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Food Waste Liquefiers

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Rule status: Adopted

Agency: DEP

Effective date: September 25, 2021

Proposed Rule Full Text

Adopted Rule Full Text

Adopted rule summary:

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is amending its rules to prohibit the use of devices that break down food waste for the purpose of discharging it into the sewer system, except for food waste disposers within dwelling units. Food waste liquefiers can cause backups of sewage into homes and businesses, creating hazardous and unsanitary conditions, which can jeopardize health and wellbeing and cause property damage. Such blockages could also threaten the health of the general public, wildlife, and the environment by leading to combined or sanitary sewer overflows into water bodies.

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Online comments: 1

  • Nick Nesbitt

    The Department of Environmental Protection (“Department” or “DEP”) has proposed amendment to 15 RCNY Chapter 19, Section 19-01 to define “food waste liquefier,” and Section 19-03(b) to prohibit the use of devices that break down food waste for the purpose of discharging it into the sewer system, except for food waste disposers within dwelling units. If the DEP moves ahead with this proposed rule change, aerobic digesters can no longer be considered a viable food waste solution in New York City, which will detrimentally limit the environmentally viable options available to its businesses to manage and reduce their food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

    Each year New York City sends four million tons of waste to landfill. Almost a third of that is food waste. New York City restaurants, in total, account for the largest single stream of food waste on the commercial side. They generate close to a half million tons of food waste per year. And importantly, 56 percent of New York City food waste still goes directly to landfill due to the limited capacity of viable thermal, anaerobic digestion, and composting options.

    One innovative food waste solution that can help New York City on its path towards zero waste to landfill by 2030 is the ORCA aerobic digester. The ORCA aerobic digester is a in-situ food waste processing technology that reduces the transportation footprint of food waste and its end-of-life impact. ORCA has sold over 3,000 units in major cities around the world including Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Toronto, Dubai, and Hong Kong with over 200 units in New York City. ORCA converts food waste into a liquid that can be safely discharged into the municipal wastewater system for further downstream treatment where energy, nutrients and water can be recovered. ORCA recently conducted a Life Cycle Assessment of its technology in NYC where the impact of the ORCA is compared against the impact of alternative food waste solutions such as landfills, composting services, anaerobic digestion, and conventional in-sink grinders; the ORCAs environmental benefits became overwhelmingly apparent.

    Attached you will find the ORCA impact profile produced by Boundless: Impact Research & Analytics (a renowned and well-respected New York City market and analytics firm that provides quantitative and evidence-based research and data for their investors, companies, and funds). Through careful consideration of the report the multifarious and substantial benefits of the ORCA technology will become tremendously clear. Some of the benefits highlighted by the report include:

    • Measured per metric ton of food waste, the OG50 food digester has a lower transportation footprint and water eutrophication potential than competing food waste treatment options.
    • A customer using OG50 can avoid an estimated 235 kilograms of CO2e per every metric ton of food waste disposed through the OG50 instead of the traditional pathway. This is equivalent to avoiding driving 591 miles in a passenger car.
    • In accordance with the waste hierarchy that places prevention at the apex of waste management theory, each ORCA is equipped with an interactive data storage module that can be used by the customer to record waste inputs by product. This part of the technology uses the data it collects to provide the customer with resources that allow them to avoid making unnecessary purchases, thus creating a reduction in the customers overall waste output.
    • The ORCA technology allows for the elimination of single-use plastic garbage bags.
    • ORCA’s current operations in New York City have the capability of diverting 10,000 tons of food waste a year.
    • When correctly managed food waste can be a source of energy, water, and fertilizer nutrients for soil. While other solutions like composting only focus on one of these valuable components, the ORCA prepares them all for recovery through a sewage treatment plant.

    There are many advantages of the ORCA aerobic digester, though no technology is perfect. We at ORCA recognize that like all food waste solutions today there are risks, however, as a company committed to do doing the absolute best we can for both people and planet we have taken steps to mitigate those risks. Some examples of our risk mitigation strategy include:

    • ORCA uses the minimum amount of water possible to carry its effluent to reduce the volume impact of ORCA on the sewage network. In fact, the average ORCA produces only 156 gallons of effluent per day, of which 114 gallons is fresh water, representing a small fraction of the total effluent from a busy restaurant or hotel. ORCA effluent has negligible impact on the overall effluent quality and quantity of our customers’ buildings.
    • A level of care in the pre-installation phase that ensures waste generators that produce greasy foods (like fast food restaurants) are not selected as customers.
    • A team of experts that stay abreast of by-laws, city code, and regulation to ensure compliance.
    • And a component of our service agreement, built into the cost of leasing the technology, that requires a monthly preventative maintenance visit where the unit and grease interceptor are inspected thoroughly.

    We propose that no single technology is a panacea for food waste. Thermal solutions solve volume and contamination problems but have significant ecological footprints. Anaerobic digesters secure nutrients and energy but require impactful trucking and large investments. Composting secures carbon and nutrients in soil but involves significant trucking and huge plots of land. And of course, landfilling is simply no longer ecologically viable for our planet. Ultimately, the ORCA technology has a supportive role to play as part of the treatment mix available to help New York City reach net zero waste to landfill by 2030. Hence, we must implore the Department of Environmental Protection to reconsider moving forward with the proposed amendments that would prohibit the use of aerobic digesters. We at ORCA have put in thousands of hours of time and millions of dollars of investment to develop and bring to market a technology that, when placed amongst other food waste solutions, provides a clear ecological value proposition alongside New York City’s other food waste transformation initiatives.

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    Comment added May 28, 2021 7:30am