Burning food can’t count as recycling, according to Murphy veto
Turns out Gov. Phil Murphy thinks there’s more to recycling food than just burning it.
On Friday, the governor announced a conditional veto of a controversial bill that had originally been designed to curb food waste in the Garden State — but was given major loopholes for landfills and incinerators in last minute amendments.
It was those landfill and incinerator loopholes that Murphy targeted on Friday.
“I am concerned that these two exemptions will disproportionately impact environmental justice communities that are already overburdened by waste facilities, especially incinerators which emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming,” Murphy said.
“My recommended changes will ensure that more food waste is properly recycled and will also protect disadvantaged communities, which are disproportionately located near landfills and incinerators, from the harmful environmental effects of food waste that is improperly disposed.”
Food waste is a major problem nationwide — with about 40 percent of food in America never being eaten according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and New Jersey is no exception. To address the issue, former Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2017 setting a goal to cut New Jersey’s food waste in half by 2030.
The bill that Murphy acted on on Friday, S1206/A3726, aimed to boost the development of dedicated “food waste facilities,” which process food using composting or anaerobic digestion, by requiring that businesses and organizations which generate at least 52 tons of food waste annually separate and recycle that garbage.
It was a goal that garnered widespread support among the environmental community. But many of those supporters felt spurned by late amendments that classified landfills and incinerators as food waste facilities.
State Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, the head of the Senate’s environment committee, was the bill’s sponsor. But Smith said he was pleased that Murphy struck the landfill and incinerator provisions, explaining that he had only previously allowed them to ensure the bill’s initial passage.
Saying it was his “job is to get legislation passed,” Smith said he went with the late amendments because he thought they weren’t worth derailing the bill’s larger goal of boosting food waste recycling over.
“I was not in favor of either of those exemptions,” Smith said. “If we can pass the [conditional veto], I think the bill is in very very good shape.”
Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club and a vocal critic of the late changes, praised Murphy’s decision to send the measure back to lawmakers.
“Now the legislature can go back and do it right instead of having a bill that will increase greenhouse gases,” Tittel said.