Los Angeles residents are now required to compost their food scraps as a new law aimed at reducing organic waste takes effect.
“Organic” or “green” waste covers a variety of items including food scraps, yard trimmings, manure, coffee grounds, flowers and more.
The program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making it easy to separate organic waste through a new curbside pickup program.
“Organic waste makes up a large portion of waste that goes to disposal in landfills,” officials explain. “When organic waste is buried in landfills it can decompose anaerobically (without oxygen) and generate methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that has negative effects on our environment.”
Be aware though — anyone who fails to separate their green waste correctly could face some hefty fines. Beginning in 2024, those who contaminate their green waste with the wrong items could be slapped with fines of up to $500.
All L.A. Sanitation residents can also receive a free kitchen pail to store their food scraps for weekly collection if desired.
So what exactly can you place into your green bins?
Items that can be placed into bins:
-Bread, cereal, grains, rice, pasta, beans
-Meat, bone, fish, shells
-Coffee grounds and filters
-Food-soiled paper products including pizza boxes, napkins, coffee filters, more
-Yard waste, flowers, and clean untreated wood
Items that cannot be placed into bins:
-Products labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable”
-Plastics, waxes, coatings, etc.
The free kitchen pails are not required to participate. You can simply place all organic waste into your regular green bin for recycling.
Some tips to prevent pests, odors, and messes inside the home:
-Use a paper towel to line the kitchen pail
-Sprinkle baking soda in the kitchen pail to reduce odors
-Empty the kitchen pail into the green bin regularly and just before collection day
-Wash the kitchen pail regularly. It’s dishwasher friendly
-Wrap smellier items and store in the refrigerator or freezer until pickup day
Outside the home:
-Put some yard trimmings in the green bin before and after adding any scraps
-Place the green bin out for collection every week, even if it’s not full
-Rinse the green bin as needed and sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the bin
“These are all direct impacts and causes of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions and negative impacts to the environment,” explains James Roska, acting environmental engineer at L.A. Sanitation and Environment. “So by pulling out all this organic material, it will prevent it from contributing to all those greenhouse gases.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the program applied to Los Angeles County residents. It only applies to residents of the City of Los Angeles. Other municipalities have separate composting programs.