Let Inga Tell You: Ready or not, it’s time to recycle food waste

green recycling bins

The state’s new mandatory organic waste recycling law (Senate Bill 1383) that technically went into effect Jan. 1, 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, the San Diego Environmental Services Department, aka the trash pickup 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 bins for yard waste for years, but the organics recycling requirements will be new to them, too.

As I understand it, one’s food waste (all those chicken wings, 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 also will be delivering counter kitchen pails to keep your food waste from stinking up your kitchen (allegedly anyway) until it is picked up in a new weekly (as opposed to the current biweekly) 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 that 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 their 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 grocery bag in my fridge full of wet food waste frankly makes me gag. My suggestion is to put it in a takeout container and hope your teenager 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 was addressed.

Like lots of La Jollans, I have a really leafy property (lots of drought-resistant shrubs plus grass) that currently fills eight 32-gallon rubber trash cans (per two-week pickup), so I think we need at least two, if not three, of the new 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’s now a three-step process, and once the first two steps have been completed your request will go through an “eligibility process” to determine whether your property supports an additional container(s). You will be contacted by email regarding eligibility status and next steps. If eligibility is approved, you will receive an email with purchase instructions.

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 The Home Depot, it’s not like I can go buy them elsewhere. (Buy some blue ones and spray-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 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.”

Sorry, Mr. Nice Environmental Services Guy, but you can’t exactly cut up these heavy-duty trash cans with kitchen shears. It would require a honker chain saw, at the very least.

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

Let the saga begin.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at ◆