tier 2). Compared to City, Town, and Villages, County websites ranked highest in that they had both the highest number (23) and highest proportion (67%) of websites with food waste information available across municipality types. While towns significantly outnumber counties, cities, and villages, only 10% were sharing food waste information online.
Of the 51 municipal websites that contained food waste information, 47 (92%) of them presented information primarily focused on composting, with only a small fraction of available information focused on how to prevent food waste.
Summary of Municipal Food Waste Survey
Understanding that information available online is not the only measure of how engaged a municipality is in food waste, NYSP2I created and administered a survey to NYS municipalities, asking them for their opinions on how involved their municipality is with food waste reduction. Twenty-six individuals responded. Some of the key results are summarized below. The full report of results is available here.
Municipalities understand that food waste is an important issue, but the majority are dissatisfied with how it is being addressed.
- Over 80% of respondents say that the issue of food waste is important to them.
- Less than 4% of respondents agree that the issue of food waste is being adequately addressed in their communities.
Based on the survey results, a municipality's interest in food waste and understanding of it as an issue does not correlate to the issue of food waste being adequately addressed by the municipality. It is also important to note the possibility that those with a high understanding of food waste have a higher standard of what 'addressing' food waste adequately means, which could be skewing the results.
Download the full report of the survey results.