Let’s Talk About Green Bins
You may have noticed that there is a new green or brown addition to the waste bin line up at your home or office, but a lack of education is causing confusion for businesses and residents across the county.
So let’s talk about these bins, why they have shown up, and how you can use them properly.
When organic materials (like food) are disposed of in our landfills, they are deprived of oxygen, which causes an anaerobic decomposition process. During this extended breakdown, organic materials release methane, a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are responsible for 21% of California’s methane gas emissions—so keeping food waste and other organic materials out of the landfill is a very important piece to reaching climate goals.
A large portion of the six million annual tons of food waste in California, especially from larger businesses like grocery stores, is completely edible, while current statistics show that one in four San Diegans is nutrition insecure. A solution is needed to divert this edible food away from waste streams and feed people in our community.
As you can imagine, attempting to tackle these issues will take a lot of time, effort, education, and all of us lending a hand.
SB 1383 was adopted by the state of California in 2016 and the regulations began to take effect in 2022, which is why we are starting to see new bins and guidelines throughout the county. Two milestones and goals in this legislation advocates are determined to help achieve by 2025 are:
These goals are aggressive, but most importantly, if we all work together, they are attainable.
Most cities in San Diego have begun to roll out curbside organics recycling programs. This means that you likely have been provided with a new green or brown bin for green waste (yard, kitchen, and other organic materials). If you haven’t received your bin yet, you can reach out to your city and waste hauler for updates.
A few key points
Under the new legislation, all businesses (with an emphasis on food-related operations) are required to divert 100% of their food waste and organics away from landfills and into organics recycling. Cities and waste haulers are working hard to provide bins, guidelines, and education for businesses before compliance enforcements take effect in 2024.
Some food businesses will be required to donate excess edible food for local food recovery. Qualifying businesses should expect to be contacted by their city with more details about the program.
If you have already received your bins and aren’t sure how to use them, contact your city or waste hauler and they will provide details and resources for setting you and your employees up for success.
A few key points
I spoke with the Environmental Solutions team at the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation about some of the most common questions they receive about the new organics recycling programs. Here are some answers and additional resources below.
Q: How do I keep my bin from smelling?
A: Layering yard waste and soiled papers between food waste can help absorb potential odors in your green or brown bin. For cleaning, white vinegar and baking soda will provide a cleanse for stubborn odors.
Lowering your food waste by using prevention strategies at home and at your business will help with this as well. Proper purchasing, storage, and getting creative in the kitchen are some simple ways to save money and prevent waste.
Q: Are there any tips for helping with green-bin pest control at home or business?
Q: Can I use compostable/biodegradable liners?
A: Most of the organics recycling systems in San Diego County DO NOT allow compostable or biodegradable liners at this time. This is because the bags will not break down fast enough and can cause contamination issues. Always check with your city and hauler to confirm the guidelines in your area.
Q: What can I put in my organics bin?
A: Every city and hauler may have slightly different guidelines for what is allowed in your curbside bin but here are some basics we can all follow.
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Food waste prevention, reduction, and diversion on a local, state, and global level, are key strategies to address the climate crisis and food insecurity. I am grateful to live in a community with so many passionate individuals and organizations working towards these common goals and hope that you are inspired to join this important piece of climate action. There are so many resources in San Diego for home composting, gardening, food waste prevention, and food donation.