Building the Tajiguas ReSource Recovery Center has already put much of Santa Barbara County ahead of part of the organic waste reduction targets mandated by California Senate Bill 1383 and incorporated into a county ordinance amendment introduced Tuesday.
That means residents of the Santa Ynez and Cuyama valleys will see no changes in their trash collection process, so there will be no direct cost increase in their solid waste disposal fees, according to a county staff report.
But residents in the unincorporated areas of the Santa Maria and Lompoc valleys will have to start separating their organic waste — food scraps — from the regular trash stream and deposit those in their greenwaste recycling bins, according to the report.
While negotiations are still underway with the solid waste disposal franchise holders, residents in those areas can expect their trash collection rates to increase by 20% to 22%, county officials said.
“This legislation is the largest change to the waste and recycling industry in over 30 years,” said Leslie Wells, Public Works Department deputy director for the Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division.
She noted methane from landfills is a major source of greenhouse gases, and 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said methane has 84 times the impact of carbon dioxide on on climate change.
SB 1383 is aimed at reducing the amount of methane produced by organic waste decomposing in landfills and requires local jurisdictions to reduce the amount of organic waste being dumped in 2025 by 75% of their 2014 levels.
“We are well on our way to exceeding this goal,” said Carlyle Johnston, the project leader for the Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division.
Johnston said the Tajiguas ReSource Center already recovers 75% of organics currently being disposed of in the ordinary trash stream.
Wells said organic waste is separated from the trash stream when it enters the ReSource Center, then recyclables are pulled out and the remainder goes into the landfill. The organic waste is then sent with greenwaste to the anaerobic digester for composting.
Businesses aren’t exempt from the state law and will face rate increases from 4% to 7% and will also have to separate their organic waste from ordinary trash.
Residents and businesses that do their own hauling and disposal will be allowed to continue but must also separate organic waste from trash and recycle it through a county-approved program.
Businesses that do their own organic recycling will be required to keep records of the volume of organics and, if taken off-site for recycling, which facilities are used.
SB 1383 doesn’t just mandate that local jurisdictions provide organics recycling; it also requires residents to participate, and local governments are required to enforce that.
However, the state has given local jurisdictions two years to educate the public on the requirements before enforcement begins.
“Education is our primary goal … and to avoid fining or penalizing any businesses or residents within our community,” Johnston said.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino agreed that “this is going to take a lot of education” and wanted to make sure the information is being provided bilingually.
“It’s weird when we talk about enforcement on things like this because … I hate making rules that are impossible to enforce … and on the north side of things, this is going to take some time to get this thing right,” Lavagnino said.
Williams said the greatest penalties provided in SB 1383 are aimed at local jurisdictions and waste haulers, while the penalties for individuals are “rather modest.”
“We’re not going to have solid waste police going everywhere,” Williams said.
Another aspect of SB 1383 is a requirement to increase the amount of edible food recovered from such places as supermarkets, food wholesalers and distributors, restaurants of 5,000 square feet or with at least 250 seats, hotels and health facilities that serve food and have at least 100 beds.
In addition to reducing the amount of food being wasted and winding up in the landfills, the edible food recovery effort will put more food into the mouths of needy residents.
Leslie Robinson, community program manager, said the county is in a partnership with six cities and is serving as the lead agency for the new Regional Food Recovery Network and will be working with such organizations as the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Veggie Rescue.
She said the county is also working closely with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which has implemented a model edible food recovery program.
SB 1383 also requires the county to buy products made from recycled organics whenever possible.