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California tackles emissions problem with new compost law

By Imran Shaikh Feb. 16, 2022

There are three types of waste bins in California: a black bin for garbage, a blue bin for recycling, and a green bin for composting. Now, due to the passing of Senate Bill 1383 on Jan. 1, Californians will need to utilize the green bin more often. This bill aims to reduce methane emissions by removing food, green waste and other organic materials from California’s landfills. By 2025, the policy aims to decrease the state’s levels of organic waste by 75%.

In the past decade, California sought to cut methane emissions by converting the gas into usable energy through methane digesters. Methane digesters produce byproducts that can be used for heat, energy, electricity, fertilizer or animal bedding. This law was initially part of Senate Bill 1383 when it was first passed in 2016. Now, the organic waste aspects are being added to the bill.

In California, landfills are the third largest producer of methane. According to CalRecycle—the state agency in charge of recycling—half of the content in landfills is organic material, such as cardboard, paper, yard trimmings and food scraps. As these materials decompose, they release methane, forming 20% of its emissions in the state.

To reduce the emission numbers, Senate Bill 1383 demands each Californian jurisdiction to supply all businesses and residents with organic waste collection. Additionally, each jurisdiction must educate its residents and businesses about the organic waste collection requirements. Currently, the most common organic waste collection method is curbside compost bins, which is present in San Francisco, Berkeley and several neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

“My family will reduce some of our waste due to this bill. Right now, we do not waste a lot of food, but we can always do a better job. I am planning on getting a compost bin for my garden to be more eco-friendly,” Junior Brian Jackson said.

One major obstacle to the implementation of Senate Bill 1383 is compost infrastructure. CalRecycle received $170 million for composting in 2021 and 2022, $60 million of which were distributed among cities to help them implement the new bill. However, CalRecycle estimates that the state will require over 100 composting facilities to reach the bill’s goal of a 75% reduction of organic waste in landfills by 2025. The cost to maintain these facilities could potentially reach billions of dollars.

“While I would like to believe that the bill will help reduce food waste, I think it is not being advertised well. There has not been much coverage about it, and when I asked my family members, none of them had ever heard of it. Unfortunately, people will not follow a law if they do not know it exists,” Sophomore Rachel Jirman said.

To encourage both individuals and jurisdictions to follow the bill, California will impose fines on those who do not abide by it. These fines will not be enforced until 2024, but residents and businesses could potentially face fines of up to $500 if they do not comply. Moreover, Public Information Officer Joe Conroy of Bakersfield stated that areas like Bakersfield could experience penalties of up to $10,000 a day for not following the rules.

Kailey Hu Art

“While this bill has good intentions, some families could have difficulty following it because they may not have the time to sort their trash. In addition, people might have a difficult time adjusting from their previous routine where they defaulted to throwing all of their waste into one bin,” Freshman Suhan Lai said.

Although it is not its primary objective, Senate Bill 1383 also works to address food insecurity. The bill requires businesses like grocery stores and food distributors to give their leftover edible food to food banks or recovery organizations. Currently, only food distributors, wholesale food vendors, supermarkets and food service providers are mandated to follow this section of the bill, however, by Jan. 1, 2024, the bill will apply to more businesses, such as health facilities, hotels with on-site food facilities and restaurants with over 250 seats. This policy aims to help the one in four adults and one in three children of the world who suffer from food insecurity.

Senate Bill 1383 hopes to reduce California’s methane emissions, help those without enough food and convert some of the methane produced into renewable energy so the planet can have a cleaner, healthier environment. While the feasibility of acquiring enough funding and reaching the goal of decreasing organic waste in landfills by 75% in 2025 raises concerns, the new law presents an opportunity for Californians to contribute to their communities.


About the Contributors

Imran Shaikh

Staff Writer

Imran Shaikh is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. When he has free time he likes to watch anime, hang out with his friends, and catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Kailey Hu


Kailey Hu is a junior at Leland High school and an artist for The Charger account. Some of her hobbies consist of drawing birds, reading novels, watching Youtube/Twitch, and eating good food.

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