As of January 1, 2022, California residents are required to separate food waste and throw it away in organic waste green bins, which will be composted or turned into bio-fuel due to a new law signed last year. Restaurants, hospitals and supermarkets are also required to reduce 20% of their food waste by donating un-spoiled food to food banks.
Personally, I think this is long overdue, since 20%-40% of waste sitting in landfills comes from our leftovers, expired food, takeout remains, and produce scraps. But then I started reading online comments and Next Door conversations from folks who are extremely upset and inconvenienced by this, so I wanted to clear up this shit for y’all, and to emphasize that this is GREAT NEWS, it’s still NOT ENOUGH to combat global warming, and we should have done this SOONER (in South Korea, they’ve been separating food waste when they throw trash away for years already). So here’s my FAQ about this food waste law:
Q: Ugh. So now I have to dig through my own trash and pull out gross, rotten food to dump it in ANOTHER bin that I have to pay for?! Why don’t the sanitation guys just sort it FOR ME?
A: So you know that moment when you open your trash can to dump trash in there? Pause at that moment, look at your hands, and if there is anything organic in them, throw them away in separate, biodegradable bag. When the bag is full, put it in the new green bin. Yes, you pay for the bin (unless you’re a tenant and your landlord is already paying for trash), just like you pay for the other bins. No, the sanitation guys aren’t going to come to your house and sort your fucking garbage just like how you already (HOPEFULLY) sort out your recyclables. Every city is going to start doing this differently, so contact your sanitation department (they should have sent you info in the mail by now).
Q: Okay, well, this shit’s going to smell AWFUL in my yard, and how do I even know what’s organic or not? Why are they doing this?
A: Every city waste hauler will have a different rule about this, but most should allow you to bag up your food waste in compostable/biodegradable bags. If it’s edible and non-plastic, then it should go in the green bin. You can also throw away your yard waste in the same bin! Some cities can send you a free compost bin if you ask. It’s basically a small box with a lid, and you can hide it under your sink- or you can use a biodegradable bag to collect and freeze your scraps to throw in the green bin the night before garbage collection.
I’ve been composting non-dairy and non-animal food scraps for a year now, and there hasn’t really been a pest issue because I bury the food waste in a layer of dirt and I also use a lid to cover it up. Also, it smells kinda nice (citrus-y?), but it does look ugly. Black gold, baby!
As for WHY we’re doing this? The food waste you send to landfills sits in non-biodegradable plastic bags under the sun until the food rots and emits methane. So basically, we’ve been creating disgusting, big ass mountains of methane bombs because it’s easier to just throw out gross food and not think about it, and also because no one was forcing us to think about it.
Q: What are they going to do with MY waste? If they’re turning it into biofuel or compost, shouldn’t they be paying me?!
A: You could just compost on your own to create amazing, nutrient dense food for your garden, or if you live in LA, check out LA Compost to find a community compost hub where you can drop off your food scraps in exchange for ready-made compost! As for bio-fuel, not sure what you’d do with that for your car, but there are plans to use the bio-fuel for the waste collection trucks that pick up our trash. Full circle, people!!
Q: This is classic incompetent government. At the end of the day, this is another way for them to make me pay a fee for something I didn’t ask for.
A: Uh, yeah. Sometimes, government has to force people to change their behaviors if it means preventing total collapse of our society. Up to this point, California didn’t have an organic waste law. WOULD YOU COMPOST ON YOUR OWN IF SOMEONE WASN’T MAKE YOU DO IT BY THREATENING A FEE? I didn’t think so. This is the price we pay for the convenience we enjoyed for decades- odds are, if you’re reading this, some of the waste you threw out when you were a kid is still sitting somewhere out there, contributing to global warming.
Q: Well, I hate this and I don’t want to do it because I think it’s gross.
A: By law, you are required to sort your trash, and beginning in 2024, you’re going to be fined for cross-contamination. So here are some non-compost options:
– Reduce food waste by only buying/preparing what you need so you throw away less
– You can gather and freeze food waste and then drop it off at a community garden or compost hub, far, far away from the raccoons and coyotes that apparently live with you
– Use your garbage disposal in the kitchen sink for most smaller, soft food scraps. I use mine for seafood, moldy fruit, and expired dairy products. Btw, this food waste is sent to wastewater treatment plants to be turned into biofuel if you live in LA. So, basically, you can’t avoid being sustainable AND THAT IS THE POINT
There was a lot of shouting in this post. I hope you were shouting, too. And I hope you were shouting because, like me, you are tired of people choosing to ignore climate change and refusing to make lifestyle changes to make sure our children and grandchildren don’t, uh, melt.