A generation ago, Californians embraced a recycling ethic based on the desire to reduce litter, conserve natural resources and cut our reliance on landfills. Today, a focus on recycling organic materials is central to the California’s efforts to combat climate change.
When landfilled, organic waste—materials such as leaves, grass, agricultural crop residues and food scraps—generates methane, which has a heat-trapping effect about 80 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeline. Reducing methane emissions within 20 years is necessary to avert the worse impacts of climate change.
The good news is that organics are readily recyclable into soil amendments like compost, into mulch and liquid fertilizers, and also into biofuel, a renewable natural gas. This is already happening across California, but because organics is such a large portion of our waste stream (about a third), we need to do more. Food waste alone accounts for about 18 percent of landfill disposal, and we can reduce that percentage by increasing food waste prevention and edible food rescue.
California law (SB 1383, Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) targets a 50 percent reduction in the landfilling of organic waste in 2022. By 2025, that reduction target is 75 percent. While some communities already have curbside organics collection service—including food waste collection—additional communities will implement organics collection programs to meet these goals.
You can help California meet these goals by setting up a home compost system and recycling at home, by using worms to compost, or by joining your neighbors and co-workers in a community composting project. One of the most powerful things you can do to help California adapt to a changing climate is to use compost and mulch produced in California to sequester carbon in the soil.
CalRecycle is helping build at 21st-century organics infrastructure that will provide jobs, protect the environment, and put organic wastes back to work growing food and building healthy soil. You can learn more about CalRecycle's investments in organics management facilities at our Organics Grant Program page.
Healthy soils are a critical part of the long-term sustainability of food production and can contribute to reducing greenhouse gases.