California becomes first state to mandate universal composting services for residents and businesses
Three years after California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy (SB 1383, Lara) was signed into law, formal regulations were adopted by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) at a public and will be transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for final codification. As a part of a multi-pronged strategy, CalRecycle will be responsible for reducing organic waste disposal by 75% and recovering 20% of edible food that is currently thrown away by 2025.
Under this measure, local governments and generators will be required to compost, anaerobically digest, or otherwise recycle food scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste by providing curbside compost collection services to residents and businesses, and to minimize food waste from businesses such as grocery stores, event venues and restaurants. They will also be required to procure organic waste products such as compost and mulch. The regulations go into effect by 2022.
The adoption of the regulations comes at a time when recycling rates have been dropping around the country due to China’s National Sword policy and other market conditions. CalRecycle announced that the state’s recycling rate has hit a new low of 40%, far short of the 75% target the state has set. Organic waste accounts for two-thirds of the state’s waste stream, so tackling this material is an inexorable part of putting the state back on track to reaching its recycling goals.
When landfilled, organic waste is one of the largest sources of methane pollution in California. Conversely, the use of this same material to make compost and other byproducts has been proven to not only prevent methane emissions, but also to increase soil health and water retention, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. SB 1383 is a part of California’s broader 2030 Climate Change Strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The adoption of these regulations also marks the first attempt by a state to require food waste generators to recover a large portion of their edible food and donate it to those in need. An increasing portion of California’s population experiences food insecurity, while at the same time food continues to be the most prevalent item in our waste stream, with more than 5.5 million tons of food dumped in landfills every year. The regulations require large generators to donate the “maximum amount” of edible food that they generate and make it illegal to intentionally spoil food that would otherwise be edible.