Friel introduces bill dealing with food processing residue in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, June 7 – State Rep. Paul Friel this week introduced a bill (H.B. 2393) that seeks to change the way that Pennsylvania handles food processing residue – addressing the hazards this waste can cause for rural and agricultural communities by updating the process and putting appropriate guardrails in place.

Food processing residue, also known as FPR, is the leftover product created by commercial food processing. Food processing residues can include vegetable peelings, raw meat scraps, and liquid-like cleaning wastewater that includes blood, fat, hair and feathers, and a variety of other vegetable and animal byproducts and chemicals used to process them.

While FPR can be used to fertilize the soil, it can create numerous problems if care is not taken. For example, some areas of Pennsylvania have seen groundwater contamination. Many other areas find themselves dealing with consistent, noxious odors. Compounding the issue, surrounding states have heavily restricted or banned the use of FPR, making Pennsylvania a target for cheaply offloading the commercial waste.

“This bill – a bipartisan legislative solution to the problem – is the result of working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, the departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, affected community members, farmers, conservation experts and industry stakeholders. The goal is to make sure that FPR is used responsibly, contributing to the sustainability of our food supply, enhancing the health of our soil, preserving the quality of our ground water, and preventing odor and other quality-of-life problems for our communities.” said Friel, D-Chester. “We need to pro-actively provide a structure that prevents Pennsylvania from becoming a dumping ground for hazardous food processing waste while enhancing our agriculture industry, not harming it. These updates will accomplish both goals.”

Currently, if someone attests that they will comply with the Food Processing Residual Management Manual issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there is no other regulation or oversight. However, there is also no mechanism tracking the use of FPR, no testing, and no central complaint system for people experiencing issues related to FPR.

“Once all of the stakeholders got together on this, we found a number of basic commonsense changes that should be made. For starters, the FPR manual for Pennsylvania had not been updated since June 1994. Modernizing the manual to address current realities is at the top of the list in terms of needed changes,” Friel said.

To improve control over FPR, the bipartisan bill drafted by Friel would amend the Solid Waste Management Act to:

  • Differentiate between sources of FPR and use a classification system to guide safe storage, handling, and application requirements of FPR material.
  • Require FPR that is sourced from animal products or animal product waste to be processed by a digester or another means before allowing it to be stored on farms or used as FPR.
  • Require documentation of the makeup of FPR and nutrients provided prior to being applied to farmland.
  • Require the nutrient levels of FPR to be included with any application plan before being applied to farmland.
  • Require the application plan to be reviewed by a local conservation district before FPR is applied to farmland.
  • Require brokers and haulers of FPR to be licensed by the commonwealth.

“By taking action on FPR, we’re fulfilling our promise as legislators to contribute to the betterment of public health in Pennsylvania and protecting people from the dangers this waste can pose,” Friel said. “There’s much we can do in the treatment of FPRs to use them safely. I’m proud to have worked with such a solid coalition of stakeholders to develop a bill that will help get us there.”