Food Waste Disposers
Currently, residential households are allowed to dispose of food waste using food waste disposers (FWDs), also known as garbage grinders. However, FWDs are not allowed to be installed or used in commercial establishments (i.e., restaurants) or institutional uses (i.e., hospitals, universities, etc.).
Commercial Food Waste Disposers
In 2008, DEP issued a study (DEP Commercial Food Waste Disposal Study) of the costs and benefits of allowing commercial establishments to use FWDs. The study found that only a small percentage of the volume of commercial waste would be diverted by allowing FWDs; but that the addition of this food waste to the already constrained wastewater conveyance and treatment system would require significant investments and would jeopardize water quality standards and state mandates, and would further run counter to a number of PlaNYC sustainability initiatives. (PlaNYC is a bold agenda to build a greener, greater New York.)
Residential Food Waste Disposers
Before 1997, NYC prohibited the use of FWDs in all parts of the City served by combined sewers. DEP conducted a comprehensive 21-month pilot program to assess the impacts of residential FWDs on the environment; the study (The Impact of Food Waste Disposers in Combined Sewer Areas Of New York City) showed that under conditions where limited numbers of homes installed FWDs, lifting the ban on residential dwelling would have manageable impacts. High rates of penetration for FWDs could have negative environmental consequences, though, especially given the increasingly demanding regulatory context for nitrogen discharges and combined sewer overflows. DEP continues to monitor the impacts of FWDs closely.