As of January 1st, 2022, California has a measure in place, SB 1383, to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. The statute outlines two overarching emissions reduction targets: 50% organic waste reduction by 2020 and 75% by 2025. It aims to achieve this by both redirecting food waste from landfill to composting and energy production, and recovering excess food from businesses to feed people who need it. Though the mandate was not enforced until the start of 2022, CalRecyle adopted regulations in 2019 to provide adjustment time for the state’s many jurisdictions to plan and begin integrating required changes.
I’m sure many of you reading this are thinking, “why haven’t I heard about this law before now?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It was a good two months after the mandate was enacted before I discovered it. And, since then, not a single California resident that I have brought this up to knew that the regulation existed. Even in my most recent conversations with residents from multiple different counties had never heard of it. Hence, why I was compelled to write this for you all now.
Like many people, my green waste bin specifically illustrated that it was only for landscape waste, and I have still never been told otherwise. Clearly, almost no one else has been informed either, which is a major problem if the goal is to significantly reduce landfill emissions.
Methane is a greenhouse gas 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide!
How do landfills produce emissions, you ask? Decomposing food waste produces methane, which landfills are chock-full of. Methane is a greenhouse gas 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide! So, you can only imagine how significant the emissions from landfills are, considering we waste about a third of our food. In fact, landfills are responsible for 20% of California’s methane emissions.
Understandably, we can see why SB 1383 is an essential regulation for the state.
Jurisdictions are required to redirect organic waste to activities that reduce emissions, such as producing compost, renewable natural gas, paper, and electricity, as of January 1, 2022. In addition, businesses must recover a minimum of 20% of edible surplus food for donation to people in need. The legislation also clearly indicates that jurisdictions are required to educate everyone about the new guidelines, which is where we run into the main issue.
How Does Mandatory Organic Waste Collection Work if No One Knows About it?
If the general public is uneducated on the new regulations, does this mean that schools and businesses are also unaware? Why is it that execution always falls short of what organizational plans set forth to achieve?
If the plan isn’t communicated and executed effectively, it won’t have the expected outcome no matter how well-thought-out it is. This is the main reason why transformation initiatives, such as sustainability strategies, frequently fail.
So, what can we do? Be proactive and share what you learn from this post.
Separating food waste at home takes merely a few extra minutes a week. I promise, if I can do it, so can you. The easiest way for me was to take a small container with a lid that seals well, line it with a compostable doggie doodie bag, and keep it on the countertop. Anytime we prepare food, we just toss the scraps in there, tie it up when it’s full (usually daily), and stick it in the freezer until trash day. But this isn’t all that you should be considering for your organic waste bin. According to SB 1383, “organic waste” includes food, plant material, landscape waste, organic textiles and carpets, wood, paper products (from pizza boxes to writing paper), manure, and biosolids.
If you have a garden, you can look into making homemade compost with some of your food waste. Unfortunately for me – and probably many of you – I don’t have time to make compost and garden as much as I’d like to quite yet. But, it’s definitely on the list of future hobbies.
In either case, we’ve reached a critical point in human history where we all need to take action to combat climate change and the environmental degradation that we are collectively responsible for. Together we can make a difference if we simply adopt one lifestyle change at a time.
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State of California. California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy. https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/slcp/. Accessed 20 Aug. 2022.
Implementation Dates and Thresholds for SB 1383 Implementation. https://calrecycle.ca.gov/climate/slcp/implementationdates/. Accessed 20 Aug. 2022.