If food waste isn't composted it is tossed, sometimes container and all, into a landfill.
Buffalo Niagara Organics Recycling has introduced a plan for a "depacking plant" in the former Pallet Services warehouse at 310 Grand Island Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda that separates food waste from recyclables, such as plastic containers.
The Town Planning Board made a recommendation to the Town Board last week to approve a "performance standards use permit" with conditions regarding noise, odor and landscaping. The proposal is expected to go to the Town Board for a vote next month, but still needs a review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. If approved by the town board and the DEC, it will go back to the Planning Board for a site plan review.
The business model is believed to be the first of its kind proposed in Western New York.
The company takes unused food from commercial customers, such as grocery stores – food which is past its sell date and would normally be disposed of in a landfill. A machine separates the organics (food waste) from the inorganic (packaging materials). The organics can be put into containers and sent out to another facility to use as a raw material for anaerobic energy conversion, or it can be naturally composted. Recyclables, such as plastics and aluminum, can be sent out to be reused.
EnSol Inc. Engineer John B. Battaglia, who presented the proposal to the Planning Board on behalf of BNOR, said customers would pay similar fees to have their organics recycled as compared to a landfill.
He said these customers often choose an organics recycling facility because they see the benefit in managing their organics as resources instead of waste. He said the waste being trucked in should not be called garbage.
"We have to start thinking differently because this is a reusable product," said Battaglia. "It's not garbage it's raw material for energy generation."
Battaglia said packaged food, such as expired yogurt; fruits and vegetables past its shelf life; vegetation from a (supermarket) flower shop; or any kinds of packaged meat and meat by-products could be re-purposed in this facility.
James Hartz, director of planning and development for the town, said the Planning Board has some concerns about odors and noise.
"Is it going to be beneficial for our community or is it just going to be a waste transfer facility?" he said.
But Hartz said the board also sees the benefit of this type of facility because it could keep materials from landfills.
Battaglia said the organics recycling facility answers the state's call for environmental sustainability and options to reduce methane. He said this is the first plant proposed for Western New York, but there are others in Vermont, New Hampshire, California and Massachusetts, where organic diversion laws are already in place.
Hartz said Buffalo Niagara Organics has proposed bringing in 250 tons a day of waste per day - about 15 trucks a day coming in and then about seven to 10 trucks leaving each day.