Rhode Island Senate Close to Passing Food Scrap Bill

Max Greene

The Rhode Island Senate is poised to vote tomorrow on a bill that would keep food scrap out of the Landfill and instead direct this valuable material to beneficial uses like compost and energy production.  This is good news!

As a reminder, here in Rhode Island, we currently treat food scrap as a waste.  That means it’s sent to Rhode Island’s Central Landfill, where it decomposes and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  The Landfill’s inability to capture all that methane is one reason CLF is suing the Landfill.

But elsewhere in New England, states are passing laws recognizing that food scrap can be put to beneficial reuse.  It can be turned into compost, bolstering our regional agricultural sector and turning a net climate negative into a net climate positive, as compost acts as a carbon sink.  Or it can be fed to anaerobic digesters and used to produce both electricity and soil amendments.

Last time I provided an update on bills pending in Rhode Island to keep food scrap out of the Landfill, there were four such bills at play: two in the house and two in the senate.  Last week, though, the Senate Environment committee recommended passage of a revised version of one of these bills, now labeled S-2315 Sub A.

This bill would require that, beginning January 1, 2015, producers of two tons of food scrap per week or more must send this material to composting operations or anaerobic digesters within a 15-mile radius, provided that these facilities charge less than the Landfill does.  The two-ton-per-week threshold and the radius requirement are quite similar to Connecticut’s organics diversion law.  The less-expensive-than-the-Landfill requirement is new and should offer reassurance to food scrap producers, but otherwise it’s not really necessary – after all, the commercial tipping fee at the Landfill is $75 per ton, while average tipping fees for composting operations and anaerobic digesters are more on the order of $35 per ton.

In fact, the Connecticut law is proving to be a big economic plus, and it’s already attracting new business.  After clarifying amendments to the law passed last year, it’s not hard to find headlines like “Under New Composting Law, Companies Flock to Southington.”  This is the reality of organics diversions laws just like the one moving forward in Rhode Island: not only do they save money for food scrap generators, but they also spur the development of new businesses and promote job growth.

Now that the Senate Environment committee has recommended passage of S-2315 Sub A, the full Senate has an opportunity to vote on the bill tomorrow (Wednesday, June 4).  You should write or call your senator (figure out who represents you here) and let them know you support keeping food scrap out of the Landfill – and supporting Rhode Island’s economy!

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