Yesterday, New York City took a major step toward matching San Francisco and Seattle as exemplars of urban composting. The New York City Council approved a bill requiring large scale commercial operations to separate food from its regular waste stream.

The legislation, which requires either composting or anaerobic digestion for large food waste generators within 100 miles of NYC, will keep thousands of tons of food out of landfills. The law goes into effect in July 2015 with a six-month grace period without fines to ensure smooth adoption.

The measure passed the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, which also passed a bill banning single serving food items packaged in polystyrene, which will make it easier to recycle the city’s food waste.

Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the bill’s proponents are confident that creating a steady source of organic waste will jumpstart the composting infrastructure. In addition, there’s talk of sending food scraps to an existing anaerobic digester at a Brooklyn wastewater treatment plant. The Committee Report (opens in MS Word), has full details on the legislation, including the somewhat-understandable typo “aerobic digestion.”

Mayor Bloomberg had this to say on the encouraging news:

Today’s City Council vote is a significant step towards our PlaNYC goal of diverting more waste from landfills. Over the past few years we have launched a variety of recycling efforts including the food waste challenge, through which city restaurants and institutions have already recycled 2,500 tons of organic waste.

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