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City Explains New Organic Waste Collection

First published in the April 16 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

The city has begun compliance with a state mandate to collect food and other organic waste in combination with yard trimmings and will begin distributing in-home bins meant to collect the food castaways throughout the day.
As part of the mandate, SB 1383, residents and businesses are required to separately bag these organic wastes and place them in the green bins historically used to dispose of cut grass, trimmed hedges and other yard waste.
From there, waste-processing plant workers will take the bags and separate the organic products accordingly for final disposal.
Food scraps to be collected with yard waste include traditionally compostable items, such as fruit and vegetable leftovers, coffee grounds and filters as well as eggshells. They also include breads and pastries, cheeses, bones, red meat, poultry, seafood, pastas, grains, rice and beans. Non-food products, such as paper bags, cups and napkins, are also to be placed in green bins.
From there, the waste will be used to generate natural gases used in more environmentally friendly power generation. Yazdan Emrani, director of public works, told the City Council this week that the plastic bags help facilitate keeping the scraps separate from typical yard waste, which is usually used for composting or mulching.
“If somebody’s put something that shouldn’t be going into the plastic bag, they can separate that at the processing facility,” he added.
Non-permitted items include bathroom and facial tissues and wipes, compostable cups and utensils, flowerpots, hard-shelled seafoods like clams, mussels and oysters, human and animal waste, produce stickers and tea bags.
Emrani did address an age-old question this week: What to do with pizza boxes? Those, he said, can be cut in half, with the lid portions slated for recycling and the greasy bottom halves designated for the organic waste bin.
During the presentation, Mayor Ardy Kassakhian asked why waste haulers were asking for typical plastic bags, in light of the societal shift away from single-use plastics. Emrani said it was unclear, but anticipated new options will be developed.
“We’ve posed that question to our haulers, as well as to the county landfill at Puente Hills. Currently, this is the standard that they have, unfortunately,” he said. “I fully expect that in the near future, we will be able to move away from these, but we don’t have a timeline for that just yet.”
Kassakhian, along with Councilwoman Paula Devine, wondered whether the city should acquire bulk compostable or biodegradable plastic-comparable bags to distribute to residents, given that waste haulers plan to simply dispose of the plastic bags in typical landfill fashion.
However, as Councilman Dan Brotman pointed out, that would ironically run counter to the state’s goals in enacting SB 1383, which is to curb the organic-waste collection in landfills that experts say contributes to 20% of the nation’s methane emissions.
“It’s a two-edged sword,” he said. “If you use a compostable bag, it’s going to end up going into the landfill and it’s going to biodegrade, yes, but it’s going to produce methane because it’s going to be an anaerobic process, which is the whole point of SB 1383 — to not produce the methane. You can’t win, whatever you do.”
Brotman said he has been reusing the plastic produce bags from grocery shopping, and has heard from others about using the plastic slips that newspapers are often thrown in.
“The best thing, I think, for the community to do is just try to reuse bags that would otherwise get thrown away,” he said.
This prompted a quip from Kassakhian. “So, some of my relatives who have a penchant for hoarding plastic bags, who we’ve discouraged, have now come full circle and they can start hoarding again?” he asked.
The legislation also mandates that apartment landlords who did not previously have green bins on their properties sign up for one with their available waste haulers. Meanwhile, the city will soon distribute smaller containers for residents, which they can keep in kitchens and line with the plastic bags to hold food scraps before they’re taken out to the bins.
For additional information, visit glendalerecycles.com, glendaleca.gov/organics or glendaleca.gov/hauler.

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