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California Is Fighting Climate Change by Turning Food Waste Into Energy

California is launching a food waste recycling program that's turning food scraps into compost or renewable energy to fight climate change.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

California is turning food waste into renewable energy—a big win for the environment! Starting in January 2022, residents will no longer be allowed to throw food into the garbage. Instead of going to the landfill, this food will go in green waste bins that will be picked up alongside yard waste to be composted or turned into green energy.

Many of us assume that because food is organic, it will always biodegrade—even in landfills. However, that's not always the case. When food waste builds up in landfills, it breaks down improperly because the waste doesn't receive the proper amount of oxygen needed to biodegrade. Food waste in landfills can release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, like methane, thus contributing to global warming.

Previously, California passed a bill that required manufacturers to prove a product can actually be recycled if the product has a recycling symbol printed on it. With this next step, the state is doing even more to better the planet. Here's everything we know about the new food waste recycling program so far.

Understanding California's New Food Waste Recycling Program

Senate Bill 1383 was passed in 2016, prioritizing decreasing methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. Starting in January 2022, California residents and businesses must recycle food waste. Specifically, the bill seeks a 75% "reduction in the level of the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2025." The overall goal of this legislation is to not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also take overall action against climate change.

So how does it work? California residents will be required to toss food scraps into green waste bins, not the regular trash bin. This includes banana peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, and any other organic materials like fruits and vegetable scraps. California cities that offer garbage disposal services will also be required to accommodate food recycling. Local recycling facilities will then compost the food or turn it into biogas, renewable fuel that resembles natural gas.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 35 million tons of food waste was sent to landfills in 2018. California's effort to keep food out of landfills will hopefully bring this figure down. The state has already experienced the dangers of climate change. With an increase in events like wildfires, the state's government is hoping to reverse some of the damage that has already been done.

Are Other Cities Making Similar Changes?

California is actually the second state to implement a policy like this, with Vermont being the first to mandate food waste recycling. New York City is also following in these states' footsteps, resuming its Curbside Composting Program.

While other big cities are expected to enforce similar food recycling policies, smaller cities may not be so quick to implement them. If your city doesn't offer food recycling, don't worry! There are plenty of ways for you to keep your food scraps out of the landfill.

What to Do With Food Waste, Wherever You Are

1. Compost at Home

If your local garbage disposal facility doesn't have a system for food waste, you can create your own! You can get a compost bin for your counter and fill it with food scraps. You'll need a good mixture of brown and green materials, and you'll need efficient airflow to be sure your compost gets plenty of oxygen. Over time, your compost can be used for gardening and houseplants.

2. Make Vegetable Broth

Cooking with vegetables leaves tons of scraps that go to waste. Instead of throwing them out, save them and make your very own vegetable broth. Check out our step-by-step guide to making stock, and never let your veggie scraps go to waste again!

3. Use a Meal Kit

Leftovers are a major component of food waste. Sometimes we think we'll eat the rest later, only for our leftovers to rot in the fridge. To avoid leftovers, try a meal kit! Meal kits provide exactly what you need to make your favorite recipes. Plus, you won't struggle to decide what to make for dinner.

4. Use a Food Waste App

Yes, food waste apps are a thing! Food waste apps help you reduce waste and save money. They can connect you with local restaurants that offer excess food at a reduced cost. Some can even connect you to donation spots where you can give your extra food to someone who needs it.