Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 @ 2:58 p.m. / Local Government

New State Organics, Food Waste Law May Be Tough Chew For Del Norte County

Noting that meeting new state requirements regarding food and organics waste may be more than Del Norte can stomach, county supervisors authorized the local solid waste director to begin working on an alternative.

Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority director Tedd Ward told supervisors Tuesday that state Senate Bill 1383, which sets goals for reducing emissions from methane and other short-term pollutants, will affect all local agencies, not just his.

Meeting the requirements would likely be expensive for Del Norte County, Ward said, and could mean implementing mandatory trash service — something the community has generally opposed.

Ward said the Solid Waste Management Authority board gave staff direction to work with the Rural Counties Environmental Services joint powers authority and with local legislators to craft regulations that “make more sense for rural areas.”

“While we support the state’s overall goals, in all honesty, I believe we could probably craft a better set of programs for Del Norte and I intend to do so,” Ward said. “The reason I’m taking you through all this is I need to start working with county staff and city staff to try to craft something that makes the most sense and to make sure when advocating for programs that work for us in Del Norte County, we gather feedback, input and ideas.”

Calling it California’s most significant waste reduction mandate in the last 30 years, Ward said SB 1383 requires a 75 percent reduction in organic waste statewide by 2025. It also seeks to increase food waste recovery by 20 percent in 2025, he said. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in 2016.

The bill seeks to reduce methane emissions, created when organic materials in landfills decompose anaerobically, Ward said. Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming and climate change, he said.

Del Norte and other rural communities can defer some of the requirements that go along with the new law, but by 2026 they are required to have an organics collection system in place, Ward said. Currently, Del Norte doesn’t have a facility to receive those materials, there are no established markets for organics and collection costs are significant, he said.

“These responsibilities cannot and will not be completed solely by the Solid Waste Authority,” Ward told supervisors.

Though the Community Food Council is addressing the edible food recovery aspect of SB 1385 through a $300,000 CalRecycle grant, Ward said a program can be part of a larger system that recovers food for animal feed and composting. Another common practice of managing food is building anaerobic digesters, Ward said.

The new law means also expanding the state’s infrastructure for recycling organics, requiring 50 to 100 new or expanded facilities. Establishing a new facility for recycling organics requires finding a location and obtaining the necessary permits, Ward said.

Local jurisdictions are also required to meet annual education requirements, providing print or electronic materials to the community for how to address organic recycling, Ward said. Recology Del Norte, the local curbside collector, has a system for collecting organic waste, but customers can opt out, Ward said.

“If we follow through with this requirement, to me, that pushes us into mandatory collection,” Ward said. “Meaning, if you live in the county, you have to sign up for garbage service.”

As she and her colleagues digested SB 1385’s requirements, District 2 Supervisor Lori Cowan noted that Del Norte County has been trying to curb the amount of garbage in its recycling stream for years. Having to meet specific mandates for organics just adds another burden, she said.

“It is very apparent that Del Norte County cannot take this burden,” Cowan said. “What the state is requiring does not work for us. We see this happening in so many areas — what is best
for LA is not best for Del Norte County.”

Cowan’s colleague, District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard said it’s concerning to see the state establish mandates that rural communities often can’t meet without cutting back upon the services it provides its citizens.

“What CalRecycle is asking for is a cultural change just with recovery efforts of recycling that we haven’t been able to achieve for years,” he said. “This is changing people’s cultures and perspectives on what’s right and wrong. It happens because they want to do it or if it impacts their budget and bottomline.”

The only person who spoke during public comment, local hemp farmer Jesse Davis, took a more optimistic view of SB 1385, noting that a significant community would be interested in any composted material generated through an organics recycling program.

“Plant-based plant foods is really valuable,” he said. “A lot of people want vegan fertilizers. They fetch a high price in other places.”

Just before supervisors voted to authorize Ward to work with county staff to look at an alternative program to address organic waste diversion locally, County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina brought up Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent budget proposal.

“In reviewing the governor’s proposed budget, he’s sending mixed signals,” Sarina said. “It appears he’s proposing to cut about $10 million out of $25 million to CalRecycle for waste diversion. We’ll be taking a look at that.”


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