California Environmental Regulations Target Food Waste
17 July 2020, Brandenburg, Potsdam: Before the start of the distribution at the Potsdamer Tafel, overlayed fruit and vegetables are sorted out into a feed bin.
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

The state of California is set to implement the nation’s largest mandatory residential food waste recycling program next month, the latest target in the left-wing state’s crusade against climate change.

According to a report from The Associated Press, California residents will be required to throw out their food waste in separate green bins, rather than in their regular garbage cans. Instead of going to landfills, the food waste will be turned into compost or used to create an alternative fuel source similar to natural gas, called biogas.

The regulation is intended to keep food waste out of landfills. The AP reports that the decay of organic materials like food scraps, like rotten vegetables, meat scraps, and banana and orange peels emits methane gas, which is “more potent and damaging in the short-term than carbon emissions from fossil fuels.” California is the second state to implement the initiative, after Vermont began a similar program last year.

Beginning in January 2022, all county and municipal trash collectors are required to have food recycling programs in place, and grocery stores must donate unsold edible foodstuffs to food banks or similar organizations, instead of throwing it out. Local governments that do not have plans in place can avoid penalties by submitting their plans to the state by March. Local governments that do not comply could face fines of up to $10,000 per day.

The state began the program in 2016, when it passed a law that aimed to cut methane emissions by cutting down on the amount of food scraps in landfills. Organic materials like food waste and yard clippings make up half of the trash in the state’s landfills and one fifth of its methane emissions, CalRecycle notes, via AP. The law provides that organic waste in landfills must be cut from 2014 levels by 75%, or from 23 million tons down to just 5.7 million tons, by 2025.

The state is also aiming to send 20% of the unused, edible food that would otherwise end up in landfills to feeding the hungry in the community. Hotels, schools, restaurants, hospitals, and large entertainment venues like concert halls and sports stadiums must begin donating their leftover food by 2024, on top of the requirement for supermarkets.

The law’s provisions will contribute to a federally-established target of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

“This is the biggest change to trash since recycling started in the 1980s,” said Rachel Wagoner, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, via AP.

She added that it “is the single easiest and fastest thing that every single person can do to affect climate change.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law in October that would ban small, gasoline-powered engines by 2024, or whenever feasible. The law would effectively ban most gas-powered lawn mowers, weed whackers, chainsaws, golf carts, pumps, generators, and specialty vehicles. It would require all of these machines to have zero emission power sources, meaning they would all need to be plug-in or battery powered.

The Daily Wire noted, however, that alternative energy sources also pose significant landfill risks. A report by the Harvard Business Review found that the transition to solar and wind power would inevitably lead to old solar panels and wind turbines being deposited in landfills, leading to toxic waste products like lead and cadmium contaminating the soil.