Santa Maria Residents Slowly Adapting to New Organics Recycling Mandate | Government and politics

Santa Maria’s state-mandated organics recycling program went into effect Jan. 1, but city leaders expect it will take residents some time to adjust to the new rules disposal of their food waste.

Under the new ordinance approved by the Santa Maria City Council in December, residents and businesses are required to salvage and recycle organic waste to prevent it from ending up in the landfill. Failure to comply could result in fines as well as increased utility charges.

The ordinance was passed in response to Senate Bill 1383, which was approved by the state legislature in 2016 and was to be implemented by January 2022, with the goal of reducing emissions from methane.

While last week was the first for green waste pickup under the new ordinance, solid waste manager Herb Cantu said it was difficult to judge the level of compliance so far.

“It’s a little early to say how well the program went from a compliance perspective for the first week of green/organic waste collection. Although we had about 40 customers per day to inquire about the program, with the majority being thrilled about the program,” Cantu said.

About 75% of the city’s roughly 20,500 residential utility customers already have green bins — gray bins with brown lids — for yard waste and food scraps that can be used under the new ordinance. , according to Cantu.

“Over the next 18 months, [we] will work to add residents to the program who do not have green waste containers,” Cantu said.

Residents who already receive garbage or recycling services can add a green waste bin without a rate increase.

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Over the next few years, the city will gradually introduce new, all-green bins for green waste, like those provided to the small group of residents who participated in the green waste pilot program last year. The bins will also eventually be swapped from the gray model with a green lid to an all gray bin.

“We choose to go with an all-green can because it stands out a bit better,” Cantu said. “The state is giving us a grace period of seven to eight years to change the trash cans.”

The Utilities Department also distributes free small indoor buckets that can be used to contain organic waste in the kitchen before taking it to the larger bin outside.

According to the ministry, the bins are a convenient way to store food waste without having to make individual trips to the green bin each time. They can also be washed in the dishwasher between uses.

Organic waste that can be placed in trash cans includes food scraps such as bread, fruit, vegetables, bones and cheese. Liquid items cannot be placed in trash cans.

Cantu said CalRecycle is giving the city a two-year grace period for residents to comply with new regulations, with the majority of local businesses already sorting green waste under previous state law.

“During this period, staff will conduct field audits, outreach and education of residents and businesses regarding the requirements of the state’s new mandate,” he said, noting that the city analyze representative waste samples from the landfill for the presence of green waste on a quarterly basis. “We understand this is a big change for our constituents.”