Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is slowly bringing New Yorkers around to the idea of recycling their food scraps, is trying to expand his composting campaign by bringing it to large restaurants.
The mayor said on Friday that he was proposing a bill to require restaurants that generate more than a ton of food waste a week — about 1,200 establishments — to separate their food waste from the rest of their garbage so it could be sent to a composting plant. There, the food scraps would be converted to fertilizer or energy, part of the mayor’s long effort to divert more of the city’s trash from landfills.
The Bloomberg administration estimates that the bill, if passed by the City Council, would result in the diversion of 30 percent of the city’s commercial food waste, or over 250,000 tons annually.
The city already collects food scraps in a pilot program from roughly 31,000 homes in about a dozen neighborhoods in the Bronx, in Brooklyn and on Staten Island. By 2015, the city plans to expand the program to 100,000 single-family homes and 70 high-rise buildings across the city.
Bill de Blasio, now the mayor-elect, expressed strong support for the pilot program when it was announced.
In April, the city began a “Food Waste Challenge,” where about 150 restaurants, including chains like Pret A Manger and Chipotle and establishments like Le Bernadin and Mario Batali’s Babbo, pledged to cut in half the amount of food waste they sent to landfills. They promised to use composting and other waste prevention strategies like donating unsellable but edible food, such as misshaped pies, to food banks rather than throwing them away.
So far, the city announced on Friday, more than 50 of the restaurants met their 50 percent goal, resulting in the collection of over 2,500 tons of food waste.
“The days of burying millions of tons of it in the ground are quickly coming to an end,” Caswell F. Holloway IV, the deputy mayor for operations, said.
The Cleaver Co, a catering company, shares a kitchen with the Green Table, a restaurant in Chelsea Market, and they have been recycling food scraps for several years, with a porter carrying out the waste and a hauler picking it up six days a week.
“I’ve been thinking about where food comes from for years and years, and where is it all going,” Mary Cleaver, the owner of both establishments, said.
Melissa Autilio Fleischut, the president and chief executive of the New York State Restaurant Association, said that many restaurants were willing to compost, but that the logistics and cost of separating food waste from other trash, and arranging for pickup, could slow the effort.
“The New York restaurant industry wants to become more environmentally friendly, but such a big change will not happen overnight,” Ms. Fleischut said in an email, adding that she hoped “the system handling the supply of food waste can keep up.”
“The last thing we want is to change the industry for the better, only to have the pipeline get overburdened and blow back on restaurants with higher fees or fewer pickups,” she said.