Each week, a specialized hauling truck arrives at San Diego’s popular AleSmith Brewery to pick up spent grain and other recovered wasted food which will later be recycled by local ranchers as livestock feed. This recycling program is repeated thousands of times each week at California grocery stores, restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, bakeries and more which either donate or are paid for the waste. In fact, according to the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research Center at UC Davis, more than 5.7 million tons of vegetable and fruit trimmings, egg shells, avocado pits, spent grain, coffee grounds and more are recovered annually in California and “upcycled” as highly-nutritious livestock feed instead of dumping it in our state’s overburdened landfills.
“The current recycling program works so well and provides so many benefits to the people and the environment in California, there simply is no reason for the State Legislature to change the rules and destroy an effective program,” said Peter Zien, owner and CEO of AleSmith Brewery. He added, “Our business is a big proponent of doing everything we can to reduce our environmental footprint, but AB 2959 does nothing to help the environment while harming small businesses like ours.”
This week the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, will vote on Assembly Bill 2959 which could have devastating impacts on California’s climate goals by essentially eliminating this effective recycling program. The bill would impose a one-size-fits-all approach to disposing of organic waste generated by households and all types of businesses. It would allow that material to be removed only by a designated franchise holder – the large trash-removal firms that are contracted with local municipalities – where it would be taken to a composting facility.
However, California does not have the infrastructure in place to allow for more organic material to be processed at existing composting facilities and digestors. State budget analysts estimate it will cost more than $22 billion to construct the necessary infrastructure to meet the requirements of AB 2959. That $22 billion will be financed by new fees charged to businesses that generate food waste by the large waste haulers. This would increase the cost of doing business for restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses already struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
“This bill is a big step backward for California. It would have a devastating impact on California’s climate goals while increasing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Frank Mitloehner, professor and Air Quality EC Specialist and Director of the University’s CLEAR Center. He added, “Currently, about 18% of materials entering California landfills is wasted food material. Trashing an efficient recycling program for AB 2959 will likely create new environmental problems and further contribute to the vast food waste cycle that California communities must end. AB 2959 needs to be dumped.”