Starting January 1, instead of throwing that container of fluffy strawberries in the trash, a new law will force Californians to recycle their leftover food and other leftovers.
Senate Bill 1383 requires you to dispose of organics in the trash cans you use for other “green” waste, such as yard waste, grass clippings, and leaves. It’s part of a larger effort to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (including methane) and redirect organic waste from landfills to the ground as compost or mulch.
If you’re not sure where to start with recycling food waste, here are some tips.
Foods that can be recycled
- Nylon free coffee grounds, filters and tea bags
- Fruit and vegetable scraps (even moldy parts)
- Egg shells
- Used / dirty paper food containers
- Pulp juice
- Paper towels and tissues
- Paper plates
Some cities accept more food products. For example, Santa Monica also accepts meat, leftover seafood, and dairy products. Check with your local municipality for an exact list of approved foods that can be recycled.
The bill directs municipalities to provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses. Some cities in Southern California – Santa Monica, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Rolling Hills, and Costa Mesa – already have a program in place. Others have pilot programs or are preparing to implement new ones by January 1.
To find out about the collection services provided by your municipality, call or visit the website of the city, public works department, sanitation office, or any department responsible for waste collection.
The city of Los Angeles is currently running a pilot food waste program with 18,000 households. Residents can put their food waste in the green bin along with yard waste for collection, said Gerry Villalobos, environmental specialist for the Bureau of Sanitation.
The compostable is a food waste collection service belonging to women and to BIPOC. Co-owners Monique Figueiredo and Jamie Renee Williams have created a subscription-based service that lets you choose how often you pick up waste; their team delivers your waste to its non-profit partner, LA Compost.
LA compost is a non-profit organization that operates regional composting centers and community drop-off points with community partners. It also offers composting training on its website and has a map of local composting sites available for depots.
Orange compost charges $ 20 per month to pick up food waste from residents of Anaheim, Fullerton, Orange, and Santa Ana.
Agricultural markets: Figueiredo and Williams suggest looking at local farmers’ markets for a compost drop-off stand that can be run by a local organization or farmer.
Community gardens: Figueiredo and Williams said community gardens often have a small space for community composting.
Create your own: If there isn’t a composting site yet, talk to your friends and neighbors about the possibility of starting one.
Recycle at home
Recycling food waste at home is easy, Figueiredo and Williams said. They recommend separating your leftover vegetables and fruits first.
Some cities offer a free or purchase countertop composting container. You can also store your scraps in a reusable Tupperware. Just make sure it has a cover.
To avoid odors, Villalobos said, you can layer foods with sawdust or cover them with paper towels. You can also put the container in the refrigerator or freezer.
“The simplest method is to put [the scraps] in a brown paper bag and put it in your freezer, ”Williams said. “And then figure out where you want it to go next, like the farmers market.”
Composting in your garden
You can buy a compost bin at a store or make one yourself. Los Angeles County Public Works sells up to two backyard compost bins per household for $ 40 each or worm compost bins for $ 65 each. The worm bins contain African red worms, a common composting worm that processes large amounts of organic material.
If you decide to put composting bins in your yard, County Public Works advises against adding meat, dairy, or processed foods as they might attract animals. If you are concerned about rodents entering the bin, the service suggests lining the bottom of the bin with a hardware rag.
Villalobos said tending to a compost bin is not difficult, but you have to be careful. Mix it regularly and layer your food scraps with yard waste.
“It may take a while before you have a good amount of compost that you can harvest to put in your flower beds,” he said. “If you don’t have odor or vermin issues, you’re doing a good job.”