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Encinitas wastes no time in preparing for recycling law

Encinitas is among the first to prepare for a new state law that orders cities to give companies options to recycle organic materials such as food waste.
Encinitas is among the first to prepare for a new state law that orders cities to give companies options to recycle organic materials such as food waste.
( / San Diego Union Tribune file photo by Earnie Grafton)

Encinitas is taking the lead in preparing for a new California recycling law that will soon take effect.

AB 1826 requires that many businesses recycle or compost food scraps and yard trimmings, instead of diverting them to the landfill. Under the law, cities must have a plan by January that provides companies with options for recycling these organic materials.

At the recommendation of Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer and Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear, the Encinitas City Council recently directed the city manager to convene a task force of local stakeholders to tackle AB 1826. The waste removal and recycling company EDCO said that Encinitas is the first city that’s proactively planning for the new law, according to Blakespear.

“We’re really in the vanguard, and I’m proud of us for jumping in to come up with a solution,” Blakespear said this week.

After AB 1826 came to her attention, Blakespear said she started asking around and it was clear Encinitas and other cities didn’t have a plan. She added the law is an opportunity in her mind, because yard trimmings and food scraps can be converted into compost and mulch that’s used locally.

“A solution doesn’t involve us trucking it all to Arizona,” Blakespear said.

As one possible option to meet AB 1826, EDCO could pick up organic materials that businesses have sorted into bins, she said.

The first phase of AB 1826 takes effect next April for businesses that generate more than eight cubic yards of organic materials, like food scraps, per week. EDCO identified 68 local businesses that produce at least eight cubic yards of organic and non-organic waste, though some of these companies may not generate enough organic materials to fall under the new law.

By 2017, the law will cover businesses that generate four cubic yards or more of organic materials per week. The city could be at risk of fines if it doesn’t develop a strategy to comply with AB 1826, according to a council report.

Blakespear said it’s likely that most businesses don’t know about the new law, and so the task force will look at ways to get the word out. It will also find local locations for compost facilities; identify best practices for recycling organic materials; and reach out to neighboring jurisdictions for possible regional solutions.

The task force will be made up of representatives from EDCO, the environmental nonprofit Solana Center, Encinitas Wastewater Facility, San Elijo Wastewater Facility, El Corazon composting facility and possibly additional groups.

Jessica Toth, executive director of Solana Center, wrote in support of AB 1826 in an earlier letter to the Encinitas Advocate:

“By properly disposing of our organic waste, we conserve valuable nutrients, which can become soil amendments for another growing cycle; reduce greenhouse gases released into the environment; and preserve landfill space for items that truly can’t be recycled, reused, or repurposed.”

This week, Toth said task force input will be very valuable in developing a city plan. She also said the Solana Center is encouraging other jurisdictions to address the matter.

“The real problem is how to develop infrastructure and new permitting regulations to manage the food scraps that will be diverted from our landfills,” she said. “There are a limited number of levers available to jurisdictions, once the scope of the problem is understood.”

Solana Center has actively promoted composting organic materials. For one, it holds composting workshops throughout the county.

A date hasn’t been set for the first task force meeting.


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