While SB 1383 only affects California jurisdictions, methane gas and its impact on our climate is gaining national attention. Expect other states to implement at least some of the climate change reduction provisions enacted in SB 1383.
By Bill Camarillo
California jurisdictions have been scrambling to figure out how to comply with recycled green waste product procurement and distribution mandates brought on by SB 1383. By 2025, SB 1383 requires that cities, counties, and other jurisdictions decrease their methane gas emissions by reducing the amount of organic waste they deposit in landfills by 75 percent (using 2014 numbers as a baseline).
Organic waste in landfills accounts for 20 percent of California’s methane gas emissions. Methane gas is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When organic waste is composted and returned to the soil, rather than disposed of in a landfill, the carbon is sequestered into the ground instead of entering the atmosphere. By implementing SB 1383, California legislators hope to make progress in the state’s efforts to combat climate change. As an important added benefit, compost enhances soil health and reduces water usage.
Under SB 1383, the state assigns each jurisdiction the amount of recovered green waste products it must procure every year based on the jurisdiction’s population. These are products such as compost, mulch, and biogas made from green waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Originally, jurisdictions needed to be in full procurement compliance by the end of 2022 or face stiff penalties beginning in 2023. It quickly became apparent that the deadline was unrealistic.
Jurisdictions received a major reprieve when AB 1985 was signed into law. Instead of imposing penalties beginning in 2023 if procurement targets were not reached, jurisdictions now have until January 1, 2025, to fully meet their procurement requirement without penalty.
Jurisdictions will still need to procure 30 percent of their targeted recovered organic waste products by January 1, 2023, 65 percent by January 1, 2024, and 100 percent by January 1, 2025. Penalties will only be imposed if the 100 percent mark is not reached by January 1, 2025.
This extra time gives jurisdictions and organic waste-derived product producers time to develop systems and supply channels to meet procurement goals.
Green Waste Recyclers Have Work to Do
The extended penalty deadline is an opportunity for green waste recyclers to find ways to generate the compost that is needed.
According to CalReycle, California currently has about 160 permitted compost facilities and a dozen anaerobic digestion facilities that take in about 6 million tons of green waste each year. Based on CalRecycle’s capacity projections, the infrastructure in the state will be able to process only about another 10 million tons of the 20 to 25 million tons needed for all jurisdictions to be fully procurement compliant by 2025. Green waste recyclers will need to ramp up production to handle the extra load and the state will need to approve more processing facilities and allow current facilities to expand.
A concern is that jurisdictions will start competing with one another over limited availability of approved green products, knowing that if the products are not acquired, they will face penalties. Most jurisdictions are not in the green recycling business. They do not have organics recovery facilities that can procure end products. Jurisdictions will need to look to approved green waste processors (direct service providers) to supply products made from recycled materials. How much does each jurisdiction need to procure? The amount is 0.08 tons of organic waste per resident per year. Based on population, Redwood City, for example, with a population of 85,182, needs to procure 6,815 tons of compost annually to be compliant. The City of Los Angeles with a population of nearly 4 million, needs 313,867 tons. Rural jurisdictions with small populations are exempt from SB 1383 procurement mandates until January 1, 2027.
Gaining permitted status for a new or expanded compost facility takes time. Agromin’s green and food waste recycling facility in Santa Paula, CA took 10 years to obtain final approval. A CalRecycle survey found that green waste recyclers cited high compliance costs as the reason for limiting their desire to expand operations. If the amount of green recycling products is to almost double by 2025, the state needs to look at ways to implement a faster permit approval process.
Another concern among green recyclers is the uncertainty of their contracts with jurisdictions. A recycler may not want to invest millions of dollars into expanding or building a facility if a jurisdiction is unwilling to sign a long-term contract with the provider for its green recycling needs. Recyclers want to be assured that they will receive a reliable return on their investment.
Processing food waste is yet one more obstacle. As part of SB 1383, green waste haulers must collect food waste, separate it from green waste and then process it. Most green recycling facilities are not equipped to handle food waste. Expect recyclers to fall short when it comes to getting food, food-soiled paper, and other compostables out of the waste stream by the 2025 deadline.
Where Do Green Products Go?
Once a jurisdiction acquires products from a direct service provider and the products meet quality guidelines, how are the products distributed? Distribution is the second element of the SB 1383 compliance process.
Jurisdictions can use the resulting mulch or compost for their own use on public parks, erosion control, community gardens, recreational facilities, medians, and on other government-owned property. They can give away the products to residents during special events throughout the year depending on the quantities available. They can also procure eligible renewable gas or electricity. Other options include selling or giving away the compost to farmers and landscapers.
For jurisdictions that must distribute tens of thousands of tons of organic products each year, figuring out what to do with all that material will be a constant challenge, especially if the jurisdiction lacks an agricultural element or another type of large industry that could use a steady supply of product.
Coordination and tracking of procurement acquisition and product delivery fall on jurisdictions. The numbers must be reported annually to state agencies. Reporting is what determines whether a jurisdiction is penalized.
Direct service providers can help. They can provide an account of all approved compost transactions to show how the jurisdiction complied for reporting purposes. Accurately reporting the procurement figures will be critical as penalties begin to be assessed. The compost provider must do an analysis of the products to determine the percentage of compost in each. Some products may contain only 50 percent of compost, in which case, only 50 percent of the amount of product can be counted toward procurement numbers.
While SB 1383 only affects California jurisdictions, methane gas and its impact on our climate is gaining national attention. Expect other states to implement at least some of the climate change
eduction provisions enacted in SB 1383.
Bill Camarillo is CEO of Agromin, the largest organics recycler in California. He remains passionate about organics recycling and regenerative soil science after nearly 30 years in the industry. As the CEO of Agromin, he plays a key role in pioneering sustainability through organics conversion. Agromin’s over 200 eco-friendly organic soil products, which range across the retail, agriculture, landscape and energy sectors, are the earth-friendly result of more than 1 million tons of organic waste materials converted each year by the company. He can be reached at [email protected].
November 2023 | Waste Advantage Magazine