Pressing pause on California’s aggressive organic waste recycling mandate would be premature and costly to the environment, according to the state agency that oversees the program.
On Monday, CalRecycle responded to a draft report from the Little Hoover Commission that recommends state lawmakers go back to the drawing board on Senate Bill 1383, arguing that it is riddled with problems, unfair to rural communities and ultimately falling short of its goals.
“Hitting pause on organics recycling and food rescue programs will jeopardize the millions of dollars of investment in California and threaten years of climate progress,” CalRecycle said in a statement to KTLA.
SB 1383, which was signed into law in 2016, set benchmarks for reducing the amount of organic waste sent to California landfills by 50% by 2020 and 75% by 2025, using 2014 as a baseline.
The law requires homeowners to place food scraps, yard clippings and other organic materials into bins that are collected along with regular trash and recycling. The material is then converted into products that can be used as compost or fuel.
The aim is to reduce harmful methane emissions from landfills.
The Commission found that, despite the threat of $10,000 per day in fines, only about half of local governments were participating in the program as required when the law took effect in January 2022. It also found the amount of organic waste ending up in landfills had not decreased but rather increased by a million tons above the baseline in 2020.
CalRecycle insists the Commission, which is comprised of current and former state lawmakers and policy experts, was relying on “old and inaccurate data” that doesn’t reflect recent progress.
“More than 70% of California communities now report residential organics collection and nearly 100% report food rescue programs,” CalRecycle told KTLA.
Of the 614 communities that were required to offer organic recycling, 445 have already done so, the agency says. Additionally, 126 have asked for extensions that lawmakers offered in passing a separate law.
Regarding capacity, the Golden State currently has 206 organic waste processing facilities in operation with “many more” slated to be open in the coming years, CalRecycle said.
The Commission’s final report is expected to be sent to the State Legislature this month.