Mayor Bloomberg today announced that more than 100 restaurants will participate in the first-ever Food Waste Challenge, a new City program to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfills and the greenhouse gases that waste produces. The program will help meet the City's PlaNYC goals to divert 75 percent of all solid waste from landfills by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Food waste comprises one-third of the city's more than 20,000 tons of daily refuse and restaurants account for 70 percent of commercial food waste. Participating restaurants have pledged to reduce 50 percent of the food waste they send to landfills through compositing and other waste prevention strategies. The restaurants and restaurant groups include: Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group, Blue Hill, Chipotle, Cleaver Co., Juice Generation, Le Bernardin, Momofuku, Pret-a-Manger, Union Square Hospitality Group and 'WichCraft. The initiative builds on the organic waste programs that the City has developed, including a pilot in some Brooklyn and Manhattan public schools that has cut the amount of garbage participating schools send to landfills by 38 percent, and a residential organics recycling program that will begin in Staten Island next month. The Mayor also announced the launch of Gardens for Healthy Communities, which will open nine acres of under-utilized City-owned outdoor space for 20 local gardening projects. The Mayor made the announcements at the New York Times "Building Sustainable Cities" Conference at the Times Center in Manhattan.
"From franchises to farm-to-table restaurants, New York's food industry is joining our efforts to cut waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to build a greener, greater New York," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Restaurants are a vital part of our economy and culture, and their participation in the Food Waste Challenge will help inform New Yorkers about sustainable practices and encourage their adoption."
"Yesterday we launched the largest expansion of the City's household recycling program in decades and today we're working with the restaurant industry to tackle food waste – most of which is still going to landfills today," said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. "Restaurants are an engine of the City's economy and by accepting the Food Waste challenge, these business owners will make that engine run much cleaner – which is great for New Yorkers and the environment."
"As part of the obesity task force, New York City is working to ensure that more New Yorkers have access to healthy fruits and vegetables and community gardens are a critical component to meeting that commitment," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs. "The additional acres will promote urban agriculture and help transform our communities by re-allocating underutilized land."
"By diverting our food waste from landfills, New York City is taking an important step towards a reducing harmful greenhouse gases and helping achieve the city’s PlaNYC goals," said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "The additional 20 community garden sites, on the other hand, will give New Yorkers the opportunity to enjoy increased access to open, green space, environmental learning opportunities and healthy, fresh food."
"Community gardens create places to gather and foster awareness of healthy food options and benefits of fresh foods," said Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Veronica M. White. "We are proud of the fact that these sites will be managed by our GreenThumb program, the oldest and largest community garden program in the nation."
"We know community gardens are often hubs for healthy activity –hosting weekly farmers markets, working with school groups, or donating produce to pantries," said City Food Policy Coordinator Kim Kessler. "Many also compost – making their contribution to reducing food waste. I'm thrilled that today's announcements advance both sustainability and health goals by addressing both the production and disposal stages of the food cycle."
"This initiative builds upon the strong tradition of community gardening in New York City, and by identifying 20 new available sites we will enable many more New Yorkers to be a part of creating sustainable community managed spaces," saidExecutive Director of the GreenThumb Program Edie Stone.
"Recovering the value of food waste is a goal that all New Yorkers can get behind," said Judith Enck, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency. "There are enormous environmental and community benefits associated with diverting food waste from landfill and restaurants can help lead the way. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for this visionary and enterprising initiative."
"The Mayor's Food Waste Challenge offers restaurants the opportunity to voluntarily implement positive changes that will benefit the community, the environment and the bottom line," said Rick Sampson, New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO. "NYSRA is pleased to support the mayor on this initiative, and its recognition of the valuable contributions to sustainability that NYC restaurants are making."
"Restaurants can play a crucial role in helping to reduce our city's food waste," said Danny Meyer, CEO and Founder of Union Square Hospitality Group. "We eagerly accept the Mayor's challenge and our restaurants are excited to help the city reach its goal of diverting 50 percent of food waste, thereby helping to clean up the atmosphere."
"Diverting food waste from landfill is a critical step towards achieving more efficient and sustainable food systems," said Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "With 40 percent of food in the U.S. going uneaten, it's also important to start reducing the waste in the first place, which the measurement part of the Challenge helps restaurants to achieve. We congratulate the Mayor and the participating restaurants for taking the initiative in reducing and recycling food waste in NYC."
"We are committed to supporting Food Waste Challenge participants in their efforts to divert organic waste from landfills," said Ron Bergamini, CEO of Action Environmental Group, parent company of New York City's largest recycler of commercial waste. "Providing transparent and high quality waste collection solutions will make New York City a sustainable waste champion and a model for the country."
"We applaud the Mayor's office for launching the Food Waste Challenge," said Lily Kelly, Interim Director of Global Green USA's Coalition for Resource Recovery. "When more businesses recover their food waste it benefits all New Yorkers by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging investment in local processing infrastructure. We are delighted to be working with the Mayor's office to support this program."
"The City's initiative to increase composting in the restaurants and cafeterias is an extremely important component of increasing recycling rates in New York City," said Helena Durst of The Durst Organization. "We have been composting our organic matter in nine of our commercial buildings and increased our landfill diversion rate to over 80 percent of the waste we produce. Introducing a composting stream to our restaurant tenants and the corporate cafeterias in our portfolio has been instrumental in our high landfill diversion rate."
Participants in the Food Waste Challenge will conduct a waste audit to determine how much waste they generate. The restaurants will use this baseline to track their progress in diverting 50 percent of food waste from landfill. The City will work with participants to share best practices and develop a toolkit of resources to help all participating restaurants meet their targets efficiently. The toolkit will address topics including staff training, how to measure waste, and composting. Food Waste Challenge participants will also have access to local experts and organizations that will provide assistance in meeting the diversion targets.
The Food Waste Challenge builds on other public-private partnerships the City has launched to generate sustainable practices and help meet the PlaNYC goals to decrease waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced that 10 global corporations had joined the Carbon Challenge, pledging to reduce up to 40 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years. City colleges, universities and hospitals have also pledged to participate in the Carbon Challenge. According the Carbon Challenge Progress Report, universities have measured an overall reduction of nearly 13 percent, and the hospitals have measured an average reduction of 6 percent of emissions in the last three years. Since the launch of PlaNYC in 2007, citywide emissions have fallen by 17 percent – more than halfway to reduction target of 30 percent by 2017.
The mayor also announced the Gardens for Healthy Communities initiative, which will convert 9 acres of vacant City land into up to 20 new community garden sites across the five boroughs. The initiative is a part of the Mayor's Obesity Task Force Plan and is an expansion of the Parks Department's GreenThumb program. Non-profit and community groups will be encouraged to apply, and projects will be evaluated for their ability to promote fresh food access and awareness as well as sustainability initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and neighborhood composting activities. The initiative advances PlaNYC goals to promote urban agriculture and create new opportunities to transform underutilized land, including by identifying vacant city-owned sites suitable for urban agriculture and increasing the number of community garden volunteers.