In 2022, all jurisdictions in California must provide organic waste collection services
Saturday marks the implementation of a California law that requires organic waste to be collected, recovered and recycled into new end-products.
Organic or “green” waste is any material that is biodegradable and comes from a plant or an animal. The short-lived climate pollutant reduction strategy, known as Senate Bill 1383 (signed into law in 2016 by Gov. Jerry Brown), plans to utilize organic waste to reduce pollution and fight climate change.
“This is the biggest change to our trash since we started recycling in the 1980s,” Rachel Machi Wagoner, director for CalRecycle, told the News-Press Tuesday.
State agency CalRecycle is overseeing this transition under the law, which goes into effect Saturday. According to the CalRecycle website (calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/slcp), “Starting in 2022, all jurisdictions will need to provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses and recycle these organic materials using recycling facilities such as: anaerobic digestion facilities that create biofuel and electricity and composting facilities that make soil amendments.”
But local jurisdictions are given flexibility for their start date during this year.
“By Jan. 1, we believe roughly 50% of California jurisdictions will have their programs in place. Over the course of 2022, local governments will implement programs at their own pace,” Ms. Machi Wagoner told the News-Press. “We know the last few years have been very difficult on all levels of government. We are very focused on helping jurisdictions find the solutions that work for them.”
Prior to this law, most organic waste went to landfills which, according to Ms. Machi Wagoner, eventually broke down into methane.
Methane is known as a super pollutant as it is “84 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” she said.
Ms. Machi Wagoner said if the strategy’s landfill goals are met, it will be equivalent to taking roughly 1 million cars off the road.
Rather than allowing organic waste to go to landfills, local governments are now responsible for reducing waste disposal by 75% and rescuing at least 20% of currently disposed surplus food by 2025.
“We’re taking organic waste and diverting it to compost facilities,” Ms. Machi Wagoner told the News-Press. “This helps with water retention, mitigates pesticide usages and also acts as a fertilizer in and of itself.”
The legislation also requires 20% of surplus food to be utilized and served to those in need. Ms. Machi Wagoner recounted a program CalRecycle started in 2018 to implement this initiative by providing local governments and nonprofits with funding from grants.
According to the director, this program has facilitated more than 145 million meals served that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
“We’re trying to make a cultural change,” Ms. Machi Wagoner said. “If we make just a slight change to what we do, we have an impact on not only our environment, but also on our communities and those that are hungry.”
Ms. Machi Wagoner reiterated that the immediate timeline of when this takes place on the local level is flexible, as it is about making sustainable lasting changes.
This may affect the way waste is picked up in communities or create compost facilities which will process the green waste.
“It’s an incredible opportunity and responsibility,” Ms. Machi Wagoner told the News-Press. “This is the easiest and fastest thing that every single one of us can do in the fight against climate change. Everytime we divert organic waste, we have an immediate impact.”