Organic waste constitutes a large portion of the waste that is generated every year globally. Incidentally, it is also one of the most common constituents of landfills. Almost 40 million metric tons of waste end up in landfills each year and organic waste accounts for nearly 30% of the total. These organic materials can be treated to produce nutrient-rich compost, renewable energy, and fuel.
California has been at the forefront of green environment-friendly practices and has many mandates in place that regulate these practices. California has a goal of 75% organics diversion by 2025. Dealing with organic waste is thus one of the top priorities for the government of California and the push for mandatory recycling and other waste reduction methods are crucial in this.
Organic waste reduction and recycling make sense for more reasons than one. This blog will discuss why this is important and how AB 1826 and SB 1383 help in achieving the goals. For businesses and households, it’s necessary to comply with these mandates and this blog will discuss the necessary terms for compliance.
Why Should Organic Waste be Recycled?
Isn’t organic waste easily decomposed? So why so much fuss about organic recycling you ask? Well, it’s not that simple. Organic waste in landfills decomposes anaerobically. The byproducts of this anaerobic decomposition are Methane and Carbon Dioxide gas which aren’t environmentally friendly. Methane, a greenhouse gas is proven to be 28-36 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing global warming. Landfills are, in fact, the third largest source of methane emissions in the US.
There is also the opportunity cost associated with this. Green waste can be successfully converted to compost through anaerobic digestion which can be used in improving soil health and used in agriculture. When anaerobically decomposed, it can also be used to produce renewable energy and biofuel.
Beyond this, there are also other concerns. 11.2 billion pounds of food waste is generated in California each year, a considerable portion of which can be used while it is still safe. Throwing away edible food is not such a great idea when almost 25% of Californians struggle for food.
Organic waste recycling is hence not just a good-to-have policy. It is neededboth for combating the harmful effects of climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions and for more humanitarian considerations.
Mandates AB 1826 and SB 1383 have been milestones in California’s push for more organic waste recycling. We will discuss these mandates in some detail and how to be compliant with both of these mandates.
AB 1826- Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling
Mandate AB 1826 requires that multi-family complexes with more than 5 units or businesses that generate specific amounts of solid waste are required to recycle organic waste they produce. The law came into effect in January 2016 and was mandated for all businesses that generate more than 8 cubic yards of commercial solid waste. In the following years, this limit was reduced to 4 cubic yards in 2017 and 2 cubic yards in 2020. By reducing the threshold limit, more businesses and properties are required to be compliant with AB 1826.
According to the mandate, organic waste is defined as the following
- Food waste and food scraps including items such as meat, bread, tea bags, and coffee grounds
- yard trimmings, yard waste, and non-hazardous wood waste
- Food soiled paper such as paper towels, take-out boxes, and cardboard.
CalRecycle has been responsible for enforcing this mandate. It also has provisions for exemptions for rural counties in the jurisdiction. Mandatory Organics recycling is a straightforward law and makes it a priority for businesses to deal with their organic waste in a safe way to remain compliant.
How Can Businesses Be Compliant to Mandate AB 1826?
Staying compliant with AB 1826 would mean ensuring that all organic waste that is being produced is being treated properly and not sent to landfills. There are essentially a couple of ways to deal with this.
The first way is to reduce the amount of green waste being produced. This could mean optimizing your process or supply chain and it could also mean using whatever organic waste you generate within your facility. Compost or mulch adds much-needed nutrients to the soil. Composting is thus a great option and it doesn’t take much effort. You can either use the compost yourself or donate it.
The second way is to tie up with an organic recycling program that takes the waste you generate. You can sell the waste to them or donate it depending on the arrangement. You could also use haulers or self-haul organic waste to the recycling centers. Various service providers in California offer organic waste collection services and you can use them for this as well.
SB 1383 –Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy
Senate Bill 1383 is an overarching law that deals with a variety of subjects related to organic waste management in California. As laid out in AB 1836 and AB 341, this state law also sets out to achieve a reduction in organic waste disposal by 50% in 2020 and 75% in 2025. Furthermore, it sets the target to reduce the wastage of food that is sent to landfills today by 20% by the year 2025.
Waste Collection and Recycling
SB 1383 mandates that all local jurisdictions offer organic waste collection services including curbside pickup to businesses and residents. The local governments are also responsible for ensuring compliance by all waste generators including residents, businesses, and educational institutions. The bill allows for CalRecycle to enforce penalties for non-compliance.
Some provisions ensure proper capacity planning and setting up of organic waste recycling programs and facilities. These facilities should be capable of composting the organic waste to generate compost or mulch or use anaerobic digestion to produce electricity or biofuel.
The bill also directs the local government bodies to use the products of these recycling programs. There are strict recordkeeping instructions that make sure all entities are keeping track of the waste being generated and how the waste has been processed.
Food recovery is a critical aspect of the bill. Today, a lot of surplus food goes to waste and this can be used to feed Californians who otherwise struggle to find enough to eat. The bill makes it mandatory for businesses such as supermarkets, grocery stores, Wholesale food markets, and food service distributors to donate edible food to food recovery organizations starting in January 2022. The list of compliant businesses expands in 2024. The bill also aims to connect businesses to these food recovery organizations to ensure that the food recovery targets are met.
It is necessary for the food donors and food recovery organizations to keep a record of the amount of food being recovered. The total amount has to be reported to the jurisdiction to ensure that the targets are being met.
How Can Businesses be Compliant with SB 1383?
Being compliant with SB 1383 involves a thorough overhaul of your waste stream management program. Businesses are required to use recycling services to divert the organic waste being produced. You can use a recycling service provider or self-haul the waste to a recycling facility.
You should also ensure that you are providing your customers, employees, tenants, and contractors with proper waste bins and containers to collect organic waste. You should conduct mandatory outreach and training programs to make sure that your employees and contractors are aware of how to segregate and dispose of organic waste in the correct bins. You should monitor the waste disposal facilities regularly and keep records of how much organic waste is being collected and recycled.
If you fall under the tier 1 business (supermarkets, grocery stores, wholesale food markets, and food service distributors), you must be compliant with the food recovery guidelines. Partnering with a food recovery organization to collect and distribute edible food items that would be going to waste is necessary. By 2024, more types of organizations will be added to the list, meaning, you would need to keep yourself updated to remain compliant.
Sustainability is high on the list of priorities for most organizations. Organic waste is the low-hanging fruit in waste management. Treating organics is the easiest and it has the best impact as it directly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Regulations such as Mandate AB 1826 and SB 1383 are initiatives aimed at reducing the issues of organic waste in landfills. While there is a long way to go in terms of implementation, the direction that these mandates provide is great. Being compliant is not just a regulatory issue. There are larger concerns as it relates to the environmental impact your business has.
Whether you use a waste hauler or manage it on your own, organic waste management and food waste recycling can quickly spiral into a big cost for your business. Being compliant is key but there are ways to do it without compromising on your bottom line. We at Waste Control are experts in waste management, and we use this expertise to make managing waste effortless. Talk to us today to get started!