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Food waste from two San Diego County cities, now becoming compost

Chula Vista and Carlsbad have officially updated their composting efforts in a bid to meet new state requirements to keep food waste out of landfills.

Republic Services began picking up food waste Friday, July 1.

The new rules were put in place in January when the state’s Senate Bill 1383 took effect.

That bill is part of an effort to reduce short term climate pollutants like methane, which are generated in landfills when organic material decomposes.

While the law took effect six months ago, state officials have given municipalities a year to comply with the rules. Enforcement will not happen until January 2023.

As cities adapt, so too will residents.

In Chula Vista and Carlsbad, people living in single family homes will have to put their household organic waste in kitchen caddies, plastic containers with lids, that then get emptied into the green waste bin for collection.

“It’s going to take time for residents to get on board and start participating, using those kitchen caddies and getting food waste into the container,” said Chris Seney, Republic Services director of Organics Operations.

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KPBS / Erik Anderson

Republic Service’s Chris Seney handles the commercial grade mulch created at a South County landfill on Jul 5, 2022.

The private waste hauler runs the Otay Landfill in Chula Vista, and the company built a solar powered composting facility that is expected to handle 200 tons of green and organic waste a day.

“We’re receiving the green waste,” Seney said. “We’re grinding the green waste to about a four or five inch minus product. We’re adding water, getting it to the 50% to 60% moisture and then it goes to our compost facility.”

Each year, the private company will turn 60,000 tons of green waste into 40,000 tons of commercial mulch.

It takes about eight weeks of composting for the waste to become mulch.

Carlsbad and Chula Vista are required to buy back some of the resulting product. The rest will be sold commercially.

The buyback provision in the legislation is part of the state plan to create a market for the end product.