October 16, 2021
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Sebastopol working with Zero Waste Sonoma

By: Brandon McCapes
March 19, 2021

The City of Sebastopol will be working with Zero Waste Sonoma and Recology to meet state requirements that will limit methane emissions from organic waste while increasing recovery of edible food from grocery stores and similar businesses in an effort to fight food insecurity.

Sebastopol council members heard a presentation from Zero Waste Sonoma on how regional agencies will work with the city to meet the requirements of California SB 1383 at their regular meeting March 16.

SB 1383, passed in 2016, requires localities work towards a 50-percent reduction in organic waste—which includes yard waste and food waste—by Jan. 1, 2020 and a 75-percent reduction by 2025, according to the presentation.

In order to help reduce food insecurity, from which one out of eight total Californians and one in five children in California suffer, the law also requires at least 20 percent of currently disposed of edible food be recovered for human consumption.

Lawmakers required an extended “rulemaking period” which eclipsed the initial deadline, so organizations have had to wait until Dec. 2020 to begin planning.

“It creates a lot of obligations for cities like ours,” Council Member Diana Rich said. “The goals are excellent: reduce the methane emissions from organic materials by reducing organics in our landfill and by encouraging increased edible food recovery. That all sounds great, but there’s a lot that has to happen for it to work.”

“The obligations are pretty substantial with edible food recovery—providing information and education and requiring that the [waste] generators in our community, probably likely to be grocery stores, donate edible foods. There is an enforcement piece that the city will have to take responsibility for,” Rich said.

The City of Sebastopol will work with Zero Waste Sonoma in order to meet the waste reduction emissions and comply with state law. Recology, which provides waste disposal services in Sebastopol, will also play a major role.

Zero Waste Sonoma, also known as the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, was created in 1992 by the County of Sonoma and the nine Sonoma County cities “to help manage the region’s waste management programs and fulfill sate reporting requirements,” according to the staff report.

Zero Waste Sonoma Executive Director Leslie Lukacs who gave the presentation, said, “This is the most significant waste reduction mandate adopted in California in the last 30 years. It’s one of California’s largest strategies to combat climate change”

Staff at Zero Waste Sonoma have been working with local jurisdictions over the past year to establish a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the respective roles of the agency and localities it works with in relation to SB 1383.

Along with Recology, Zero Waste Sonoma will work to meet the following goals: provide organic collection services to all residents and businesses; establish edible food recovery program, which may be accomplished with a two-year grant already applied for; conduct annual education and outreach to community; secure access to recycling and edible food recovery capacity; monitor compliance and conduct enforcement; and procure recyclable and recovered organic products.

Businesses required to comply are divided into two tiers. Tier one includes supermarkets with gross annual sales of $2 million or more, or that occupy more than 10,000 square feet, as well as food service providers, food distributors and wholesale food vendors. Tier two includes restaurants with 250 or more seats or that occupy more than 5,000 square feet, large hotels, venues and health facilities, and events that serve an average of more than 2,000 individuals per day of operation.

Tier one must donate excess edible food and comply with record keeping requirements by Jan. 1, 2022; tier two must do so by Jan. 1, 2024.

Cities, which will be responsible for enforcement within their jurisdictions, will be required to inspect businesses for compliance within one year of issuing business licenses, while inspecting 20 percent of businesses meeting the regulation requirements each year. The enforcement process begins Jan. 2024 and will include progressive action and monetary penalties.

The cost of the program to the city is still being estimated.