Saturday, March 4, 2023

Let The Composting Begin

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 6, 2023] ©2023

The new mandatory composting law (SB 1383) that technically went into effect on January 1 of 2022 was one of those all-too-frequent situations when the people who pass laws aren’t even remotely in sync with the people who have to implement them.  In this case Environmental Services a.k.a. the trash pick-up people.    

Let me start by saying that the concept behind SB 1383 is pretty much inarguable. Much of San Diego's waste composition is methane-producing organic material, apparently a far bigger contributor to global warming than carbon dioxide. 

Fortunately, we in my neighborhood still have a little time to get our heads around the new rules since green bin delivery for us isn't slated until June or July.  A number of areas of La Jolla have had greenery bins for yard waste for years but the composting requirements are new to them too.

As I understand it, one's food waste (all those chicken bones, egg shells, coffee grounds, greasy food paper, leftover pizza, etc. etc.) gets layered in with one's yard clippings in the new (or even old) green bins. 

The city will also be delivering counter top kitchen pails to keep your food waste from stinking up your entire kitchen (well, allegedly, anyway) until it is picked up in a new weekly (as opposed to the current bi-weekly) schedule.  Well, I didn't use my Cuisinart that much anyway.

A big issue that I don't think the state has quite worked out is what to do with all the excess food waste that won't fit into your kitchen pail between consumption and weekly trash pickup.  Remember: no plastic bags. It is being recommended that residents wrap their soggy food waste in newspapers or paper grocery bags and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer until trash day.

No offense, but this suggestion was clearly made by a guy.

At the risk of sounding his-ogynistic, if you're going to revamp the kitchen food waste system, bring in the pros. That would be women.  We're the ones who have been largely stuck with this job since figuring out what to do with those mastodon bones after Grok slew the thing and dragged it back to the cave for dinner. 

The idea of keeping a leaky paper bag in my fridge full of wet food waste frankly makes me gag. My suggestion is to put it in a Styrofoam take-out container and hope your teenage will eat it. They're fortunately pretty non-discriminating. 

For those of us who like to plan ahead, the Environmental Services website has an FAQ site from which I presumed I would be able to get answers to two of the most obvious questions. Puzzlingly, neither of those questions were addressed. 

Like lots of La Jollans, I have a really leafy property (lots of drought-resistant shrubs plus grass) that currently fill up eight 32-gallon rubber trash cans (per two-week pickup) so I think we need at least two, if not three, of the 95 gallon bins.  Wet greenery is insanely heavy.

My friends in the equally-leafy Muirlands tell me that back when their green bins were distributed, they merely had to request additional ones, and, of course, pay for them.

So, presumably I, too, can get more than one? Well, maybe, but no longer easily.  The FAQ says it is now a three-step process and once the first two steps have been completed, your request will go through an "eligibility process" to determine if your property warrants an additional container(s).  You will then be contacted by email regarding eligibility status and next steps.  If eligibility is approved, you will receive an email regarding purchase instructions. 

This is the city we're talking about.  I'm thinking six months (years?) minimum.  So what do I do in the meantime? And what if they don't deem that I need three of these containers, or even two? Unlike the blue and black containers which can be purchased at Home Depot, it's not like I can do purchase the green bins elsewhere.  (Buy some blue ones and paint them Environmental Services green?)  

But a far bigger question that should have been first on the FAQ list:  what do I, and every other homeowner who currently has multiple 32-gallon trash cans for their greenery, do with all those containers once they become obsolete?

I sent an email to the ES people and got a sort of answer.

The nice man (yes, it was a guy) replied that “you can either break them down and put the pieces into your recycling container, or you can take them to your closest recycling center.” 

Break them down?  Sorry, Mr. Nice Environmental Services Guy, but you can’t exactly cut these heavy duty trash cans up with kitchen shears.  I queried my local hardware store and they said it would require a honker chain saw, at the very least. 

 But while I'm sorting out getting extra green bins, I am having nightmares of my driveway turning into a mountain of decaying yard waste that won't fit into my single green bin.

Let the saga begin.  


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