It is no longer business as usual in California. A new state law requires schools, businesses and other generators of organic waste (i.e. food scraps and landscape trimmings) to divert it from ending up in landfills, where it creates an environmental problem. As of April 1, 2016, Assembly Bill 1826 (AB 1826) mandates that commercial generators of more than 8 cubic yards (CY) per week of organics would be required to compost the material, or make arrangements for it to be properly recycled.
In response to the new law and to educate San Diegans about how to divert organic waste, Solana Center for Environmental Innovation has partnered with the County of San Diego and Hidden Resources to offer a unique series of free workshops to promote local, mid-scale composting. Solana Center surveyed over 7,000 San Diego County residents and designed the series of workshops based on survey responses. The workshops do not address typical residential composting or large-scale commercial composting, but are intended for those systems that fall in between: farms, parks, community gardens, schools and businesses.
“Local, mid-scale composting provides solutions for keeping organic waste out of our landfills and recovering the valuable nutrients, that would otherwise be lost,” said Diane Hazard, Director of Education at Solana Center. “It’s a win-win.”
Hazard, a trained scientist, leads Solana Center’s education and outreach programs, which reached over 24,000 San Diegans in 2015. Solana Center is known throughout San Diego County as the go to organization for composting education and expertise. The workshop series begins on Saturday, June 11th with two presentations: “Building Healthy Soil: The Science of Composting” and “Mid-scale Composting Regulations.” The workshops will take place at the San Diego County Farm Bureau in Escondido.
On Sunday, June 12th, there will be an opportunity to participate in a hands-on mid-scale compost build at Terra Madre Gardens (formerly Stone Farms) in Escondido. The following weekend, on Saturday, June 18th, the public can register to tour local, mid-scale composting operations. This is a rare opportunity to go behind-the-scenes for guided tours of local farms, a restaurant garden, schools and an equestrian park to see their composting systems. The public is welcome to attend all of the workshops or pick and choose the ones they find most interesting. Registration and a refundable deposit is required. For more information and to register: visit https://www.solanacenter.org/free-compost-workshops.
Why recycle organic material?
Organics make up the largest portion of San Diego’s landfill material, at 39 percent. Organic waste as defined in the law includes the following material: food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste. These categories represent the largest subsets of organic waste that is currently disposed in California. Organic waste in the landfill breaks down without air (anaerobically) and in the process, creates methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that warms the Earth by absorbing energy and slowing the rate at which the energy escapes to space.
Global warming potential (GWP) is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. The larger the GWP, the more that a given gas warms the Earth compared to carbon dioxide over that time period. In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), methane has a lifetime of 12.4 years and with climate-carbon feedbacks a global warming potential of 86 over 20 years. Also, methane is absorbed into the atmosphere more quickly than CO2, magnifying the detrimental impact on the environment. For more information about mid-scale composting, contact Solana Center’s Director of Education, Diane Hazard at (760) 436-7986 x704.