New California law aims at keeping food out of the trash
Get ready to stop throwing those apple cores and egg shells in the trash, as California embarks on a statewide composting mandate.
If you’re like the state’s top recycling official, the new rules will mean keeping a bucket under the sink for food waste. If you don’t have your own compost pile but have a green yard-waste bin from your hauler, that’s where it will go. There will be recycling station sorting for residents without green-bin service as the law phases in next year.
“This is the single fastest and easiest thing each of us can do to address climate change,” said Rachel Wagoner, the director of CalRecycle and owner of a compost pail in her kitchen.
Methane emissions — such as those from organic waste at landfills — are 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. While methane doesn’t stick around in the atmosphere nearly as long as the carbon dioxide emitted by cars and trucks, its short-term impact is dramatic.
About half of all landfill trash in the state is organic waste, according to CalRecycle. It’s responsible for 20% of the state’s methane emissions, making organic waste the third largest source of methane, trailing only bovine flatulence and burping (30%) and dairy manure (25%). Regulators are cracking down on those emissions as well.
As for organic waste, state rules call for cities and counties to have reduction plans in place by Jan. 1, with local jurisdictions and haulers enacting those plans throughout 2022. The target is a 75% reduction by 2025. Wagoner said hitting that goal would provide the same greenhouse gas relief as removing 1.7 million cars from the road.
Eventually, there will be inspections to ensure that local jurisdictions — and their residents — are doing their part, with the possibility of fines for cities and agencies that don’t comply. But at the moment, the focus is on getting everybody headed in the right direction.
“I’m less concerned about penalties than helping our partners get programs in place,” Wagoner said. “We’ve had a lot of good connections with cities to get this going.”