Leveraging NYSP2I’s expertise
When the state of New York decided to create a food waste reimbursement program for businesses, it turned to NYSP2I. While the institute’s focus has been on helping organizations become more sustainable, NYSP2I had also started a technical assistance program to advise businesses on how to keep food waste out of landfills and, importantly, to prevent food from going to waste in the first place.
“We were already doing this work and the state realized we would be a good conduit in helping businesses around the state with this food diversion program,” said Chuck Ruffing, director of NYSP2I. “It was a natural fit.”
Specifically, NYSP2I had developed a track record of working with businesses and other organizations to reduce waste, conserve resources, adopt environmentally friendly materials, and save money, ESD’s Kirchgraber says. “I think we were able to look at that and hold them up as an example of an entity that would be well-suited to a program such as this that would divert food waste from landfills,” he said.
Food diversion and recycling is part of the state’s strategy for tackling climate change because of the methane—a gas that is 25 times more potent than CO2—generated by food decaying in landfills. The amount of methane released from landfills equals the greenhouse gas emissions from 20.3 million passenger vehicles driven for one year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Another concern the state wanted to address through the reimbursement program was the mismatch between the food not eaten in New York and the needs of people experiencing food insecurity. One in ten New York residents were food insecure in 2020, representing 7.8 million households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The amount of food that is not consumed is staggering.”
– Charles Ruffing, Director, NYSP2I
“The amount of food that is not consumed is staggering, and as that goes into landfills and generates methane, it’s really a tragedy because there’s a lot of people who aren’t getting enough food,” Ruffing said.