Clearing the Air: 3 Ways to Tackle Food Waste

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The implementation of SB 1383 in 2022 marks a big shift in how Californians handle their food waste. For the first time, residents and businesses need to put their leftover food not with their trash but with their green waste.

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The implementation of SB 1383 in 2022 marks a big shift in how Californians handle their food waste. For the first time, residents and businesses need to put their leftover food not with their trash but with their green waste. 

Californians are used to having separate containers for trash, recyclables like paper, plastic, and aluminum, and for green waste such as yard trimmings and landscaping. Now, food waste and food-soiled paper will go in the green or organics container.  

Most of us don’t give leftover food a second thought, keeping what we can for later and scraping the rest into the trash. From there, it goes to a landfill. Therein lies the problem.

Food and other organic waste in landfills produce greenhouse gases as they decay. Roughly half of the gas is carbon dioxide, and half is methane, which is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to CalRecycle.

California Decides It’s Time to Clear the Air 

If you haven’t heard of SB 1383 by now, you will. It’s California’s latest law designed to reduce harmful gas emissions – specifically methane. To do that, every city, single-family home, business, and multi-family residence of more than five units can no longer just throw food away. 

Statewide, reducing food waste and the methane gas it causes is a big, complex problem. But at the personal level, it boils down to three core, essential steps:  Reduce, repurpose, and recycle.

Less Food + Less Waste = Less Methane

Most people don’t realize how much food they throw away every day. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 30-40 percent of all food in the United States goes uneaten. Californians throw away nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year. The EPA estimates that about 81 percent of households’ wasted food ended up in landfills or combustion facilities

Buying less food is a great way to start. That doesn’t mean doing without; it means focusing on buying what you need, with the goal of reducing waste. It will also save money, especially in these inflationary times. Planning meals ahead of time, including planning what to do with leftovers, is an effective way to reduce food waste. 

“Imperfect” Food is a Perfectly Good Approach

Much of the food that consumers and businesses throw away is still edible. There are some simple ways to reduce that.

At home, some leftovers can be frozen for later use. Items like fruits and vegetables can be used for salads. Meats and other edible scraps from prepared meals can potentially be combined into soups.

Commercial establishments can donate “imperfect” but safe and edible produce to food recovery organizations like Foodcycle LA. California provides guidelines and Athens provides educational materials to help guide this effort.

What Can’t Be Used May Be Reused 

For food waste that just can’t be kept or eaten, there are options to throwing it away. The waste can be composted, either at home or at large composting facilities. 

Composting is the process that converts organic waste into a useful resource that reduces methane, captures carbon, and helps grow food more efficiently.

Composting can be done at home. There are a lot of resources to help, from educational material to kitchen buckets to outdoor compost bins. Some cities and counties offer rebates or compost bins at a reduced cost. Los Angeles County offers two types of compost bins for $40 and $65. Check with your local city to see what they offer.

Organics waste that is collected curbside goes to one of several large facilities in Southern California that compost on a large scale. American Organics (AO) in Victorville, owned by Athens Services, is one of the largest and most advanced. Organics waste collected from homes and businesses goes to American Organics to be converted to high-quality compost. The process usually takes six months, but at AO the process has been reduced to two months using innovative technology.    

The Bottom Line

To sum up, the move is on to reduce methane by reducing food waste. By following some simple steps, we can all make a difference.

  1. Reduce – Use less food to create less food waste.
  2. Repurpose – Freeze leftovers for another day, combine them into other dishes, or donate consumable food to food banks.
  3. Recycle – compost leftovers at home, or put them in your “green” organics waste container to ship to a composting facility.

Individual actions taken together can make a big difference. Athens Services is here to help. For more information on reducing food waste, go to Food Waste Recycling.

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