By Mary O’KEEFE
California residents are beginning to get notices from their waste management companies of how to comply with the state’s mandatory organic waste collection SB 1383. This law went into effect this year and requires every jurisdiction in California to provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses.
Though each waste management company is complying with the mandate in different ways it all ends up the same – California residents must separate their organic waste.
The goal of the law is to reduce food waste in landfills by 75%. It went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year but it has taken some time for local waste management companies to come up with and distribute a plan.
When food waste breaks down it releases methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas. In the U.S. food waste is estimated at between 30% and 40% of the food supply. This is based on U.S. Dept. of Agricultural (USDA) estimates of 31% food loss at the retail and consumer levels. This added up to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010, according to the USDA.
“In the U.S., food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S., accounting for approximately 14.1% of these emissions in 2017,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Organic food wastes include fruits, vegetables, dairy, bread, meat, seafood plate scraps and expired food. Food–soiled paper without plastic or other non-paper lining is also an organic waste as well as yard trimmings. Cooked and raw meat can be placed in the collection pail then deposited in the green can with residential trash only; businesses have to have outside handlers to process.
Burrtec Residents who live in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County La Crescenta-Montrose and have Burrtec as their waste collection provider have recently received a food waste recycling pail along with informational flyers concerning composting.
Burrtec customers are to put a plastic or paper bag into the organic recycle pail and then fill with organic waste. When the pail is full, which doesn’t take that long, the bag is to be tied or closed and placed in the green garbage bin along with yard clippings.
Richard Nino, Burrtec vice president, said it is not necessary to use biodegradable bags; in fact, Burrtec prefers not to have biodegradable bags because the ingredients used to make the bags vary, which affects the biodegradation process. Some plastics will take 20 to 60 days to biodegrade while others take over six months.
“We are promoting [use of] plastic bags,” Nino said. “Compostable bags are more expensive. You can use any plastic bag.”
He added that using a loaf of bread bag or the bag that comes with potatoes also keeps materials cleaner. Bags will be separated from the food waste as part of the waste management process.
“As a society, we need to do a better job of keeping our recyclables clean,” he said.
Nino added that it will take everyone to follow these requirements; there can be a lot of contamination if only a couple of homes do not follow these new rules.
City of Burbank Burrtec is not the only waste management company that is creating a new program to comply with the state law. The City of Burbank Trash and Recycling has been doing a lot of outreach. In addition to also giving away pails for organic waste it wanted to have a more “hands on” approach. Representatives met with people at events and went to organizations to not only hand out the material but to also talk to customers about what this new way of separating trash means, according to Amy Hammes, recycling specialist with the City of Burbank.
The City started its program with single-family homes on July 1 and will move to apartment complexes soon.
Hammes has gone to farmers’ markets and senior centers, giving out recycling pails and answering any questions from residents.
“We have given away about 500 pails,” Hammes said. “We have been at farmers’ markets and the Starlight Bowl.”
There is program information on the City of Burbank website and people can also come to the Recycling Center at 124 S. Lake St. in Burbank.
Hammes said she plans on doing even more outreach by having booths at events like Tuesday’s National Night Out and is working with Meals on Wheels.
“We wanted engagement [with customers],” she said. “We want people to understand why we are doing this. It is a huge issue.”
For Burbank, the organic waste goes directly into the pails – no plastic bags at all – and then into the green waste bin.
“We don’t want any plastic,” she said. “Not even compostable plastics.”
Hammes said this is not only good for the planet but it is also good for residents to see how much they waste.
“The good thing is this is [similar to] truth serum to see how much food you waste,” she said. “The real goal is to reduce the amount of waste and you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
City of Glendale The City of Glendale is providing “kitchen pails” as a courtesy for its residents to separate their organics before disposing them into the green and organics carts. Residents can pick up their recycling pail from the Public Works Integrated Waste office, 548 W. Chevy Chase Drive, Tuesday through Thursday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Residents must bring a current Glendale utility bill or driver’s license.
As with Burrtec, customers are to line their pails with a plastic bag, fill it and tie the bag in a knot then put it into the green waste cart with yard trimmings.
The City has done its outreach via a utility bill insert and postcards to residents.
“Glendale’s commercial and multi-family franchise haulers have also provided this information to all businesses and property managers. The City has conducted two webinars on the subject with plans for doing more [outreach],” according to a Glendale spokesperson.
Residents who have questions on what they should do to comply with the law can visit the city’s websites at https://www.glendaleca.gov/government/departments/public-works/integrated-waste-management/residential-services and glendalerecycles.com or contact Public Works Integrated Waste Management Division at (818) 548-3916.
Sunland-Tujunga Republic Services is the waste management company for commercial and multi-residential homes in Sunland-Tujunga. It has taken a face-to-face approach in that a representative from the company has reached out or is willing to come to homes and businesses to discuss and explain what is involved with the new law, SB 1383.
Alicia Lizaola-Shakoor is a zero waste representative from Republic Services. She has done outreach, like taking part in Tuesday’s National Night Out, and has had personal visits with many customers.
“Part of Republic Services’ [outreach] is to call customers to inform them and provide information as to what they need to do to be part of this [organic collection program],” Lizaola-Shakoor said.
At present Republic Services does not provide pails but is working to “onboard residents of multi-residential homes and commerce businesses to the organic services.”
The City of Los Angeles is the waste service for some of the single-family residential collections in Sunland-Tujunga. It is currently in the process of delivering pails to its customers.
Business and multi-residential customers who have questions about the program can contact Lizaola-Shakoor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (626) 205-7978 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For the single-family residential collection visit www.lacitysan.org.
A note regarding organic waste collection: Pet waste does not go into the organic waste bins. This must be placed in regular garbage bins.
Bear Cans One of the concerns of residents in the foothills who have bear cans is what to do with their waste. La Crescenta neighbors on Olive Lane recently received bear cans after numerous visits by a bear/bears. The cans were tipped over and trash had been strewn all over the streets as the bear/s used the neighborhood as a smorgasbord every trash day. Now, with organics being in the greens bin and garbage in the black can, it looks like the bears may soon be dining on Olive again.
CVW reached out to Public Works in Los Angeles County to find out what residents can do to help keep the bears wild and not dumpster diving.
“Los Angeles County Public Works administers contracts with private haulers for solid waste and recycling services for unincorporated communities. As existing County contracts for unincorporated foothill communities expire, all new residential waste hauling contracts will require all solid waste collection bins (black, blue, green) to be bear-resistant for homes within the new bear zones. These zones are a quarter mile from the forest boundary and were created by Public Works through consultation with the California Dept. of Fish and Game. The protective containers will be required for use by residents within the bear zones and will be provided at no additional cost. Homes outside of the zones may obtain bear-resistant containers for a fee,” according to Public Works.
In parts of La Crescenta, the contract with Burrtec Waste Industries had previously been amended to increase the availability of bear-resistant trash carts. Public Works is working with Burrtec to make additional bear carts available for the recyclables and organic waste, and to offer to exchange existing trash carts for organic carts for residents who wish to do so. Additional details and timeframes are being developed and are estimated to take at least six months for a complete rollout due to delays in supply chains. Residents should continue to place their food waste in the bear carts until the additional carts are delivered, unless the food is kept in a separate container inside the home and put into the green cart at the street shortly before it is collected by the trucks.
In Altadena and Kinneloa Mesa, a new contract with Universal Waste Systems will begin Oct. 1. As a new contract, it will contain the full provisions of the new bear-cart policy. However, due to ongoing supply chain issues, it is expected that not all non-bear carts will be swapped immediately. Most of the bear-resistant carts provided over the last couple of years will remain in place when the other carts are exchanged.
The County will continue to work with its waste haulers and communities to ensure a smooth transition as new organic waste services begin, according to Public Works.