Clarifying on food scrapping: Manor officials worked on project for three years, earlier proposal too costly

To the editor:

While I appreciate the passion that comes to many village issues, I would like to clarify for your readers the process involved in bringing forward a program like food scrapping from idea to action.

As an environmental engineer with over 30-plus years of experience in the industry, I have had the opportunity to bring many projects and programs to fruition. This process is very similar to the iceberg analogy. The projects and programs that are launched are the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.” The rest of the iceberg are those projects (which are usually based on new and emerging ideas) that are under consideration. The truth is, good management always considers and reconsiders many new and emerging ideas. It vets those ideas out and, once they make sense, it moves those ideas through planning, design, construction, startup and, finally, operation. I have been (and continue to be) involved in all of these phases as a function of my professional work. Currently, I am working on over $6 billion worth of environmental projects at various points of planning, design, construction and startup. I am also involved in the operations of environmental facilities and understand what the opportunities and challenges associated with these facilities are

As a commissioner of public works for the Village of Pelham Manor, I, along with the rest of the board of trustees, the village manager and members of our community have been evaluating a food-scrapping option for over three years. We have spoken to members of our community, as well as volunteers and professionals countywide who have been involved with implementing food scrapping (more specifically, food composting) in other Westchester communities. Our conversations have included cost and operational consideration. Of course, I have also added my own experience.

After evaluation of that version of a food-scrapping program, the board concluded it was not the right time to offer a food-scrapping option. We found it was both costly and did not result in an immediate benefit to our carbon footprint. These are conclusions that are supported in Westchester’s Jan. 21, 2020 report entitled “Food Waste Study Report”.

The board believed (and continues to believe) that to undertake a program like this, the program would need to be economically feasible and result in a benefit to our carbon footprint. In August 2020, Westchester County announced its next steps on a food-waste recycling program. The board then revisited the possibility of providing a food-scrapping program for our neighbors, based on the county’s new terms and information.  Significantly, under the county’s new program, the waste-tipping fee for food waste dropped into alignment with the cost we are already paying for the rest of our waste stream. Further, the county made a commitment to future technology, which would result in benefits to our carbon footprint. This was a game-changer. Based on this new data, the village concluded that the program had merit and voted to offer a food-scrapping program. As we always do, we responded swiftly and began negotiations with the Village of Pelham. As recently announced, we have entered into an agreement with the Village of Pelham and will be providing more details on our new program in the near future.

All information provided in this letter (and more) has been discussed during board meetings. Just one of our conversations can be accessed via our website. (Note I provide a significant number of details  including specific costs between minute 23:30 and minute 35.)

We are looking forward to our neighbors participating in this program as passionately as they do our curbside recycling!

A. Michelle DeLillo

Trustee, Deputy Mayor and Commissioner of Public Works

Village of Pelham Manor

933 Peace St.