Shavati Karki-Pearl: Composting helps reduce food waste
What we consider as trash is constantly evolving as improved technologies and research find new ways to use materials to fight climate change and provide sustainable solutions to waste.
In the 1960s and ’70s, recycling became a common practice as we learned that certain materials like aluminum had value. It is undeniably better for the environment if these items were processed rather than taken to a landfill.
As we moved into the 21st century, attention turned to organic material. It was quickly realized that materials such as landscape trimmings, food scraps and food-soiled paper were valued commodities that could be turned into compost for use as a natural fertilizer or processed to create a renewable energy source.
In 2014, California passed the ground-breaking AB 1826 law that mandated separation of organic materials from the trash for certain commercial and residential properties. The law includes increasing thresholds to cover more properties. Eventually, a new law was passed, SB 1383, which requires all properties in California to separate organics from the trash. This regulation goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Waste Management and Nevada County have been diligently working to create infrastructure and solutions to keep pace with the goals outlined by the state.
While we have an active yard waste collection and disposal program, the McCourtney Road Transfer Station is going through a renovation that will add a disposal and transfer area for food waste, among other improvements. Within a few months, Waste Management plans to launch a curbside food scraps and food-soiled paper collection service for commercial customers.
We are currently working with Nevada County to find affordable solutions for our residential customers.
While awaiting the launch of the formal food waste disposal program, residential and commercial customers can immediately make a difference by subscribing to green waste collection service provided by Waste Management.
Landscape trimmings, grass clippings, pruning waste, untreated wood waste and other shrubbery are collected by Waste Management and sent to a third party, which is turning them into landscaping materials such as mulch.
Where food waste is concerned, many Nevada County residents are ahead of the curve by composting in their own backyards, donating to the food bank and participating in fruit gleaning initiatives. There are many resources available locally, with organizations such as the Master Gardeners of Nevada County, as well as Sierra Harvest.
Keeping these items separate from the trash gives Nevada County a head start in reaching state-mandated goals for a separate organics waste stream.
It also helps in the fight against wildfires by encouraging the removal of brush around our properties and by turning these items into compost. This is a soil amendment that traps carbon dioxide, helping to reduce greenhouse gases.
Similarly, the diversion of food waste from our trash cans aids in the reduction of greenhouse gases from the landfill and allows for the recovery of edible food to address food insecurity in communities.
Like recycling, organics separation only works if we avoid placing contamination in our containers. Items such as plastic bags, garden hoses, treated wood and construction material such as concrete make it more difficult or impossible to recycle organic materials.
By making an effort in our homes and offices today, we will be prepared when more stringent regulations become mandatory.
Join the conversation at facebook.com/ groups/wastenotnevadacounty
Shavati Karki-Pearl is the public sector manager for Waste Management in Nevada County. She also does community outreach to stay in touch with compliments and concerns, as well as education.
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