Organic Recycling

organic recycling

Sacramento’s participation in a state law that aims to reduce methane—meaning bad—emissions will involve virtually anyone who has ever tossed out a pizza crust, wilted salad greens, chicken bones or food of any kind.

And there are lots of us. Californians toss 6 million tons of food waste every year, or about 18% of all garbage. That’s a lot of chicken bones. It’s also a lot of methane gas emissions coming from landfills. By greatly reducing landfill organic waste, the state aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

You will play a big part. Whether you live in a house, apartment or mobile home, you will now separate food waste from the rest of your garbage and toss it in the green-waste bin. Your dwelling type will dictate how that’s done, but that’s basically what the change involves.

Besides pizza leftovers, you can also toss “food-soiled paper” in the green-waste bin. That’s any uncoated paper, such as tea bags, coffee filters and pizza boxes. But not Chinese takeout boxes because they’re coated. So are milk containers.

Commercial customers, or those living in housing with five or more rental units, started the new recycling in January. They are served by private waste haulers. The last group, expected to begin in July, will be those in four units or less, including single-family houses, condominiums and mobile homes.

“We know a lot of people who are excited about this,” said Erin Treadwell, integrated waste compliance manager for the city of Sacramento.

They’re so excited, they’re already tossing onion peels in with grass clippings. Not good. City waste haulers are not set up yet to process the new waste, which will eventually get made into compost mulch, Treadwell said.

A rate hike to city bills was approved in January; the monthly increase that covers the cost of the organic recycling is about $8 initially. Exemptions will be rare. Those who are exempt from green-waste bins, such as housing with no yards, will be issued a food bin.

Even if you diligently compost your food waste already, you won’t be exempt from the fee hike. But you’re welcome to keep up your home operation.

How you manage your food scraps is up to you as long as you get them in the green-waste bin. “You can take your plate out there and just scrape it off,” Treadwell said.

Some are suggesting freezing food waste, then dumping it on garbage day to avoid anticipated unpleasantness. You already dump your food waste; it’s just going in a different bin, said Treadwell.

The city will send mailers with details on where to get free countertop bins for residential customers who want them. Compostable bags should soon be available from retailers, but a paper bag or newspaper will also work for those who feel the need to bag waste. Grass clippings and other green waste will also help smother any smell, Treadwell said.

And what about all that new mulch? The city plans to offer the mulch to residents. So your pizza crust could one day revive your prize roses.