Food scraps don’t have to be waste, but can actually be a valuable resource.
The city of Santa Clarita is implementing an organics law — Senate Bill 1383 — that will provide community benefits in the form of a local compost source and reduction in greenhouse gases.
The new procedure for collecting and composting food waste is a great way to minimize waste that goes to the landfill while also reducing the methane gases produced when food decomposes. It’s an easy and convenient way for every household to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against climate change.
All residents must do is bag their food waste and put it in the green bin each week (blue is for recycling and black is for landfill trash).
SB 1383 requires cities and counties to reduce the amount of green waste they put in landfills by 75% by 2025. It was enacted because organic waste that ends up in the landfill doesn’t completely break down and causes even more problems.
Air doesn’t reach food that gets trapped inside the landfill, so in the absence of air, microorganisms decompose it. This process releases methane, which traps 80 times more heat than CO2 over 20 years, according to the U.N. Environment Program, and so inevitably heats the Earth faster.
Food in landfills is also dangerous for our water supplies, because when food releases water it trickles down to the bottom, soaking into plastics and other poisonous materials. This creates a toxic black liquid called leachate, which can leak out and contaminate our rivers, lakes and groundwater.
This new California law requires that organic waste (food scraps) be separated from trash, recycling and green waste.
Here’s how it will work here: Your green bin will come with a pail. Simply line it with a plastic bag (used, if possible, to avoid buying more plastic). Put your food waste for the week in it, and on trash day close the bag and put it in your green bin.
You may have grass clippings and other yard waste in the bin as well, and the plastic bag will keep the two kinds of organic waste separated. That’s important, because they’re processed separately.
Note that pet poop, bones, raw meat and diapers should NOT be disposed of with food or green waste; they should go in the black trash bin.
There are 225,000 residents in Santa Clarita and the average person wastes 1 pound of food per day. Each pound of food results in 3.8 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions if not properly composted. If our community members participate in this program, our city could reduce emissions by 855,000 pounds per day just by separating waste — but the program’s success depends on our participation.
For those who want to keep and use this resource at home (and avoid the plastic), Burrtec will give backyard composters away for free as long as supplies last.
To request a home composting bin, go to burrtec.com/scv, click on “request service,” and indicate that you want to order a compost bin, OR send an email to [email protected], OR call 661-222-2249. You would not be able to compost bones, oil, dairy, or meat in home bins, though.
Compost is a valuable resource for the environment. Organic waste, when turned into compost and used as a fertilizer, helps to restore soil. The increased organic matter in the soil allows more carbon to be captured and stored in the ground, reducing this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. And healthier soil with more organic matter allows more water to infiltrate and retains more moisture, so it can absorb extreme rainfall and also protect during drought periods.
Some have objected to adding more plastic to the waste stream with the new food waste collection program (a legitimate concern), but food and other green waste must be separated for the aerobic digester (composting machine) used here, and bagging the food waste is the only practical way to do that for now.
The system could potentially be improved in the future to eliminate the plastic, but in the meantime, let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Let’s get behind this program fully and do our part to eliminate the enormous amount of greenhouse gases that our food waste in the landfill creates.
The city and Burrtec have been working diligently to make the shift to collecting food waste a smooth transition. The new bins (made from at least 20% recycled plastic) will be delivered and the old ones removed within nine weeks from July 1.
You’ll put out all your current bins (empty or not) for pickup on your regular trash day when your neighborhood is scheduled for the switch. To learn the schedule, an interactive map will be in place by July 1 at www.burrtec.com/city/service-location/santa-clarita-city-residential.
Much more information can be found at www.burrtec.com/scv. The city has information on the transition as well, at greensantaclarita.com, under “trash and recycling.”
By simply separating and composting our organic waste, Santa Clarita will help California reach its ambitious emissions reduction goal, and achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. Let’s all choose to be a part of that.
Tiffany Derrick and Cher Gilmore live in Santa Clarita and are members of the Santa Clarita chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.