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Food remenants can now be put in with yard clippings – Monterey Herald

Wilted lettuce leaves from a soiled salad. Scraps leftover from a recent potluck. Old bread succumbing to time’s moldy consequences.

All these items, labeled as “food waste,” can join the yard trimmings in Monterey County residents’ green yard waste bins on Jan. 1, officials say. For those living in the area, that means yesterday’s meal could become tomorrow’s compost through that forest-green can parked in your driveway.

This change stems from an overarching law former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. enacted in 2016 that set emission reduction targets for California. Diverting organic and food waste away from landfills could reduce methane gases wafting from the rotting materials, according to CalRecycle, which oversees the state’s recycling and waste management programs.

While this statewide law demands that jurisdictions provide residential collection services for all forms of organic waste, Monterey County is starting strictly with the items you could find on your kitchen table.

Fruits, vegetables, bread, rice, cheese, flowers, eggshells — you can toss any of these items in your green cart after the New Year, said Ted Terrasas, the sustainability manager for the city of Monterey. Any liquids, raw meats and paper, plastic or cardboard items are not allowed at the moment.

Once this new medley of food and yard wastes is put to the curb, haulers will make their rounds, as usual, to take the trash to its respective endpoints: either Salinas Valley Recycles or the Monterey Regional Waste Management District, depending on where you live in the county. Then, it will be composted.

Salinas Valley Recycles has planned for the eventual implementation of this new law for years now, said Mandy Brooks, the authority’s resource recovery manager. In 2017, the facility received a $1.3 million grant from CalReycle that funded a new composting facility and a machine that removes plastic packaging from produce items rolling into the landfill.

“​​We are ready to say to our residents, ‘Yes, please put in your food scraps,’ because we have a place to take it now and we have the process to do it,” Brooks said.

The Monterey Regional Waste Management District, on the other hand, has been composting since the late 1980s, said Zoë Shoats, the district’s director of communications. Its established on-site composting, paired with its existing commercial food scraps program, puts the facility in a good place with the new legislation, she said. The goal is to create “pure streams” of compost by educating the community on what can and cannot go in the green containers.

“We’re kind of unique in this area because we’re in the salad bowl of the world where we have agriculture all around us,” she said. “And so we want to make sure that we’re providing a non-contaminated stream.”

Last year, the Monterey Regional Waste Management District took in 5,000 tons of food scraps through their existing commercial collection, Shoats said — a number that should rise with the addition of residential food waste. Once compost materializes from both waste management facilities, it can find its way to local farmers, businesses and homes, the representatives said.

These two joint-power authorities, which serve a combined 420,000 residents, are working together on their education outreach in Monterey County. This will include flyers, social media campaigns and new labeling for the green carts, Brooks said.

“So, no matter where you live in the county — if you were to move to Seaside or King City — it would be a very similar program,” she said.

Individual jurisdictions are also collaborating to educate residents about the new designation for old leftovers. There will be a grace period for consumers to re-learn their trash habits before citations are issued, Terrasas said.

“I think a lot of it, for the first bit, is just going to be getting people up-to-date with the new requirements,” he said, “and doing some outreach and education, or even site visits if necessary before we even get to enforcement.”

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