When is food waste recycling coming to your neighborhood? An update on timeline

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SAN DIEGO — The state will soon require Californians to cut down on trash sent to landfills by recycling their food waste.

The new requirements for organic waste laid out by Senate Bill 1383 go into effect next year. Californians will be expected to collect and recycle food scraps, such as egg shells, pieces of vegetable, bread and coffee grounds, while also recycling food-soiled paper, yard waste and nonhazardous wood.

FOX 5 talked with Ken Prue, deputy director of the city’s environmental services department, about the changes in June. Though the new state law takes effect Jan. 1, 2022, Prue said last week that city-serviced residences won’t begin the new program until summertime, with a phased rollout to follow.

That’s because implementing a new food waste recycling program is no small feat, according to Prue. The City of San Diego services about 285,000 residences, some of which already have green bins for yard trimmings. The plan is to deliver 240,000 additional green pails to residents for their organic waste, along with small compost bins to house food scraps in kitchens.

In order to take in and process the increase in organic material, the city is developing new collection routes and upgrading its facility in Miramar. Prue said some of the city’s eight waste management partners have already upgraded their facilities, and the city recently got a $3 million grant from CalRecycle that will help with efforts.

Forty new trucks are also needed amid the nationwide microchip shortage, leading to uncertainty about when they’ll be delivered.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Prue said. “We’ve ordered trucks, we’ve ordered containers, we’ve also begun the process to hire the staff. To do all that, we had to go to city council to get approval to identify money to be able to purchase these things.”

The statewide regulations aim to cut down on methane gas released when organic waste breaks down at landfills. Other tasks taken on by the city include adopting purchasing policies, amending the city’s Municipal Recycling Code, enacting building requirements, preparing enforcement responsibilities and strategizing public education and outreach efforts.

“It’s changing habits,” Prue said. “Once you get in the swing of it, it’ll become second nature if you will.”

The added service for residents will be paid for out of the city’s general fund, but businesses should expect to see an increase in cost. It will be an expansion of their overall service package, according to Prue. Ideally, organic waste recycling will free up space in trash bins so businesses and multi-family properties can try to minimize additional collection trips.

The state calls for penalties for people or businesses that don’t follow the rules. A first violation could eventually cost $50-100 with a second between $100-200. The third or subsequent violation can involve a $250-500 fee.

Prue said the city has its own scale and penalties are still being determined. The initial focus is on education, and information about the new service will come by mail before implementation, he said.

Food recovery from businesses is another element of SB 1383, and companies can request help now with on-site food scraps recycling and setting up a food recovery program. Prue encouraged residents to check the city’s environmental services webpage for updates.

Anyone with questions can contact the Environmental Services Department at sdrecyclingworks@sandiego.gov or call 858-694-7000.

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