State Mandate Requires Food Waste Recycling

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In September 2016, Senate Bill 1383 was signed into law in Sacramento. Nearly six years later, starting January 1, 2022, some of the bill’s provisions are just coming into effect and will soon require all residents and businesses — unless exempt — to recycle food waste in their garden bins.

The bill requires all local jurisdictions in California to pass an ordinance to reduce organics in landfills and reduce methane gas created by organics. The goal is to achieve a 75% reduction in statewide organic waste disposal by 2025.

In addition, the bill aims to reduce food waste and reduce food insecurity by requiring commercial producers of edible foods such as restaurants and grocery stores to collect food intended for human consumption that would be discarded and end up in a discharge.

In a market analysis report for SB 1383, the organics targeted by the bill represent approximately 68% of the waste stream disposed of in California. Additionally, the California Department of Recycling and Resource Recovery estimates that food scraps currently account for 18% of total landfill disposal.

Curtis Williams, solid waste administrator for the city of Santa Clarita, said the bill is intended to address methane emissions from food waste in landfills.

“The purpose of the law was to reduce the amount of methane emissions from landfills,” Williams said. “So the state legislature passed the SB 1383 rules, which require commercial and residential waste generators to move forward and must essentially recycle or find better uses for organic waste.”

Williams said there will be a period of awareness and education for carriers and the city about what materials will go in specific bins.

“What will eventually happen is that we will notify people, from this date you can go ahead and start putting food waste in your organics bin, which is currently their waste bin. green,” Williams said.

Williams’ biggest concern is making sure residents don’t contaminate the trash cans with the wrong waste. He said the mindset should change for Californians who are used to putting food waste in the trash instead of green yard trash cans.

Williams added that other steps can include using your organic waste as compost or finding a community garden like the one in Central Park to offer compost materials. Additionally, William said there are LA County-run gardening and composting classes that residents can seek out.

Companies that do not have enough space to accommodate an organic bin, or if the company does not produce enough organic waste, can benefit from an exemption. The commercial focus of the bill is directed at restaurants and grocery stores that traditionally create a lot of food waste.

Williams said all jurisdictions will need to work with food shelters, charities and food producers to coordinate food recovery efforts.

The City of Santa Clarita’s contract with Waste Management Inc. manages all residences and apartments. Burrtec Waste Industries Inc. will handle all industrial and commercial organic waste.

The state mandate does not come with funding and will rely on jurisdictions to pay all costs to stay in compliance. On January 1, 2024, enforcement and penalties will begin.

Dennis Verner, Burrtec Division Manager of Santa Clarita, said Burrtec handles waste management in many jurisdictions and is awaiting guidance from the City of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County for unincorporated areas of the Santa Clarita Valley.

The enforcement program has not yet been developed, but Burrtec does not know if it will need to be involved in inspections of the areas they serve.

“We are awaiting instructions from these two jurisdictions as to our role,” Verner said. “These types of inspections could be handled directly by the jurisdiction, they can engage a third-party company, or they can ask us to do it.”

Verner added that composting waste treatment costs more than other waste treatments because it is more difficult to process, which can increase Burrtec’s expenses.

At a Santa Clarita City Council meeting on Jan. 11, Mayor Laurene Weste and her colleagues showed great frustration with such a state mandate imposed on all jurisdictions. Still, they felt they had no choice but to vote in favor of the ordinance to remain in compliance with the law.

“It’s nonsense and we know it. We have no choice when it comes to state mandates to just say no,” Weste said. “We have no choice. is not a democracy when it comes to state warrants and I’m sure the city attorney would be happy to step in on that.

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