Oct 8 - Governor Signs Organic Waste Recycling Legislation

Governor Jerry Brown has signed two environmental bills that will increase recycling of food waste and other organic materials. 

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AB 1045, authored by Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), establishes a statewide policy to promote the use of compost by requiring state entities to work together to establish a coordinated effort for the development and deployment of compost. 

“The state has several goals related to the recycling of organic waste and the use of compost, including diverting waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, and reducing water consumption,” said Assembly Member Irwin, in a statement. “To reach these goals, we need to cut down on the red tape associated with the production of compost.” 

"Recycling food scraps and yard trimmings not only creates jobs and reduces the need for landfills, but also benefits the state's water quality, reduces air emissions, and supports sustainable agriculture. The state's regulatory agencies have worked in silos, and occasionally at cross-purposes, when it comes to recycling this so-called waste," said Nick Lapis, Legislative Coordinator for Californians Against Waste. "Assembly Member Irwin's AB 1045 will help break down these silos, and guide the state's efforts to recover this valuable material."

AB 876, authored by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), requires local governments to plan for the building of sufficient composting and anaerobic digestion infrastructure to process the organic waste generated in their jurisdictions over a 15-year period.

"California’s local governments have done a great job ensuring sufficient disposal capacity for their residents, but, as increasing amounts of discards are instead managed at recycling facilities, it is time that we apply the same forethought to planning for the infrastructure that will be necessary to handle this material." said Lapis.  

Food recovery, composting, anaerobic digestion, and other recycling strategies prevent organic waste from ending up buried in landfills, where anaerobic bacteria feed on it and release methane into the atmosphere. Given methane’s potency as a greenhouse gas and the fact that it delivers its entire climate impact in a short timeframe, the state’s Air Resources Board has set a target of effectively eliminating the disposal of organic waste by 2025. Further, the application of compost in agriculture and landscaping has been shown to offer significant soil carbon-sequestration and water-quality benefits, provide erosion control, and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

As California strives to achieve its ambitious recycling goal of recycling 75 percent of the solid waste it generates by 2020, an estimated 22 million tons will have to be recycled or composted instead of being sent to a landfill. These bills offer important tools to help achieve these goals, and to build the infrastructure that the state will need to transition to a sustainable recycling economy.