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Los Angeles City Council to implement organic waste reduction program

The Los Angeles City Council passed a motion to take steps to comply with a statewide requirement to reduce organic waste disposal to landfills by 75% by 2025. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Shallom Omotayo

Jan. 20, 2022 5:12 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that SB 1383 authorized the state to issue penalties on cities and counties that do not provide organic waste collection services and utilize recycling facilities, beginning in 2024. In fact, SB 1383 authorized the state to issue penalties beginning in 2022.

This post was updated Jan. 21 at 12:35 p.m.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Dec. 7 that would direct the city to reduce disposal of organic waste by 75% by 2025.

Councilmember Paul Koretz co-filed the motion Oct. 19 that directed the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation to prepare a detailed plan that phases the city into compliance with the requirements of California Senate Bill 1383, a state environmental law. The motion also requires the sanitation bureau to report the necessary steps for implementation to the LA City Council within 60 days.

In 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1383, a plan that required the state to reduce disposal of organic waste by 75% by 2025. The law was originally implemented in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute heavily to worldwide climate change, according to the law.

SB 1383 authorized the state to issue penalties on cities and counties that do not provide organic waste collection services and utilize recycling facilities, beginning in 2022.

Starting in 2022, all jurisdictions will need to provide organic waste collection services and procure products made from recycled organic material, according to the law. By the year 2025, 20% of edible food currently thrown away must be redirected to individuals experiencing food insecurity. Organic waste includes food scraps, yard trimmings, paper and cardboard, among other materials, said CalRecycle spokesperson Lance Klug in an emailed statement.

CalRecycle is the state’s recycling agency overseeing compliance with SB 1383.

Klug said that that cities and counties must have programs in place that collect organic waste and repurpose it into compost, biofuel or energy.

“Achieving the disposal reduction targets of SB 1383 will remove roughly 17 million tons of food, yard and other organic material from our landfills each year starting in 2025, significantly increasing the lifespan of California’s landfills,” Klug said.

Veronica Herrera, an associate professor of urban planning, said reducing food waste is necessary because the lack of oxygen in landfills causes food waste to decompose in a way that produces harmful greenhouse gases.

According to CalRecycle, food waste makes up about 18% of material heading to landfills in the state.

“More than 5.5 million tons of food waste is thrown in California landfills each year, including 1.8 billion meals worth of still fresh, surplus food,” Klug said.

Achieving the goals outlined in SB 1383 will reduce 4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent in emissions annually, or about 900,000 cars off the road every year, Klug added.

Andy Shrader, a spokesperson for Koretz’s office, said in an emailed statement that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the food industry, delaying the approval of the motion.

While the city and state policies are a step in the right direction, more needs to be done for environmental causes, Herrera said. She added that green organics recycling is key to reducing landfill usage.

Herrera said that legislation ought to allocate funding for training and education at public institutions. She added that the current process for blue bin recycling can be ineffective because recyclable objects like glass, paper and plastic must be clean and dry in order to be repurposed.

Herrera also said that schools should establish green ambassadorships that oversee composting and monitor waste sorting into recyclables, organic material and landfill waste.

“If all California schools had to do this (training), imagine where we would be in 20 years.”

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