New Jersey governor issues conditional veto of food waste bill

By Erin Voegele | August 26, 2019

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a conditional veto Aug. 23 on a food waste recycling bill. Murphy’s action aims to remove exemptions that allow food waste to be send to incinerators and landfills, which could increase waste-to-energy production.   

The bill, A3729, was first introduced in March 2018. The legislation was passed by the New Jersey Assembly and the New Jersey Senate in June.

The bill aims to require large food waste generators to separate and recycle food waste. It also amends the definition of Class I renewable energy. Murphy’s issued a conditional veto of the bill Aug. 23 and returned it to the legislature with recommendations to remove exemptions that allow food waste to be sent for final disposal to incinerators and sanitary landfills.

“While the bill provides an admirable framework for solving the foods waste challenge, several amendments added throughout the legislative process severely weakened the effectiveness of the legislation,” Murphy said in his veto message. “Specifically, the bill was amended to add two glaring exceptions to the bill’s mandate for certain food waste generators to send source separated food waste to an authorized food waste recycling facility. The amended bill provides exceptions that allow certain food waste generators to send food waste to sanitary landfills and incinerators. Not only does EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy designate landfilling and incineration as a last resort for food waste disposal, but I am also concerned that these exemptions will disproportionately impact environmental justice communities that are already overburdened by waste facilities, especially incinerators which emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.”

A statement issued by the governor’s office quotes N.J. Sen. Bob Smith as stating the bill could help more food waste be converted to energy. “This legislation will send less food waste to our landfills, and instead send it off to be converted into energy,” Smith said “As we work to expand our use of sustainable energy this legislation will be crucial in moving us towards a greener, more environmentally conscious energy grid.”

The bill also expands the definition of Class I renewable Energy to include methane gas from a composting or anaerobic or aerobic digestion facility that converts food waste or other organic waste into energy. Murphy’s conditional veto message did not address that portion of the legislation.

Under New Jersey state law, a conditional veto is a veto in which the governor objects to parts of a bill and proposes amendment that would made it acceptable. If the legislature re-enacts the bill with the recommended amendments, the bill is once again presented to the governor for signature.

Additional information, including a full copy of the bill and veto message, is available on the New Jersey Legislature website