California Commences the New Year with a New Composting Law

California Senate Bill 1383, which targets reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions, went into effect Jan. 1, 2022. The bill requires all residents and businesses in the state to separate their organic and compostable waste as well as requiring grocery stores and other food suppliers to donate all edible food waste to a food bank or food rescue organization. California jurisdictions were obliged to have, at minimum, a plan for diverting residential food waste from landfills by the start of the new year. 

However, in San Diego, such plans have been placed on hold due to supply chain shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a labor strike by sanitation workers. ABC10 News reported that there are shipment delays of 240,000 green recycling bins, 285,000 kitchen collection caddies, and 43 new trucks. These hold ups have pushed back the start of the city’s recycling services for residential customers with city officials disclosing that the City of San Diego’s composting facilities are not yet ready to handle mixed yard waste and food scraps as per the original plan.

The second part of the bill addresses both food waste and food insecurity. In California, 11.2 billion pounds of food are sent to landfills each year. The new legislation mandates that grocery stores, supermarkets, and wholesalers must donate their surplus edible food waste to food banks such as Feeding San Diego. In 2024, this requirement will expand to businesses including restaurants, hotels, and health facilities. 

Rachel Wagoner, director of CalRecycle, the agency in charge of ensuring that local jurisdictions comply with the new regulations, spoke about the bill with the San Francisco chronicle.

“This is the biggest change to trash since we started recycling in the 1980s,” Wagoner said. “Reducing organics in landfills by 75% would be the equivalent of taking 1.7 million gas-powered cars off the road for a year.”

For UC San Diego, the new bill will have little direct implications. The University of California Office of the President has already committed all of its campuses to reach zero waste, which they have defined as 90 percent diversion of waste from landfills. 

As part of this zero waste commitment, University of California campuses are currently working on phasing out single-use plastics. UCSD is also transitioning away from plastic bags in retail and dining locations. The plan is to eliminate all single-use plastic cutlery by Summer 2021 and in 2023 single-use beverage bottles will be eliminated at all UC campuses.

To reduce food waste, UCSD is currently working to implement an organic’s recycling program by Fall Quarter 2021. The new anaerobic digestion will collect leftover food scraps, paper towels, and napkins, and eventually animal bedding from research laboratories and use bacteria to break down these organic materials in the absence of oxygen. Through this program, UCSD will be diverting upwards of 960 pounds of food waste per week, equating to 25 tons per year.

In response to the UCSD Guardian’s inquiry about changes to campus policy regarding Senate Bill 1383, Leslie Sepuka, the Associate Director of University Communications, provided the following statement. 

“UC San Diego has incorporated the elements of Senate Bill 1383 and other food/organic waste-related legislation into our operations,” Sepuka said. “As a specific example, North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood has large waste collection rooms that can accommodate new food waste bins. In addition, the retail restaurants on the east side of the neighborhood are working with the university to minimize trash and food waste.”

Sepuka also shared that there will be new food waste containers added to Price Center as part of a pilot study on food waste.

The official deadline for California cities to have fully operational composting facilities is in 2024, when fines will begin to be enforced for non-compliant cities. To learn more about Senate Bill 1383 and composting visit CalRecycle. A guide for separating your garbage can be found here.

Art by Tony Anguiano for the UCSD Guardian

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