SB 1383 has many moving parts. One thing is certain: the state is relying on jurisdictions to reduce a large portion of organic waste in landfills. The jurisdiction-organic recycler partnership is the most effective means to achieve this objective.
By Bill Camarillo
The clock is ticking. California jurisdictions have been handed the task of devising ways to comply with its SB 1383 compost and mulch procurement requirements. The effort can be phased in, but the January 1, 2025 full compliance deadline is fast approaching. Failing to meet the deadline can result in significant fines.
The goal of SB 1383 is to reduce the amount of organic waste (including food waste) in California’s landfills by 75 percent (from 2014 levels) in an effort to cut down on methane gas emissions. According to the California Air Resources Board, keeping 1 million tons of green waste out of landfills is equivalenst to preventing 440,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents from entering the atmosphere or taking 95,000 cars off the road each year. Jurisdictions are required to procure products made from organic waste (i.e., green waste, food waste, wood waste, and soiled paper) that would otherwise end up in landfills. The amount jurisdictions have to procure is calculated based on a jurisdiction’s population.
Whether the 75 percent reduction goal can be realistically met is a question asked by many. Nonetheless, the state has given the responsibility of devising and implementing a plan to meet the reduction goal to each of its cities, counties, and other jurisdictions.
Finding A Program That Works
The SB 1383 compost and mulch procurement mandate comes at a time when budget issues at the state level mean jurisdictions cannot rely on the state to assist in providing significant funding for their procurement programs. Instead, the state gives jurisdictions the flexibility to be creative and base their policies on their unique organic waste recycling capabilities and product needs.
For example, policies can include acquiring compost and mulch made from organic waste materials outside the jurisdiction and distributing the resulting compost and mulch products inside the jurisdiction on farmland, school sites and city property, or giving the material away to residents.
Not any compost or mulch will do. Compost and mulch procured must meet specific land application standards. Compost and mulch must come from a qualified compostable material handling operation facility as outlined in Section 17852(a)(12) of SB 1383 regulations. If a jurisdiction acquires blended compost products (i.e., a mix of topsoil, sand, peat moss, or perlite with the compost), only the compost portion will count towards the jurisdiction’s procurement numbers.
In addition, jurisdictions must maintain proper procurement records that show how they are complying with the law. These reports then go to CalRecycle, the state agency overseeing SB 1383, for review. Most jurisdictions do not have the staffing or systems in place to implement these procedures. That is where organic recyclers can play a role.
City of Ventura Case Study
The City of Ventura, CA, a beachside community that also has thousands of acres of farmland, began its SB 1383 product procurement planning early. The city already had an environmental sustainability division in place, so staff was ready to create an SB 1383 compliance plan. As early as 2020, the city along with its waste collector, E.J. Harrison & Sons, began offering free waste assessments to commercial properties, especially on how businesses can comply with new green and food waste recycling mandates under SB 1383. The city also launched an information campaign to educate residents on how to separate food waste from green waste in their green waste bins.
These efforts, however, did not address how to procure and distribute the compost and mulch made from these waste materials. The city enlisted the help of Agromin, its organic waste recycler, to create a method where Ventura residents could receive free compost and mulch made from collected green waste through an online ordering system.
Residents log into a site where they select one of Agromin’s SB 1383-qualified products. An online calculator helps them determine the quantity needed. Residents can pick up their order at a nearby Agromin yard location at no charge or they can arrange for delivery (for a delivery fee). When only a small amount of compost is needed, residents can secure the free material at a community garden any time from sunrise to sunset.
A separate secure online city portal keeps track of how much total compost and mulch tonnage were ordered by residents, the percentage of SB 1383-qualified materials (for multi-material products), and creates data for the city to use when reporting its procurement numbers to the state.
Besides residential usage, the qualified products are also being used on public landscapes and on farms. When Agromin’s nearby food waste recycling facility comes online in 2024, the food waste currently collected in the City of Ventura will be turned into fuel for bigas, feed for animals, or compost and soil nutrients. Agromin remains at the forefront of food-waste processing and finding the cheapest and most effective uses for the byproducts.
Relationships with farms are being forged by jurisdictions throughout the state. In just about all cases, jurisdictions will be required to acquire much more compost than they can use themselves or giveaway. This means they will be looking for places to distribute the excess amount—and farms are ideal locations since they require much larger quantities of material than homeowners or commercial businesses.
Documenting Procurement And Usage
Record-keeping is key. Jurisdictions must maintain proper procurement and distribution records that show how they are complying with the law, otherwise they will face possible fines. Having residents order through a customer online site makes record-keeping easy.
Ventura’s online ordering, delivering, and tracking system is a one-stop process made possible by its collaboration with its waste collector and its organic waste recycler. This type of collaboration can play a crucial role in achieving the SB 1383 reduction goal and mitigating methane gas emissions in California.
Ventura’s early action in meeting their SB 1383 requirements means they are forging the way for other jurisdictions. As the January 1, 2025 full compliance deadline approaches, other cities can learn from Ventura’s example and implement similar programs tailored to their unique organic waste recycling capabilities and product procurement needs.
Achieving the Objective
SB 1383 has many moving parts. One thing is certain: the state is relying on jurisdictions to reduce a large portion of organic waste in landfills. The jurisdiction-organic recycler partnership is the most effective means to achieve this objective. | WA
Bill Camarillo is CEO of Agromin, the largest organics recycler in California. Agromin receives more than 1 million tons of organic material each year and then uses a safe, natural, and sustainable process to recycle the material into more than 300 eco-friendly soil products for the jurisdiction, landscape,
agriculture, consumer, and energy markets. He can be reached at [email protected].