Fight Climate Change by Composting Food Scraps
Your home’s green bin is going to be filling up a lot faster.
In addition to lawn clippings and tree branches, Burbank residents and businesses are adding uneaten food like potato peels, eggs shells, fruit pits, meat, and bones to organics collection in the green container! It’s not only a good environmental practice, it is now the law.
In January 2022, Senate Bill 1383, California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Reduction Act went into effect. The law aims to reduce methane emissions from landfills by capturing organic waste, like food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings, then recycling it into compost or energy. The problem with organics in landfill is when the material decomposes, it gives off methane, a greenhouse gas pollutant more potent and shorter lived than carbon dioxide, according to Amy Hammes, a Recycling Specialist with the City’s Recycle Center.
That’s why the California legislature passed SB 1383 to aid in the fight against climate change and to recognize that food is really not “trash.” While the City of Burbank has been recycling yard trimmings for several decades, this past July food scraps were added to the green cart (organics) curbside collection. Apartment buildings and businesses are now required to have a separate organics waste service to collect this material, unless they qualify for a waiver.
“With the simple act of keeping food waste out of landfills by composting it, you can participate in the fight against climate change.”
“A lot of environmental issues are complex, but food waste is one of the most obvious environmental problems to focus on,” Amy said. “With the simple act of reducing food waste or keeping it out of landfill by composting it, you can participate in the fight against climate change.”
To make this easier, Burbank homeowners qualify for a free kitchen countertop pail to collect food waste and scraps. The City asks you to remove plastic wrap and stickers from food waste before depositing it in the countertop pail. Then empty the contents (loose) into the green (organics) cart or bin on your designated collection day. Don’t put the contents of the pail in plastic bags, including compostable plastics—the latter is not compatible with commercial compost operations since they take a long time to break down. Unlined paper bags are an acceptable alternative.
NOTE: Some residents in apartments that are serviced by a private waste hauler may require using compostable bags, so check with your property management or waste hauler for their guidelines.
Burbank residents can pick up their free countertop food-scrap pail at:
Burbank Recycle Center
500 S. Flower Street, Burbank, CA 91502, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Conservation counter in the BWP lobby
164 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91502, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Every day, over 50 tons of organic matter is being diverted away from Burbank’s landfill to be recycled into compost, according to Landfill Supervisor Curtis Jordan of Burbank’s Public Works Department. However, the material has contained a lot of plastic bags, treated wood, and other contaminates. This negatively affects the quality of the compost and adds more costs to the overall operations.
It is important that the public understands that what goes in the green pail needs to include only organic material. The City will be enforcing SB 1383 through spot checks of the disposal containers, providing correction notices for proper sorting to reduce contamination. Over time, the City may take other enforcement actions as the program matures. To better understand what goes where, consult the Recycle Center’s Where It Goes online guide.
Amy also invites residents to take a fresh look at the broader issue of reducing food waste and how it affects so many other issues. “California farmers produce an enormous volume of fruits and vegetables each year, but a third of food that is grown ends up going to waste,” she commented. “When you consider all the water it takes to grow it, wasting food is also a tremendous waste of precious water resources. Given our state’s drought conditions, that can’t continue.”
Creating a beneficial product like compost from organic recycling can recondition local soil, which has been stressed after years of drought. Healthier soil helps catch and retain rainfall and irrigation improves the resiliency of plants. BWP also encourages residents to incorporate backyard composting to use the material generated onsite to enhance their landscapes.
Beyond the obvious environmental issues caused by wasting food, there are also economic and social reasons as well. One in five Angelenos have faced food insecurity issues in the past year. SB 1383 addresses this by focusing on expanding food recovery from grocery stores and other businesses for donation to area food banks and nonprofits. Amy added that wasting food also hits close to home given that a family of four in California spends roughly $1,500 per year on food they bought but didn’t eat. “We can start to manage a lot of problems, address food insecurity, save money, and create healthier communities when we recognize the impact of food waste at every level,” she said. For helpful tips on how to reduce food waste, check out savethefood.com.
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