Today’s Solutions: April 24, 2024

Food waste is a huge problem to tackle, which is why we’ve shared numerous stories with tips on how you can help reduce your own personal food waste. To that end, we’ve suggested that people re-organize their pantry and refrigerator, download apps that connect consumers with grocery items that are about to expire, learn preservation methods to help keep food for longer, incorporate food scraps into their cooking, and more.

There is immeasurable value in doing our part as an individual, however, the most impactful changes are often systemic ones, which is why we’re happy to report that the state of California rang in the new year with a groundbreaking law, Senate Bill 1383, that requires residents and businesses to separate leftover food, kitchen scraps, and other organic waste from regular trash.

The government intends to roll the program out gradually for homes and businesses, with startup dates varying depending on location (so if you’re a resident of California, make sure to look up when your region will begin), but once 2024 comes around, fines will be in place for those who fail to comply. Keep reading for all you need to know about this important shift.

What if you live in an apartment building or condo complex?

For unincorporated communities in L.A. County, the rules for multifamily housing have not yet been finalized, but for now, at least some waste haulers will continue permitting food waste to be mixed with other trash to be separated later.

Los Angeles residents of multifamily units that are handled by service providers under the recycLA program are encouraged to recycle their food scraps but should contact their service provider to subscribe to this program.

Alternatives to having kitchen and yard waste trucked away?

Residents are welcome to compost their own food scraps and yard waste, take them to friends or family who have a compost set up or bring them to a community compost hub.

What about food that’s still edible?

The new bill proposes that by 2025, the state will recover 20 percent of edible food that would have otherwise gone to landfills to send to food banks. These regulations are focused on supermarkets and large food providers and do not apply to residents or small businesses, though any business can learn more about donating edible food here.

Are fruits and veggies the only appropriate food waste for the green bin?

According to L.A. County, “all possible parts of food will be acceptable.” This includes cooked meat, bones, fish, soups, and small amounts of grease. Once the program is rolled out, both food and yard waste are expected to be disposed of together in the green bins.

What if you own a restaurant and generate a lot of grease?

Copious amounts of grease should go to a cooking oil and grease recycler like one from this list.

Where should you store your kitchen waste (so that it doesn’t stink)?

Local governments and waste haulers suggest keeping your scraps in kitchen pails. It is also advisable for residents to empty and clean these pails regularly to keep the odors to a minimum. Lining the pail with paper towels can also help soak up liquid to limit the smell. Other suggestions are to layer food waste with yard trimmings, or to freeze your food scraps in a reusable container until collection day comes around.

What happens to the kitchen scraps that go down the garbage disposal in the sink?

While wastewater plants are usually equipped to harvest biogas from sewage sludge and food waste, it’s best to curb the waste that goes down the drain because of limited sewer capacity.

Where will all this extra food waste go?

Most of the food waste will end up in composting centers or at plants that can convert it into natural gas.

Who’s going to pay for this?

Residents of California should expect their refuse collection rates to increase less than 20 percent, with one in five cities saying that the charges will likely be even more.

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