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Landfill waste produces a number of gases that can impair human health, including ammonia, sulfide, methane and carbon dioxide. While most landfills have systems in place to capture landfill gases, significant amounts continue to escape in the atmosphere. These gases, especially methane and carbon dioxide, also trap heat and contribute to local, state, and national problems associated with climate change. California disposes of approximately 30 million tons of waste in landfills each year, of which more than 30 percent could be used for compost or mulch. Mandatory recycling of organic waste is the next step toward achieving California’s aggressive recycling and greenhouse gas emission goals.
The City of South Pasadena, in conjunction with its trash hauler, Athens Services, has established an organic waste recycling program in compliance with Assembly Bill 1826 (AB 1826), which calls for mandatory commercial and multifamily organics recycling to be phased in starting April 1, 2016. This law requires local jurisdictions across the state to implement an organic waste recycling program to divert organic waste generated by businesses, and multifamily residential dwellings that consist of five or more units. At this time, Athens Services collects the organic waste and takes it to a composting facility called American Organics, where it is then returned to the community. The City will continue to research other methods of recycling its organic waste.
Organic Waste Defined
Organic waste, as defined in AB1826, means food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste. These categories represent the largest subsets of organic waste that is currently disposed of in California.
This law phases in the mandatory recycling of commercial organics over time, with the minimum threshold of organic waste generation decreasing over time. The organic recycling mandates are triggered by timelines and quantities. Here are the start dates:
April 1, 2016 - generators of 8 cubic yards or more of organic waste per week
January 1, 2017 – generators of 4 cubic yards or more of organic waste per week
January 1, 2019 - generators of 4 cubic yards or more of solid waste per week
AB 1826 requires all businesses and multifamily dwellings (of 5 units or more) that generate four (4) or more cubic yards of solid waste per week (refuse, recyclables and organic waste, including landscape and pruning waste hauled away by gardeners) to recycle organic waste.
These businesses can meet the mandatory requirements through any of the following:
Source separate organic waste and arrange for collection with Athens Services.
Recycle organics onsite or self-haul for recycling.
Sell or donate recyclable organic waste.
To subscribe to Athens Services’ organic waste collection service, call: (888) 336-6100.
Per AB 1826, jurisdictions can exempt businesses and multifamily complexes on a case-by-case basis from the requirements of the law if commercial customers (businesses and multi-family dwellings with 5 units or more) meet any of the following criteria:
Lack of sufficient space to provide additional organic material recycling bins
Existing business actions (such as food donation) that result in the recycling of a significant portion of its organic waste
The business generates less than one-half (0.5) of a cubic yard of organic waste per week
Extraordinary and unforeseen events (limited-term exemptions)
An Athens representative will conduct a site visit and perform a waste assessment to determine service levels and any potential exemptions.
Photographs will be taken of the customer location that illustrates the need for an exemption.
After the site visit with the customer, the Athens representative will include the reason for the exemption as part of their report, along with any supporting documentation.
If approved, a letter of exemption will be issued to the customer.
Athens Services will review the applicant’s subscription level annually to determine if the applicant continues to qualify for the exemption. All photo documentation and documents will be maintained by Athens Services with the customer files.