State mandate requires recycling food waste

Compost kitchen vegetable waste. You can even make your own worm compost!

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

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

Additionally, the bill aims to reduce food waste and decrease food insecurity by requiring commercial edible food generators like restaurants and grocery stores to recover food for human consumption that would be disposed of and end up in a landfill.  

In a market analysis report for SB 1383, organic materials targeted by the bill comprise approximately 68% of California’s disposed waste stream. In addition, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery estimates that food scraps currently comprise 18% of total landfill disposal. 

Curtis Williams, the city of Santa Clarita’s solid waste administrator, said the bill aims to combat methane emissions coming from food waste in landfills.  

“The purpose behind the law was to reduce the amount of methane emissions coming from landfills,” Williams said. “So the state Legislature passed the SB 1383 rules, which require commercial and residential trash generators to go ahead and basically have to recycle or find better uses for organic waste.” 

Williams said there would be a period of outreach and education from haulers and the city about what materials will go into specific bins. 

“What will end up happening is that we will notify folks, starting this date, you can go ahead and start putting food waste into your organics bin, which is currently their green waste bin,” Williams said. 

The biggest concern for Williams is making sure that residents aren’t contaminating the bins with the wrong waste. He said the mindset would need to change for Californians who are used to putting food waste in the trash bin instead of the green yard waste bins.  

Williams added other steps can include using your organic waste as compost or seeking a community garden like the one located in Central Park to offer compost materials. Additionally, William said there are gardening and compost classes taught by L.A. County that residents can seek out. 

Businesses that don’t have enough room to accommodate an organic bin, or if the business doesn’t produce enough organic waste, may qualify for a waiver. The bill’s business focus is directed at restaurants and grocery stores that traditionally create a lot of food waste. 

Williams said all jurisdictions will have 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. handles 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 the jurisdictions to pay for any costs to remain in compliance. On Jan. 1, 2024, enforcement and penalties will begin. 

Dennis Verner, Burrtec’s division manager of Santa Clarita, said Burrtec handles waste management in many jurisdictions and is waiting on guidance from the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County for unincorporated areas in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

The enforcement program has yet to be developed, but Burrtec is unsure if it will be required to be involved with inspections for areas they serve.  

“We are waiting for instructions from both of those jurisdictions as to what our role will be,” Verner said. “Those types of inspections could be handled through the jurisdiction directly, they may hire a third-party firm, or they may ask us to do it.” 

Verner added that dealing with composting waste is more expensive than other trash processing because it’s harder to process, which may increase expenses for Burrtec. 

In a Santa Clarita City Council meeting on Jan. 11, Mayor Laurene Weste and her colleagues showed much 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. 

“This is absurd and we know it. We don’t have a choice when it comes to state mandates to just say no,” Weste said. “We don’t have a choice. This is not a democracy when it comes to state mandates and I’m sure the city attorney would be glad to weigh in on that.” 

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