Around the first of the year, there was a lot of talk about a new California law that requires all residents and businesses to separate food waste from other trash. But more than two months into the new year and the system where you live may not yet be fully up and running.
The city of Sacramento’s Integrated Waste Compliance Manager, Erin Treadwell, spoke with CapRadio’s Randol White to give an update on where the program stands.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On the city not yet accepting food waste in most cases
In most cases in the region — so, city of Sacramento, county of Sacramento, the cities that are within the county (Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, Galt) — food waste is not being accepted yet. But it will be implemented for most of us this summer, probably late June, early July. Residents and customers will be hearing directly from the city. They'll be letting you know when to start recycling your food waste.
On whether people who have started to put food waste in the green bin are messing up the system
Not too much, really. There is a concern about contamination and we are excited that there are a lot of our residents who are eager for this program to start. But when our food waste program does begin, we will be accepting all types of food waste, and that includes cooked food, bones and dairy and cheese and things you wouldn't normally put in more typical backyard compost.
But our main message right now is wait, not quite yet. Don't start putting it in there yet because we will be taking the organics, which will be a mix of your garden waste and your food waste, to different processors than where it is going now. Our current processors can't handle the food waste and it becomes a contaminant.
On if everyone will be required to be part of the program
Everyone is going to be required to be part of this program. And in fact, those who live in apartment complexes, so what we would call multifamily — they may already be starting to do this. So the law when it rolled out, actually most commercial properties, including restaurants, but even offices and stuff, have had to be complying with separating their food waste really and within the last two years. So if you see food waste containers out already, it's because those commercial properties have had to comply.
On if it’s OK to use a compostable bag to keep that food from smelling up your kitchen
Yes, they will be allowing paper bags, as well as compostable bags that meet a certain state standard. There will be a lot of information about what kind of bags those are and also really good tips and tricks on what folks can do to kind of keep those odors and vectors down.
On if solid waste customers will see a bump in their bill
Yes. And in fact, a rate increase was approved by council this past January, primarily to address the increased costs related to processing food waste now as opposed to landfilling it.
On how much of a difference this program will make in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions
It'll make a big difference. The biggest impact we can have on greenhouse gas emissions as a city, or one of the biggest, is to get the methane out of the landfill, and the most of the methane from landfill comes from rotting food.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.