California Composting Legislation Leads to Growth in the Industry

Date: April 5, 2024

Source: News Room

A year after California's law mandating organics recycling went into effect, the initial results indicate high landfill diversion rates and significant market growth. Rachel Wagoner, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), praised the implementation of SB 1383, noting the commitment of local government and private partners in overcoming challenges. So far, 75% of California jurisdictions have reported residential organic collection, and early reports show a decrease in organics in landfills. SB 1383 aims to divert and redistribute 20% of still-edible food by 2025, and approximately 117,000 tons were diverted in the first part of 2022, putting the state on track to meet this target early. However, Wagoner acknowledged that there is still much work to be done, including building infrastructure and expanding collections. Since organics represent such a large percentage of waste generated, the need for composting infrastructure is high, which createsthe potential for roadblocks in the pursuit of the law's goals.

On the ground, composting facilities are experiencing high demand, with many operating at full capacity and developing additional infrastructure. However, challenges include the slow permitting process in California and finding markets for the increased volume of compost generated. Neil Edgar, executive director of the California Compost Coalition, emphasized the importance of collection programs for building infrastructure, as companies are unlikely to invest without guaranteed feedstock contracts. Despite these hurdles, the compost market in California is thriving, driven by the law and the agricultural sector's interest in using compost to enrich soil and reduce the need for pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. CalRecycle's recent announcement of $130 million in grants for organics infrastructure is expected to further boost the state's composting capacity. Time will tell if the state will be able to meet its goals by 2025, but the results so far are promising, and this policy may eventually serve as a blueprint for other governments to follow.

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