California, September 2016: Then-Governor Brown signs SB 1383, making it a law:
My husband and I watch and read a lot of news. We trade stories: “Did you see this one, about…?”
But in September 2016 neither of us saw nor read a story about California’s new law – SB 1383 – that, among other things, would require us to reduce organic waste disposal 50% by 2020 and 75% by 2025.
Organic waste – this stuff:
Also, I’ll learn, called “food scraps.”
No one, and I mean no one among the powers-that-be, calls it “garbage.”
We knew nothing about any of it, until recent stories like this started appearing:
But this story focused on the city of San Diego. What about the rest of our county?
For that I headed to my town’s website and found this:
I learned that whole “50% by 2020” thing went out the window due to the pandemic. The new start date for the program is January 1, 2022.
And I learned that the new law is for everyone – single-family homes, multiple-unit buildings, and businesses.
According to the website’s Frequently Asked Questions,
“The goal of this program is to reduce the amount of organic materials sent to our landfill to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Landfills are the second largest source of methane generation in California. Specifically, food scraps produce methane gas as they decompose in landfills.”
And reducing methane gas is good, because methane gas is bad:
- Methane gas is over 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide during a 20-year span.
- Methane and other pollutants contribute to public health problems including heart disease and asthma, especially in the state’s most at-risk communities.
So, of course – I’m all for reducing methane gas.
What I’m not so sure of is this, sitting on my kitchen counter:
This image was obviously shot in a photographer’s studio, with a mix of carefully arranged and very fresh vegetables, an attractively bright orange skin, and two artfully placed eggshells.
Nobody’s actual garbage looks like that.
It looks like this:
Compost pails come with lids, so that’s not a problem.
The problem is taking the lid off, after you’ve been accumulating garbage – excuse me, “food scraps” – for several days…
Of course, anytime you wish, you can walk your compost pail out to your organic waste collection bin. Which has been sitting in your hot garage for three weeks since you only put it out at the curb for collection when it’s full. So it’s getting really ripe.
Lift the lid on that thing and…
And what food scraps go into the compost pail?
My city’s website provided this helpful visual aid of food scraps:
And went on to say,
“Residents can generally continue to use the motorized garbage disposal in their kitchen sink for small scraps of food. But large scraps should go in the pails.”
But how small is “small” and how large is “large”?
How esoteric will we get here?
And what about enforcement of SB 1383?
If I forget, and put something that’s too “large” to be “small” in my garbage disposal, or misstep with the guidelines in some other way…what happens?
One news story said,
“The state law has enforcement requirements. They require code enforcement staff to go out and actually flipping the lid to do visual inspections of the contents of the containers.”
Now I’m imagining a new branch of law enforcement, the CCP – California Compost Police:
I’m imaging an encounter with the CCP…
(My doorbell rings)
Me (very politely): Oh! Hello. May I help you?
CCP: Ma’am, I’m from the California Compost Police. We have reason to believe you’re in violation of SB 1383 Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016, California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Strategy.
Me (still very politely): Um…that is, you said “violation”? Me? What? How?
CCP: Our regular inspection of your compost bin indicates no eggshells.
Me (still polite, but now nervous): You’ve been inspecting my compost bin?
CCP: Yes, ma’am. We have an officer riding in every collection truck, taking note how people are and are not following the food scraps guidelines. Since the law went into effect, we’ve seen no eggshells in your compost bin. Are you putting eggshells down your garbage disposal, ma’am?
Me (a bit less polite): No! Not at all. But that’s easy to explain. We don’t make anything with raw eggs, so we don’t have eggshells.
CCP: That’s not considered relevant, ma’am. May I come in and take a look in your refrigerator?
All right – seriously?
I am in favor of SB 1383 and reducing greenhouse gases.
And I pledge to do my very best to comply with the new food scraps guidelines.
And I will count myself lucky.
At least the California Compost Police aren’t coming after me for what these cows are doing: