The Importance of Local Organics Recycling Infrastructure

There are many companies and people who want to compost, but there regional infrastructure is not there. Everything is connected: compost facilities need waste haulers to collect and transport source separated organics; waste haulers need people and companies to source separate their organics; and people need affordable organics recycling services and compostable materials. Local composting infrastructure is the linchpin in this equation and without it there is no competitive market, and doing the right thing is obstructed by a price barrier.

Compost facilities charge lower tipping fees than landfills and incinerators, like the one we have in Westchester. However, when facilities are too far away, the transportation costs eat into the potential savings and haulers are not able to charge a competitive enough price for their organics recycling service to incentivize people to make the switch.

Another real cost barrier is the price of compostable disposable items. As demand for these products rises, the cost of these items have decreased, but they are still significantly more expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts. If there is no regional facility, people won't implement organics recycling, and the demand for compostable disposables will not rise. Furthermore, how do you compete when fossil fuels are unnaturally cheap because of billions of dollars of subsidies? Petroleum and plastic companies are on target to double their production of virgin plastics in the coming years because there is still such a demand for cheap disposable items.

While we are on the topic of cheap fossil fuels, I feel obligated to bring attention to the elephant in the room and address the fact that most compostable plastics are made from genetically modified corn. GM corn grown in the our conventional, industrial agriculture system is an extremely fossil fuel and resource intensive process, and is only cost effective because of fossil fuel subsidies. However, it does not have to be done that way. We can change how we grow, and we can and should move away from disposables.

So you may ask yourself, what's the benefit? The benefit is that petroleum plastic is "forever" and compostable plastics will decompose back into organic materials. However, this only works an aerobic composting facilities. So when you throw your compostable plastic item in the trash, or send it to an anaerobic digester, it does not decompose.

As a PSA to all companies using compostable products, but putting them in the trash: call your waste hauler and ask them if they offer organics recycling. If they don't, call C.R.P. Sanitation Inc. 914.592.4129 and ask about their organics recycling service.

Our local, state and federal officials need to hear and feel the support for organics recycling. It does not matter whether the haulers or facilities are public or private— we need them all to combat climate change and restore our soils.

Construction Update: Sometimes Doing the Right Thing Takes Time

Sustainable Materials Management, Inc. is holding true to our principles and sacrificing speed for integrity to build our facility as sustainably as possible.

Putting aside some inevitable equipment failure and torrential bouts of rain, much of delay has been around the sourcing of the concrete blocks that make up much of the facility infrastructure.


New concrete is incredibly energy intensive, and once it is mixed it must be used— concrete production accounts for approximately 5% of annual human generated CO2. Keeping this in mind, we worked out a deal to have our blocks poured from concrete that is left over at the end of the day. Instead of fueling the demand for new concrete we are salvaging that material and preventing the leftover concrete from going to a landfill. Transporting these blocks is another time (and carbon)-intensive task. Due to their size and weight we can only transport seven blocks at a time, and we need approximately 2,500 for the complete facility.


In addition to salvaging concrete we are re-purposing asphalt millings to grade the section of the yard where the aeration and mixing bays will be located. We are preventing the old millings from being sent to a landfill and giving them a second life. Once graded, we will build the aeration bays, pour the concrete floor, and install our leachate catchment system.

Naturally, there is not a single tree that is leaving this site. All trees and vegetation that were taken down and uprooted will be transformed into beautiful, wonderful, life-sustaining compost. All the tree debris is being ground into bulking agent and stock piled so we can hit the ground running start accepting and processing food scraps ASAP.

We unfortunately still do not have an opening date to share but we will let you as soon as we have a better idea. Thanks for bearing with us!


Westchester County Takes Public Comment on Food Waste Study


Westchester County DEF commenced a comprehensive Food Waste Study to analyze the County’s waste stream and determine how much food waste can potentially be diverted from both the residential and commercial waste streams to food rescue programs.  The effort is to assist those with food insecurity and for recycling programs. The study will also examine all of the potential technologies available for processing food waste, including utilizing digesters located at the County’s water resource recovery facilities, anaerobic food waste digesters and composting.  All options are being considered while taking into account siting availability, permitting issues, cost and environmental benefit, in an effort to determine the best course of action for Westchester.

Westchester help a public meeting on May 9th at the County Center to garner input and to present the scope and plan of the study. Here is what we said:

Good evening, my name is Braeden Cohen. I am here representing Sustainable Materials Management Inc-- Westchester’s first commercial food scraps composting facility. It will come as no shock that we are BIG supports organics recycling in Westchester. My message tonight is simple: composting is a systems thinking solution for waste management, the fight against climate change and its environmental impacts. Composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions and physically sequesters carbon in the form of compost-- a product whose widespread use has the ability to mitigate the environmental impacts of climate change.

The latest IPCC and UN reports have made it abundantly clear: we need to make rapid, radical and transformative changes in every aspect of life to lessen the full impact of climate change. We know for a fact that climate change will bring continued sea level rise, and increased extreme weather events. In the highly developed system of river valleys, sandwiched between two major bodies of water, we call Westchester Country, we already experience high levels of flooding and are extremely vulnerable to the worsening conditions brought on by climate change.

In order to protect the health and safety of our residents we need to protect the health of our soils and natural lands. Soil provides about 17 trillion dollars of irreplaceable ecosystem services that humanity, and all life relies upon. Healthy soil removes toxins from water, provides nutrients to plants that remove carbon from the atmosphere; and mitigates flooding from stormwater run-off. We need to stop spewing toxins and GHGs into our atmosphere through incineration, and instead generate and use compost locally in every way we can.

At Sustainable Materials Management we understand the urgency in which we need to act, which is why we have taken it upon ourselves to bring local commercial food waste composting to Westchester. When open, our facility will have the capacity to accept and process 5,000 cubic yards of food scraps, and 25,000 cubic yards of tree debris. We need a more local food scrap compost facility than Kingston.

We chose to invest in a method of aerobic composting called forced aeration. Our research concluded that this kind of facility has the lowest GHG emissions, minimal investment costs and the quickest return on investment; and produces the highest quality soil amendment that can be used safely in any application.

If the County Government wants to encourage residential organics recycling, it must re-examine the framework of the Waste District’s IMA. We need a framework that incentivizes sustainable materials management practices, like organics recycling over incineration. Under the current framework it less expensive for participating Municipalities to send food scraps to the incinerator, rather than a compost facility. When in reality the disposal fees at compost facilities are lower than the disposal fees at Wheelabrator. There is no reason organics recycling should cost more than incineration.

The county also need to take steps to legislate the mandatory source separation of organics for all residents and businesses. The recent legislation passed by NY state falls short of this goal as it only applies to “large commercial generators” of 2 plus tons of food scraps per week; and it has a 25 mile exemption radius. Together this effectively excludes the majority of food scrap generators in this county, and does little to incentivize the growth of the organics recycling industry.  

It is with no exaggeration that I say: “The future of the human species hinges upon the actions we take today.”

With Permits In-Hand Facility Construction Officially Begins!


Construction of the Sustainable Materials Management Inc. compost facility has officially begun!

Today we paid the final fees and picked up our permits from the Town of Cortlandt Planning Department. We will be working as hard as we can to get everything build so we can open as soon as possible.

Thank you for your continued patience and support. We look forward to composting your food scraps.

International Compost Awareness Week 2019


“International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the compost industry… The goal of the program is to raise the awareness of the public regarding the benefits of using compost to improve or maintain high quality soil, to grow healthy plants, reduce the use of fertilizer and pesticides, improve water quality and protect the environment.” — ICAW Homepage

This year’s theme is “Cool the Climate- Compost!”. This theme highlights the intrinsic connection between waste management, soil health and climate change Compost use and production helps reduce our collective carbon footprint by storing the carbon plants capture from the atmosphere and return it to the soil. This carbon is currently released back into the atmosphere in the form or greenhouse gasses from incinerators and landfills.

Reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from incinerators and landfills is only half of what composting accomplishes. Our agricultural system is a large source of soil-related GHG emissions, and compost use helps reduce these emissions. Besides cattle belching, the largest source of agricultural GHG emissions in our agricultural system is nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from the addition of natural or synthetic fertilizers and untreated livestock waste to our soil. The use of compost as an alternative to fertilizers has been shown to greatly reduce N2O emissions.

By focusing on improving the overall health of our soil through the use of compost we can greatly reduce the a large portion of agricultural GHG emissions. This same idea also applies to horticulture and landscaping. Whether you are tending to your own property or farm, treat your soil right, use compost and your plants will love you.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We will be sharing lots of relevant articles and information regarding organics recycling, sustainable agriculture/landscaping, compost use, and climate change.

Celebrate Small Victories, But Never Get Complacent: SMM Inc’s Response to the NY State Organics Mandate for Large Generators.

What do you do when a piece of Legislation passes, whose goals you wholeheartedly support, but whose language is self destructive and is full of loopholes that functionally prevents itself from accomplish its intended goals?

This is how we feel at Sustainable Materials Management, Inc. about the New York State organics recycling mandate that was passed with the 2019-2020 State budget (pg 41-45). The stated goals of this legislation is to divert food waste from the waste stream by incentivizing each level of the organic waste hierarchy: edible food donation, animal feed, and organics recycling. This will be accomplished by mandating that all “large generators” of food waste must donate their edible foods and recycle their food scraps. Large generators are being defined as an entity that generates 2+ tons/week of edible food and food scraps.

We want to acknowledge the small victory that New York State has a law on the books that mandates organic waste diversion, but remain honest about our criticism of the legislation. While this legislation is better than nothing, it falls short of accomplishing it’s goals. Our critique of the legislation comes down to the exemptions: a 25 mile exemption radius; and exemptions for hospitals, nursing homes, primary and secondary schools. If a large generator is located greater than 25 miles from an organics processing facility, they will be exempt from this mandate.

What is the logic behind the mileage exemption? Why is there a mileage exemption for food scraps and not for MSW? MSW In New York State often travels hundreds of miles to a landfill or an incinerator- many of which are out of state. Not only are we generating more emissions by traveling to landfills and incinerators, but the facilities themselves generate quantities of greenhouse gases that far exceed any organics recycling operation. By creating more stringent standards for organics recycling, this legislation essentially supports landfilling and incineration over more sustainable organics recycling operations.

Facility size and location is largely dependent on the population density of a given region. A 25-mile radius exemption does not make sense anywhere in the State of New York. It doesn’t make sense in the more densely populated urban/suburban regions, nor does it make sense in the more open rural regions of the state. In urban/suburban areas the physical space does not exist to create the number of facilities you would need to adequately process the food scraps in a 25 mile radius. In rural sections of the state, there is not enough material generated in a 25 mile radius for an organics recycling facility to operate a profitable business at a rate competitive with landfills and incineration.

As an example, let us evaluate the implications this legislation will have in Westchester Country using a 25 mile radius from the Sustainable Materials Management, Inc. located in Cortlandt Manor. A 25-mile radius does not even incorporate the entire County— it excludes either portions of or the entirety of some of the most heavily populated municipalities and cities in Westchester. Roughly 2/3 of Westchester’s population and business are located south of I-287, so it is safe to assume that this is where the majority of the large generators are located. If you draw a line from the Yonkers Train Station, north-east to Portchester, everything south of that line would be exempt. This means that large generators in four of the five largest cities in Westchester would be exempt from the organics mandate (parts of Yonkers and Port Chester, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon). How is that equitable? Wouldn’t that be giving differential treatment to businesses based on their proximity to a processing facility?

In addition to the exemption mileage radius, we also question why certain categories of generators receive exemptions from this mandate. Why are healthcare facilities (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) and grade schools exempt from complying with this mandate? Many of these institutions are not only large generators of food waste, but they are also large generators of edible food waste. Hospitals, nursing homes and schools are required to provide their patients/students with every food option, regardless of whether they want or are able to finish all of it. This results in a large amount of food waste- much of which is individually packaged and can safely be donated. So, why are they exempt?

Furthermore, we need to be educating our children on responsible and sustainable behaviors. Countless studies demonstrate that the efficacy of early childhood awareness and education. A lack of public education now, will result in high contamination rates and be a strain on any municipal composting program or organic waste processor down the road. Contamination is costly to all parties involved: generators, haulers and facilities. Mandating schools to source separate organics is best way to teach students. Forgoing this opportunity is foolish and short-sided.

Even though this new mandate feels superficial and insufficient, we will take small victories where we can and continue to advocate for better, more impactful legislation as organics recycling continues to grow. Hopefully, one day soon, organics recycling will be included in New York State’s mandatory source separation law and accessible for all people and entities in New York State. Remember the organics hierarchy: donate edible food; divert scraps as animal feed; and then recycle what is left. Food scraps are a tremendously valuable resource that should never go to waste.

A Call to Action: Proposed State-Wide Food Scrap Recycling Legislation Needs a Tweek

Calling all waste reduction and compost enthusiasts!

We have an identical bill (A3672 and S2995) in the New York State Assembly and Senate that would make food donations and food scrap recycling mandatory for large producers of edible food and food scraps (2 or more tons a week). Conceptually, this is an excellent way to further state-wide greenhouse gas reduction and increase waste reduction/diversion.

However, one extremely important aspect of this bill needs changing.

As currently proposed, any large generator located greater than 15 miles from an organics recycling facility (e.g. compost facility or anaerobic digestion facility) will be exempt from these laws. This carve-out renders the proposed legislation functionally useless. In order to make this legislation sensible, practical, and effective, the exemption distance from a organics recycling facility or donation program needs to be increased from 15 miles to 60 miles.

The expectation that any location will be situated within 15 miles of an organics processing facility is an unrealistic expectation for the majority New York State—especially a county as densely populated as Westchester. A compost facility in Westchester is opening in the Town of Cortland, only a few miles away from the Wheelabrator incineration facility. That would mean that the more populated, southern half of Westchester is greater than 20 miles from the closest organics processing facility. If we are willing to send commercial and municipal waste distances greater than 15 miles to be burnt in Peekskill, why shouldn’t we we send organic materials an equal distance to be processed in a responsible and sustainably manner in the Town of Cortlandt?

Additionally, increasing the exemption distance helps spur the development of regional organics recycling facilities that are necessary to meet the demands of increased food scrap recycling in both densely populated suburban and urban communities as well as more rural ones. Looking at other States that have passed similar legislation you will find that a 15 mile radius is ineffective at achieving the stated goals of this legislation. Connecticut enacted a similar law in 2011 with a distance requirement of only 20 miles. The result has been slower adoption of food scrap recycling programs and insufficient investment in the organics processing facilities.

Take action now! Write, email or call your NY State Senate AND Assembly Representative and tell them an increased exemption radius of 60 miles is necessary to support food scrap recycling programs and organic waste processing facilities in Westchester County and New York State.

Find your representatives by following these links:

What's the hold up?

Part of SMM Inc.’s commitment to sustainability involves development practices that comply with local codes and conservation best practices.

As part of our facility construction we have to square off a corner of the property by removing trees. Naturally these trees will be composted at our facility. Read the arborist’s report for more details. The summary of his report is that the trees present are recent growth trees from a previous clearing; there are no significant or specimen trees to be concerned about; the trees present are non-native or invasive; and the area is covered with “extensive invasive vines and shrubs”.

Though these trees are not significant species they are still potential homes to birds and tree dwelling mammals. Clear cutting and trimming trees between the months of March and November puts nesting/migrating birds and other tree dwelling animals at risk for loosing their habitats and offspring. By waiting until November we reduce our impact on the inhabitants of this land.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Second Annual Food Justice Conference: HUNGER

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Manhattanville's MFA in Creative Writing presents the Second Annual Food Justice Conference: HUNGER. 

Join us for a day of discussion and storytelling to raise awareness and inspire action about hunger and sustainable food production in our region. Events include panel discussions and a locally sourced dinner followed by open mic storytelling.

Sustainable Materials Management, Inc. will be participating in the panel discussion "Fighting Food Waste in Westchester: Strategies for Home, School, the Workplace & Beyond".

Following the panels there will be a locally sourced dinner and discussion with Otis Gray, producer of the podcast “Hungry.” Gray's podcast explores what we eat, where it comes from, and the cooks who make it—and tells stories we don’t normally get to hear about feeding our world.

Panel discussions and storytelling free and open to the public. Dinner requires a $25 registration.

Event Info: Saturday, September 29, 2 pm - 10 pm at the Manhattanville College Berman Center.

See you there! 

SMM Inc. Site Plans Approved by Cortlandt Planning Board

Good news everyone!

We could not be happier to announce that, on August 28th, the Town of Cortlandt Planning Board approved the site plans for the Sustainable Materials Management, Inc. food waste compost facility. Construction and site work will begin immediately. Be sure to stay tuned for our projected opening.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the Public Hearings. Thank you to those who came out to support our mission, and thank you to those who came out to ask questions and voice concerns. This kind of civic engagement is the foundation of a strong community and our democracy.

The history of environmental and public health issues surrounding industry and waste management in the Hudson Valley is very real, and has rightfully created a population of concerned and engaged citizens. Sustainable Materials Management Inc.'s commitment to environmental health and safety is unwavering and is at the basis of our core mission. We can only hope that our facility will pave the way for the expansion of responsible and sustainable materials management in this region.