Cher Gilmore | Huge Benefits from the City’s Food Waste Plan

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Kudos to the Santa Clarita City Council for voting unanimously to adopt a state-mandated ordinance designed to reduce organic materials and the methane produced by them in landfills! 

The ordinance begins the process of implementing provisions of Senate Bill 1383, signed into law in 2016, whose goal is a 75% reduction in organic waste by 2025, statewide. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that warms the Earth at least 25 times more effectively than CO2, the gas most commonly targeted for containment. 

Not only will the ordinance reduce methane-producing materials from landfills, thereby cutting climate-altering emissions, but the methane that’s retrieved from waste food processed in anaerobic digesters can be used as a renewable fuel to power both garbage trucks and homes. 

When processed in composting centers, the composted food waste can be used citywide to regenerate soil, which will help it retain water and alleviate some of the drought conditions caused by climate change. 

Furthermore, the ordinance calls for the state to recover for redistribution 20% of edible food that would have gone to landfills. 

That means working with restaurants, grocery stores, catering services, etc., to divert usable food to local charities that can then distribute it where needed. It makes no sense to trash good food when so many people are going hungry. 

The decision to go forward with this food waste reduction plan could not be more timely or important, because it addresses multiple crises we’re experiencing right now: pollution-caused climate change, ever-growing populations of food-insecure people (homeless and housed), drought-parched and depleted soil, and the need for more renewable energy. 

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 6.7% of all global greenhouse gases come from food waste. 

If all this waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter, after China and the U.S. 

The FAO also says the land devoted to producing this wasted food would be roughly 5.4 million square miles, which would make it the second largest country in the world after Russia. 

In other words, an area the size of Central America, Mexico, the lower 48 states and a big part of Canada would be used exclusively for producing food we don’t eat! 

It’s a huge problem, to say the least. 

ReFED analyzed food waste in the U.S. and found that almost 85% of waste occurs in stores, restaurants and homes — and this is waste we can do something about! In fact, those are precisely the sources targeted by the city and state’s food waste plan. 

So how will this new program work locally, and when will it begin? 

Unfortunately, it will have a delayed start here, because Santa Clarita’s current waste hauling contracts run through June 2023. 

For households then, the soonest launch would be after July 1, 2023, when new contracts incorporating the food waste requirements will begin. Some 80 local restaurants and other businesses have waste food collected under current hauling contracts, though, so they have a head start. 

While waiting for new contracts, the city is reaching out to local businesses and charities that distribute food, to organize usable food waste collection and re-distribution. 

To date, six charities are involved, and an undetermined number of businesses. Businesses and charities that want to be added to the list should contact Curtis Williams, solid waste administrator for Santa Clarita, at 661-255-4308, or [email protected] 

Householders who want to get an early start might consider composting at home, if they have a little yard space. L.A. County normally offers gardening classes where participants can learn about composting and buy composting bins at reduced prices. 

Classes are on hiatus now because of COVID-19, but hopefully will resume soon. 

Another option is small kitchen composting systems that can be purchased at https://bokashicycle.com/ or https://www.teraganix.com/. 

These bokashi composting systems are actually fermentation systems, which are different from yard composting in that they work anaerobically (without oxygen) and therefore produce less CO2. Also, you can put more types of materials in your bin (including fat, dairy, meat and even bones), and the process is much faster than ordinary composting. 

When the city’s food waste plan is close to launch, there will be announcements in utility bills, newsletters, on the Green Santa Clarita website, on the city’s Facebook page and other social media, in commercials, and in local radio and print media. 

You’ll know for sure the program has started when you see different colored bins. In the new system, blue bins will be for recycling, black for trash, and green or yellow for organics. 

Depending on the requirements of the hauler selected, food waste will either be put directly in the organics bin — perhaps mixed with yard waste — or in bags, either compostable or not. 

Stay tuned for more information as the process continues… 

Cher Gilmore lives in Newhall and is a member of the Santa Clarita chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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