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Working to meet waste reduction mandates
waster reduction mandates
A state law requires that cities connect grocery stores and other businesses with food charities so that food that can be eaten is not tossed into the organics recycling can.

Cities in California are scrambling to meet mandates to reduce what is ending up in landfills.

Senate Bill 1383, which was passed in 2016, requires a 75 percent statewide reduction in organic waste disposal by 2025. It also requires that at least 20 percent of surplus edible food that is currently being thrown away be salvaged and given to local organizations that feed the needy.

To accomplish this, cities are required to help connect food generators with local organizations, to track the donations, and to enforce the mandates.

CalRecycle has ordered cities to implement programs by 2022 and enforce noncompliance by 2024.

In 2022, the city of Turlock created the Edible Food Recovery Program and now oversees it, according to Lupe Madrigal, a staff services technician for the city of Turlock. Its first phase  is comprised of educating applicable commercial edible food generators and food recovery organizations by mailing informational letters, placing phone calls and conducing site visits. The second phase offers assistance and guidance to get them into compliance with SB 1383. The edible food generators are responsible for creating a written agreement and keeping records of all food donated.

“Failure of cities to enact and undertake all of SB 1383’s responsibilities will result in being noncompliant and this subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day,” said Toni Cordell, an administrative analyst for the City of Ceres’ public works department.

Responsibilities of cities include:

• Providing curbside organics collection services to all residents and businesses

• Establishing an edible food recovery program

• Purchasing recyclable and recovered organic compost materials

• Educating the public about reducing organic wastes

• Inspecting food-based businesses to determine if they are  complying, and enforcing conduct

• Keeping records.

As of Jan. 1, 2022, businesses such as large grocery stores, supermarkets, food-service providers and wholesale vendors have been required to donate surplus foods rather than throw them away. Beginning in 2024, other businesses will be affected, including large restaurants, hotels, hospitals, venues and event spaces, and schools. Businesses that choose to donate to a local food bank, must maintain a contract on site for city inspections. The state is requiring those businesses keep records, including the types of food, quantity, and how often those donations are made.

The unfunded state mandate impacts the solid waste industry, meaning Turlock Scavenger has had to absorb the increases of operational costs to comply with new requirements. Following an independent study by R3 Consulting Group, Turlock Scavenger found that compliance with SB 1383, coupled with inflated costs and a shortfall in revenue, would require the garbage collection service to raise its fees in order to stay afloat. The increases were approved by the city council in a 3-2 vote last February. But the city turned around two months later and gave residents a five-year break on garbage-rate increases, voting to spend $4.7 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to subsidize the increases.