Organic Waste

If you aren’t doing it already, you have a short amount of time left to avoid fines. Property managers for apartment buildings may have heard of the newly implemented bill, SB 1383. This bill requires apartments to have a system for their residents to collect their organic waste (like food scraps) and have it transported to a compost facility. It’s a simple request, but one that needs to be implemented properly.

What is SB 1383?

This is a bill that was passed in 2016, with the purpose of treating food waste differently. You can read all about it at https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/slcp/education/ but in short, the bill has two main goals:

  1. 75% reduction of organic waste disposal by 2025
  2. 20% recovery of currently disposed food for people to eat by 2025

What Should You Do?

Here is what multifamily residents and multifamily complexes of five or more units are required to do: 

  • Subscribe to, and participate in, their jurisdiction’s organics curbside collection service OR
  • Self-haul organic waste to a specified composting facility, community composting program, or other collection activity or program.

In either case, the property manager or owner must supply and allow access to an adequate number, size, and location of organic waste containers, with the correct labels and/or colors, for their tenants and employees. They must also educate employees and tenants on how to properly sort organic waste into the correct bins AND provide information to new tenants within 14 days of occupation of the premises.

Why is SB 1383 Important?

When something goes to a landfill, it stays there forever. Landfills will never get smaller because more garbage is constantly added to them. Unfortunately, somewhere between 24% and 40% of everything that goes to landfill is organic waste. By diverting this organic waste to a composter instead, three huge benefits will be realized:

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  1. Reduced methane – Landfilling food scraps causes methane, a potent greenhouse gas between 25 and 80 time more harmful than CO2, to be emitted into the atmosphere. By diverting food for compost, we will be avoiding these methane emissions and keeping our air clean.
  2. Natural end of life – Composting is a natural process that breaks down organic waste in the most environmentally friendly way; as intended by nature
  3. Healthier Plants and SoilCompost is black gold for the environment. It rejuvenates soil, helps produce healthier plants, combats erosion and flooding, and increases soil’s ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. 

Through this one change to how we collect our organic waste, we are both avoiding unnecessary methane AND creating compost to pull even more greenhouse gases out of the air. It’s a double benefit. This is why California has made it such a priority.

How to Begin Collecting Organics

Although it’s a pretty simple idea, inspiring a building full of residents to change the way they have become accustomed to doing things can be intimidating. Here are a few steps that you can follow to make this transition as smooth as possible:

1) Calculate Your Expected Organic Waste 

There are very thorough ways that you can conduct this waste audit, but if you would rather do a quick estimate, roughly 30% is usually pretty close. For example, if your building currently has 3 bins for landfill waste, a good estimate would be to have 1 bin for organic waste. Once your residents have bought into separating their waste, you should be able to remove one of the 3 landfill waste bins as well.

2) Get Your Hauling Sorted Out

Although many haulers also provide services for organic waste, some may not. The first thing you will want to do is get in contact with your current waste hauler and ensure that they offer organic waste hauling services. If they don’t, you will need to find a hauler in your area that can service your building.

3) Give Your Residents the Tools They Need

Give your residents the SB 1383 compliant tools they need. This will drastically reduce the barriers for them to begin collecting their organic waste and reduce headaches from contamination down the road. 

When residents are not given the tools, they need to properly divert organic waste, the learning curve will be much longer, and property managers will need to be much more involved. With organic waste, unlike landfill waste, if contamination is deemed to be too high by the composter, the load will be rejected. This will likely trigger additional charges from the hauler.

What Tools Should You Provide?

To set up a successful organic waste stream in your building, you should provide three things:

  • education about how and what to collect in a green bin
  • individual bins to make collection easy, and 
  • certified compostable bags to keep things clean in the bin and during transport

When residents have access to all the tools the need, the friction in changing their habits will be greatly reduced.

This is something that can be done on your own if that’s the route you want to go. If, however, organic waste collection isn’t your specialty, you may be better served by contacting a company who has been implementing SB 1383 compliant programs in apartment buildings in California for nearly a decade. 

[Editor’s Note:  This law requires that, statewide, 20% of edible food that would otherwise be disposed of in the garbage or compost be recovered for human consumption by 2025.]

The EcoSafe MultiRes program includes all the elements and instructions you need to implement an organics collection program in your building both quickly and effectively. Education in the form of signage and resident letters is included as well as green bins for your residents, green bins for your building, properly fitted certified compostable bags, and compostable bag dispensers. Their team was responsible for the organics collection trial in San Francisco in 2014 and has been onboarding more buildings in California and across North America ever since. 

Visit www.ecosafe.green/multires or contact [email protected] today for more information.