What’s the holdup with L.A. composting? And what you can do

Los Angeles residents are getting mixed signals about compost.

Earlier this year, Senate Bill 1383 required Californians to throw leftovers in their green bins along with garden decorations, lawn mowing, and leaves. But LA’s Department of Sanitation, the agency responsible for collecting your trash, recyclables, and green waste, only allows residents in the composting pilot program to do so.

Westwood resident Toni Smith said she was confused. Should she throw her food waste in the green bin? The city said not yet.

She’s not part of the city’s pilot program, but she wants her food waste to be used as best as possible.

So, Smith was looking at electric recyclers to break down food waste into fertilizer, but she doubted she would buy one “for the price and space they’re asking for in my kitchen. ”

She’s leaning towards using Compostable LA, a subscription-based food waste collection service.

“Hopefully LA will work together soon and residents won’t have to pay for a service for more than a year or so,” Smith said by email.

What is LA’s pilot program?

The city of LA launched a composting pilot program in May 2019. Residents in the program received a brochure and a compost kitchen bin from the city.

Program households can dispose of all of their food waste – coffee grounds, coffee filters and non-nylon tea bags; fruit and vegetable scraps (even moldy parts); eggshell; used and dirty paper food containers and plates; pulp juice; tissues and tissues – go to their green bin for regular pickup. (Some cities accept more food items. For example, Santa Monica also accepts meat, seafood scraps, and dairy products. Check with your local government for an official list. approved food items are recyclable.)

Currently, LA is collecting kitchen waste from approximately 18,000 households – a collection route in each of the city’s 15 council districts.

The city is planning to expand its pilot program to 40,000 households by July and then 750,000 by January 1, 2023, said Gerry Villalobos, environmental specialist with the Sanitation Department. There is currently no clear schedule for expansion to the rest of the city.

Residents included in the expansion will be notified through live announcements and door-to-door distribution. They will receive a bin on the stovetop with a brochure on how to start separating their leftovers.

According to the Sanitation Department, the next group of 40,000 residents has been identified, so residents will not be able to request participation. Households were selected because they are near the LA Central Recycling and Transfer Station, where the organic waste will be delivered and aggregated for road transport to the composting facility.

What happens next?

Today, collected food waste is collected at a city-owned transfer station and then transported to a facility in Riverside County. CR&R, a waste management service that LA has contracted with, puts LA leftovers in an anaerobic digester, a type of mechanical stomach. That machine processes the biodegradable material and converts it into natural gas and organic fertilizer.

LA’s next step is to expand the program, but to do that, the city needs additional infrastructure. That could mean building new facilities or upgrading existing facilities to accommodate anaerobic digestion.

Villalobos is on a review committee that looks at proposals submitted by waste management facilities to do just that. After conducting interviews and research, the committee will present its selected proposals to the city.

What the city has to consider is the cost of developing a facility, how much waste it can manage per day, and where it is located.

“You don’t want to put it in an environment-affected community because they’ve been affected by the environment,” Villalobos said. “And then you have more affluent communities saying, ‘We need it, but we don’t want it going into our backyard.’

If a facility is not established within the city limits, there will be food waste transportation costs. That price is in tons.

Villalobos said another factor to consider is that neighboring cities are competing for these services. The city of Los Angeles accounts for one-third of the population of LA county. And the city generates about 3,000 tons of food waste every day, he said. Villalobos said there are 87 other cities in LA County, plus unincorporated areas, that generate organic waste that needs to be managed.

“Again, ability [to manage food waste] is finite; Villalobos said.

What are other cities doing?

Santa Monica began collecting food waste on a limited scale in 1998 and later became one of the first cities in the state to accept green and food waste. With the implementation of Senate Bill 1383, participation has shifted from voluntary to mandatory. Yvonne Yeung leads the city’s organic recycling program, and said that once the city collects trash from the green bin, it will be taken to a transfer station and sorted and processed by a contractor.

El Segundo started his program on January 1 because Public Works Director Elias Sassoon said he knew new legislation would be enacted. He worked six months in advance with the community, stakeholders and the city to get a program ready. Single- and multi-family residences and businesses have been provided with green bins to recycle their food waste. If residents are interested in home composting, they will have materials available to pick up from the city.

What can you do now?

While you wait for the city of LA to expand its waste collection program, there are several ways you can recycle food waste.

  • Make compost at home by putting leftovers in a kitchen pantry or in a covered container in the freezer. To avoid the smell of composting scraps, Villalobos said, you can cover the food with a layer of sawdust or line it with paper towels.
  • Find compost delivery locations at LA Compost, your local community garden, or farmers market.
  • Check out subscription collection services, such as Compostable LA, which will collect your leftovers.
  • Consider composting in the yard if you have the space. LA County Public Works sells two compost bins per household for $40 per bin or worm compost bins for $65 per bin.

For profile:

2:50 pm June 1, 2022An earlier version of this article misidentified a compost subscription service as LA Compost. This service is degradable LA.

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https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-05-31/whats-the-holdup-with-composting-in-la-and-what-you-can-do What’s the holdup with L.A. composting? And what you can do

Edmund DeMarche

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