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New Grants Encourage Businesses To Reduce Food Waste In NYC

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Food waste is a major issue around the globe, and that doesn't stop in New York City. Everyday, New Yorkers produce around 24,000 tons of waste, and around 20 percent of that is food. Now, the city's sanitation bureau is looking for solutions to mitigate the problem.

Last week, the N.Y.C. Department of Sanitation (DSNY)'s nonprofit arm, Foundation for New York’s Strongest, launched a micro-grant program to fund initiatives aimed at curbing food waste in businesses. DSNY already established a successful compost collection program, which keeps around 30 tons of food waste out of the landfill each day, but most of this waste comes from residents. Now the agency wants to bring similar benefits to businesses.

Earlier this year, the Foundation for New York’s Strongest held its inaugural N.Y.C. Food Waste Fair, which raised $100,000 in ticket sales and sponsorship. $50,000 of that will go to an incentive program for small local businesses to come up with food waste solutions.

The $50,000 will be given out in microgrants for as much as $2,000, which will go to individual small business applicants, or $5,000 if a group of businesses work together. The foundation hasn't set a total of initiatives it will to fund, but it hopes to see a variety of proposals. 

“Examples of things we’d love to see include, but are not limited to: equipment for sorting, apps or other technologies for tracking waste, piloting food waste prevention in buffet areas (like signage, customer incentives/penalties and training), partnerships with community gardens or other businesses to develop a compost or food donation consortium,” Elizabeth Balkan, policy director at the DSNY commissioner’s office, told Fast Company.

According to Balkan, the biggest problem facing the eradication of food waste at a citywide level is the lack of collaboration and communication across agencies like DSNY, businesses and food waste experts. With that in mind, the grant program will also lay out a clear framework for diverse agencies and institutions to work together to create a comprehensive food waste strategy.

The agency is also working with other organizations that will offer funding and services to supplement the microgrants. For example, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, which runs through Rochester Institute of Technology, helps businesses manage waste and will bring experts in to help the chosen businesses perform waste audits, train staff and build waste-mitigation framework into the business as needed. 

Kickstarter has also committed to matching some of the grants, and various N.Y.C. Food Waste Fair exhibitors will donate items to the recipients, including Renew Packaging, which makes organic collection bins or compostable products.  

“It’s hard to pinpoint an exact amount, but we’re estimating that any business will be receiving funds and services totaling around $15,000,” Balkan told Fast Company

The microgrant initiative is limited to New York City, but according to Balkan, representatives from the Los Angeles and London have contacted DSNY in hopes of bringing similar programs to their cities, leading to a potentially global change in the way our cities throw away food.