First published in the Feb. 9 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
With organic waste recycling now under way in La Cañada Flintridge, residents are trying to keep up with the new requirements with relatively little understanding of what, exactly, they should be saving for the green bin.
The new local program is being managed by the city’s three trash haulers after the state’s composting law — SB 1383 — went into effect in 2022 after being passed back in 2016. The goal is to keep food scraps out of landfills, where they decompose and release methane, one of the major gases contributing to climate change. Residents in California have to separate their organic waste into their green bins.
But, after receiving newsletters and some outreach, residents have taken to social media to express frustration and confusion around the new standards.
Questions have ranged from “Can animal byproducts be recycled?” to “Where do pizza boxes go?” Others wanted to know how to keep animals out of their now very smelly green bins.
“I got two newsletters, but I thought there was going to be a letter saying ‘this is what we need you to do. Let’s be clear that this goes in here and this goes in there,’” said LCF resident Sue Cavanagh, adding that she feels like she is only one of a few residents trying to meet the new standards.
Cavanagh suggests that the city or the waste companies issue stickers to go on each trash bin, indicating what items need to go where. Just recently, she bought a bin for the organics waste to keep inside the house.
“It’s a shift but you just have to be educated in what you need to do,” she said.
LCF’s Public Works Department is at the forefront of the organics recycling initiative, but after issuing some guidance, has come to understand that each trash hauler in town — Athens, NASA or Republic Services — may have different details for their clients in the way it is collected.
Management analyst Joshua Jeffrey has been leading the charge on the organics waste management for LCF, and is now trying to increase education within the community and explains the new model as a behavior change.
“People have to get used to rethinking how they engage with their waste products and recyclables,” said Jeffrey.
Right now, Jeffrey is prioritizing reaching out to community organizations, businesses and residents in LCF to educate them on how they can dispose of their waste.
As important as it is to know what items can be put into which trash bin, he said, another key component is consumption.
“It’s been a process,” Jeffrey said, adding that he has been going door-to-door to ask residents if they need help. “I have been reaching out to businesses on a monthly basis and trying to have conversations about the importance of the requirements.”
The waste haulers are also a very big part of the organics recycling process within LCF, Jeffrey noted. They conduct inspections with the businesses and produce quarterly newsletters to help customers understand the new requirements.
As far as Jeffrey’s involvement, there was a clear need for someone to take on organics recycling in LCF and he was already passionate about the issue, so he jumped in.
He emphasized that the city needs to work together to be compliant with the state law, and that by complying residents are saving the environment by helping reduce greenhouse gases that are generated by the decay of organic material.
Later this year, waste haulers will soon be undergoing “contamination monitoring” route reviews, which is when they examine the bins to see if there is material that shouldn’t be there and alerting their clients.
Now that residents are putting most of their waste into the green bin, they might not need two black trash bins anymore, Jeffrey noted.
As far as monitoring how many people in LCF are complying with the requirements, it is too early to tell.
“We love hearing from our residents, the good and the bad,” said Jeffrey. “We want people to be excited about the process.
Residents who have questions about LCF organics recycling can call the Public Works Department at (818) 790-8882. To visit the LCF organics newsletter visit, cityoflcf.org/introducing-sb-1383-organics-recycling/.
QUICK GUIDE TO ORGANICS RECYCLING
Although it varies by hauler, these food items can go into the green bin:
Bread, rice, pasta, meat, bones, poultry, seafood, soft shells (lobster, crab, shrimp or eggshells), cheese, dairy, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, grains, seeds, beans, coffee grounds and filters.
Other items that can go into the green bin include food-soiled paper, yard debris, grass, leaves, tree trimmings, brush, flower trimmings, flowers, herbs, untreated and unpainted wood, weeds.
Here is a breakdown of tips from the three waste disposal haulers in LCF, which hold different standards:
- Athens Services: All items that go into the green bin must be 100% plant-fiber based with no petroleum-based plastic, wax, bio-plastic coating, liner or laminate. Items must be soiled only with food or drink liquids. For additional information, visit athensservices.com/residential-services/la-canada-flintridge/.
- NASA Services: Food waste must be placed in a plastic bag. Yard trimmings must be loose and unbagged. For additional information visit, nasaservices.com/municipalities/la-canada-flintridge/.
- Republic Services: The listed items that are not acceptable in the green bin include: waste, cans, oil and grease, glass, packaging, cardboard, paper plates, paper cups and utensils. For any questions, call (800) 299-4898.