In a session called “Organic Waste Bans, Mandatory Organics Recycling Laws, and Related Strategies for Food Waste Management,” Katie Sandson of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and Lorenzo Macaluso with the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) dove into what’s going on with the five states with food waste bans. They talked of a flurry of legislative activity suggesting more local governments may adopt similar policies. And they shed light on what’s entailed in setting up infrastructure to make a ban work.
The states that have some form of a food waste ban are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont—and in 2022, New York will adopt a policy that includes a ban for some businesses. In the most recent legislative session, another 30 states had bills addressing food waste “so it’s on state policymakers’ minds,” Sandson told a captive crowd.
There are issues around developing infrastructure. And bans often present a chicken-and-egg scenario; no one wants to build capacity without guaranteed feedstock, but governments hesitate to take the policy plunge without knowing the waste will have a place to go.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic is releasing a toolkit in the next few weeks to help with some of the challenges, incorporating some ideas that came from speaking to states that have taken the lead.
One reality that became clear to Sandson and her colleagues is as new policy evolves, permitting requires more thought.
“Rhode Island revised its original permit regulations. It developed a permit structure with a tier system based on throughput. Those at the lower end of the tier have the least amount of obligations and risk. The more food waste, the stricter the permit regulations,” she said.
There can be back-and-forth conversations over multiple issues, as she pointed out New York, whose ban just passed late April.
“It’s been a long process,” she explained. “Among issues they needed to work out is a distance exemption [whereby generators beyond a certain distance from a processor do not have to participate.]”
Filed in: In the News
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