California’s new composting laws explained

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Composting facilities look to convert waste back to the soil and are adopting processes of converting food scraps into a natural methane gas, or turning and aerating material to eliminate greenhouse effects. Photo courtesy of LA Compost.

State Senate Bill 1383 focuses on a 75% reduction of organic landfill waste by 2025. How will that be achieved? Executive director of LA Compost Michael Martinez explains that when organic material enters a landfill, the food scraps break down in an anaerobic process, or without air, that causes a greenhouse gas which contributes to our current climate emergency.

In Los Angeles, sanitation programs pick up organic waste from single-family homes, as well as from multiple-family residences. Martinez cites two options that municipalities are adopting to comply with the Senate bill. Composting facilities are gathering waste and converting it into a natural methane gas that can support the collection vehicles. Alternatively, large scale window piles are created, then turned by bucket loaders, where forced aeration takes place. “A windrow is essentially a large compost ‘lasagna’ pile that is stacked in multiple layers of organic material and can stretch from 20 feet to 100 plus feet,” he says.

One of the reasons the public can’t include food scraps into the city’s large, green waste containers is that facilities collecting that material are not all properly permitted to process post-consumer scraps coming out of the kitchen. 

“We also have to recognize that 1 in 5 Californians are food insecure and we throw away millions of tons of food that is still edible every year. It’s about looking at how the edible food that is being tossed is redirected to agencies, organizations, and groups that can use it, coupled with the infrastructure that’s needed to compost everything that is not for human consumption.” 

For more information on composting, Martinez recommends the following resources:

LA Compost
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Compostable LA




Evan Kleiman