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California enacts statewide law to keep food scraps out of landfills

A new law in California will affect what you do in your kitchen.

Residents and businesses will have to change the way they dispose of organic waste, and will need to start composting.  

You’ve probably thrown food scraps from fruits and vegetables into the trash or garbage disposal.

But what you’ve been getting rid of has value, according to Robert Reed with waste disposal company Recology in San Francisco.

"Food scraps like your eggshells, your coffee grounds, your vegetable peelings, those are the most important type of garbage that exists," Reed said. "That's where the nutrients are."

Beginning this year, California has enacted a statewide law to keep food scraps out of landfills.

Instead, they will need to be composted and collected curbside.

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"California has passed a policy that requires all cities and counties in the state to reduce the amount of compostable material that they send to landfills by 75% by the year 2025. That's in three years," said Reed.

You’ll need to separate food waste from trash and place it in those green bins, something San Franciscans have done for 25 years.

Waste management company Recology, which focuses on recycling, spearheaded the change, which California has now adopted.

Part of the reason is to help the environment.

"If food scraps go to a landfill and they get buried in the landfill they can create methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that escapes into the atmosphere," said Reed.

The food waste eventually becomes compost that can be mixed with soil.

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It's a valuable material used in agriculture.  Farmers say it’s nutrient-rich, increases stable carbon levels in the soil and saves water.

"It allows more water that filtrates to be held and then importantly compost has a very friendly way that it delivers water to the roots of plants compared to other essential soils, so applying compost to soil is a huge advantage," said Bob Shaffer, a Farmer, Agronomist, Consultant

Recology says in San Francisco alone, it has kept 2.5 million tons of food waste out of landfills.

"The tops of your carrots, the peelings off your onions, the browns off the end of your lettuce, the coffee grounds, the banana peels, all these things came from a farm, they ought to go back in the form of compost, said Reed."

Some California cities and counties are still working out their plans to collect food waste.

The grace period is up to two years, but most are expected to make the necessary changes within months.