On January 1, a new state law (SB 1383) came into effect that requires all people and businesses to separate things like leftover food and kitchen scraps from the rest of their trash.
Organics like food scraps, yard trimmings, paper, and cardboard make up over half of what Californians dump in landfills each year. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in California. Reducing Short-Lived Climate Super Pollutants (SLCP) will help the climate crisis because organic discards in landfills emit:
- 20% of the state’s methane, a climate super pollutant 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- Air pollutants like PM 2.5, which contributes to health conditions such as asthma.
Under the new law, California must reduce organic waste disposal by 50% (from 2014 levels) by 2020 and by 75% by 2025. Did we meet the 2020 goal? Not so much. It also requires that by 2025 at least 20% of currently disposed surplus food be recovered for human consumption. SB 1383 is unique in that it impacts residents in addition to businesses.
SB 1383 is unique in that it impacts residents in addition to businesses, and it requires some businesses to donate excess edible food to feed people in addition to composting organic materials. Unlike previous recycling laws, there are significant penalties for non-compliance.
The new law will roll out gradually and will be implemented at different times over the next two years depending on what city you live in. But by 2024, the state will begin imposing fines on those who fail to do it correctly. CalRecycle estimates that up to 100 new facilities will have to be built to handle the estimated 20 million tons of organic waste or more that would otherwise end up exhaling methane in landfills.
“This is sort of low-hanging fruit” when it comes to reducing climate emissions, said Anaya Hall, a Ph.D. student in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley. “This is an easier sell to a lot of people than ‘You have to buy a new car or get solar panels on your roof.’ ”
How can you participate and be compliant with SB 1383?
- Many cities in Contra Costa County already accept food scraps and food-soiled paper in your residential green cart, along with your yard waste. Check with your city or garbage company to confirm what items are acceptable for their compost program. For example, many programs do not want items that are made from "compostable plastics" (PLA #7) because it can take too long to break down in a compost facility.
- Set up a food scrap pail in your kitchen (under the sink or on the counter) to catch food prep scraps as well as leftover food scraps, coffee grounds and paper towels.
- Divert organics from the landfill by subscribing to regular collection service with your garbage company, or self-haul organics to a local facility.
- Provide organics and recycling service to employees, contractors, customers and tenants - this includes adequate and properly labeled containers, annual training and sorting education, and periodic inspections.
- Donate excess edible food if you are a Tier 1 or Tier 2 commercial entity. California has a 2025 goal to redirect to people in need 20% of edible food currently thrown away.
Procurement: Using Recycled Organics Products
As California collects and recycles organic materials, local governments will be required to use the products made from this recycled organic material. Yard trimmings, food scraps, and other types of organic waste can be recycled into new products such as:
- Renewable Energy (Transportation Fuel, Heat, and Electricity) from Anaerobic Digestion and Electricity from Biomass Conversion
SB 1383 requires cities and counties to procure annually a quantity of recovered organic waste products to meet their annual procurement target. These procurement requirements will strengthen California’s green, self-sustaining economy. Demand for these products will drive infrastructure investment and create new green collar jobs in the state.
Recovered organic waste products can:
- Benefit local communities and spaces
- Improve soil and air quality
- Support local environmental initiatives, such as Climate Action Plans
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