Planet Princeton

Where Does Princeton’s Food Waste Go Now?

An aerial shot of the former composting facility in Delaware.
An aerial shot of the former composting facility in Delaware.

Last October, officials in Delaware ordered that an industrial composting site near the Port of Wilmington be shut down because of widespread odor complaints, stockpiling problems, and fire risks.

The Delaware composting site was the largest food waste recycling facility on the East Coast, and was used by businesses and municipalities from New York to Washington DC, including Princeton.

The closure raises the following questions: Where is Princeton’s food waste being hauled now, and where will the food waste for Lawrence Township be taken when their program starts next month? How many miles must trucks travel to dump the food waste for composting?

Princeton officials have been tight-lipped on the subject.

Planet Princeton reached out to Princeton Recycling Coordinator Janet Pellichero and Diane Landis of Sustainable Princeton regarding the location. Pellichero responded by saying the information will be available soon.

“We will be disclosing our disposal location shortly, wrapping up the ins and outs,” Pellichero wrote.

In response, Planet Princeton has filed a public records request with the town of Princeton for emails regarding the food waste compost facility that have been sent or received by various town officials.

Some sources say it is their understanding that Princeton’s food waste is being taken to a pig farm in South Jersey. Others say it is being hauled to Pennsylvania.

In Lawrence, Public Works Director Greg Whitehead said it is his understanding that Central Jersey Waste will take the municipality’s food waste to composting facilities in Pennsylvania.

“Our vendor has a couple of facilities he is utilizing in Pennsylvania at the moment,” Whitehead said. “I do not have the names of those facilities at the moment. Once we get closer to our start date, I will secure that information.”

The only New Jersey food waste recycling facility approved for residential food waste by the State Department of Environmental Protection and up and running, according to an email obtained by Planet Princeton, is the Ag Choice farm in Sussex County. The pig farm, located in Andover, is currently recycling food waste through a state research, development and demonstration approval.

Trenton Biogas in Trenton has also been approved by the state for food waste recycling plant on Lamberton Road, but it unclear when the facility will be ready.

Waste Management of New Jersey is also approved for a food waste recycling operation in Elizabeth at the company’s former solid waste transfer station, but that facility is not operational yet, and is expected to open later this year.

A Gloucester City company called Organic Diversion has been given permission to recycle food waste, but the facility has not yet been built yet and is not expected to be up and running until mid year.

Several composting facilities are located in Pennsylvania, according to a state list. There is only one in Bucks County. Numerous composting facilities operate in Lancaster County. Some accept residential waste, others only take industrial waste. Some accept soiled paper like pizza boxes, others do not.

Princeton’s trash and recycling are both picked up by Central Jersey Waste, which is based in Ewing. Food waste is picked up by Premier Food Waste Recycling, a subsidiary of Central Jersey Waste. In March of 2014, Central Jersey Waste and Premier were bought by the Synergy Environmental Corporation, an affiliate of the Atlanta-based Roark Capital Group.

Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control ordered Peninsula Compost to halt operations in late October, eliminate violations, and remove all compost-related materials from its site by March 31. The shutdown demands followed years of problems at the facility. The state did not renew the company’s permit and gave the company 30 days to pay a $10,000 penalty that had been suspended in an earlier enforcement order. Delaware officials issued another formal violation notice in mid-December and a non-compliance warning on Jan. 16.

Peninsula began operating in late 2009 under a permit tailored for its use of a high-volume, rapid-composting system heavily focused on diverting food wastes from landfills. The state authorized the site to handle up to 160,000 tons per year. Peninsula was taking in about 115,000 tons of food waste per year before its shutdown. A company official testified late last year that operations diverted 600,000 cubic yards of waste from landfills over the life of the plant, while producing 175,000 cubic yards of compost.

Changes in management and operating methods and the extensive use of spray systems failed to mask or control odors that wafted for miles in all directions.

foodwaste
Bins used for Princeton’s food waste recycling program, which began in 2011.

Princeton’s food waste recycling program was launched in 2011.Residents fill  bins with food and organic waste, including everything from fish bones to pizza boxes, kitchen trimmings and plate waste.

The program was touted as a way to save money for the town due to increased recycling rates and lower trash dumping fees, while turning the waste into a usable product. About 860 Princeton households participated in the program in 2014. Residents pay an annual fee to participate in the program. The contract for 2014 ran through January of 2015. Several residents have reported that their food waste bins were not picked up for the entire month of January.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Kim D.

    I’m supremely grateful for this program and all of the efforts that the town is making to divert waste that does not need to go into a landfill. My compostable materials are picked up every Wednesday. If people put compostable directly into the bin compostable material freezes to the bin and can ot be removed without an ice chipper. The easy solution to this is to place waste in compostable bags. On a side note I did not join the program because it was “touted” to save money but because landfills and waste that cannot decompose is an enormous problem for which there is currently no good solution.

  • JJ

    Does anyone know when pickup is supposed to begin for 2015?

  • JJ

    Yeah, when you join the program you get a reference sheet with very specific instructions.

  • DecreaseTheTrash

    There are very clear instructions for what may be put in the bins. Mine has always been picked up on schedule. There are always hiccups when trying something new. It doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with the status quo, and the multitudinous problems it presents.

  • guest

    Mine was picked up

  • Stephen

    Do the bins really say nothing more specific than “organics only?” By that restriction, you could fill them with used motor oil. Just keep your rock salt out!

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