8 April 2016

Turning surplus food into a resource

San Diego Union-Tribune 6 April 2016: What is excess food — waste or a resource? California aims to re-characterize surplus food so that we see its value. Starting April 1, state law began restricting organic material — food scrap and yard trimmings — from going to landfills. At the heart of it, organic material retains minerals and nutrients that were mined from our soil. Once disposed in a landfill, those resources are lost, just as with landfilled aluminum cans. Compounding this environmental concern, organic material in our landfills generates copious amounts of greenhouse gases. Instead of landfilling, organic material can be recycled into a soil amendment through composting or into energy through anaerobic digestion.

With new legislation (AB 1826), California continues its progress toward removing all recyclable material from our landfills. Businesses that generate a large volume of organic material must make arrangements for services to have it all recycled. But the San Diego region cannot comply with this state law right now. We do not have the capacity to handle all the material we generate — an estimated half million tons of organic material each year. So while large food-generating businesses must begin recycling their surplus food, most have no service to turn to.

Over 25 years ago, California passed the nation’s landmark solid waste law, the Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939), which sought to decrease the amount of...read on.