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Santa Monica Prepares to Launch Mandatory Organics Recycling

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October 20, 2021 -- Santa Monica residents and businesses will soon need to sort organic waste from their garbage, while large food-related businesses will also need to recover and donate edible leftovers.

The new requirements are part of a "Mandatory Recycling Ordinance" the City Council is expected to approve Tuesday in order to comply with a 2016 State law that requires jurisdictions to approve measures to recycle organics.

The proposed ordinance "would dramatically increase recycling rates of food and green waste materials normally destined for the landfill," according to City staff.

The waste would be recycled as compost, used to power vehicles, produce electricity and feed the hungry, staff said.

The proposed ordinance is expected to "help the City reach its 2030 zero waste goal of reducing the per capita landfill disposal rate to 1.1 pounds of landfilled waste per person per day," according to staff.

Under the proposed ordinance, all residents and businesses must maintain an additional green-colored container for organics recycling, staff said. The container lid must remain closed when not in use.

The organics must be separated from the contents that go into the black refuse container or blue container for non-organic recyclables.

“Multi-family residential dwellings of five or more units and commercial generators shall periodically inspect blue, green, and black containers for contamination," according to staff.

"If containers are contaminated, generators must correct the issue and educate their employees on the importance of proper waste sorting to prevent contamination."

The ordinance also would establish an "Edible Food Recovery Program" that requires certain food-related businesses to "recover edible food leftovers," package them for reuse and donate them to a food bank.

Under the program, supermarkets with revenues of $2 million or more, grocery stores that are 10,000 square feet or larger, wholesale food markets and food service distributors must comply by January 1.

Restaurants that are 5,000 square feet or larger or have a minimum seating capacity of 250, hotels with a minimum of 200 rooms and an onsite food facility, health facilities with a minimum of 100 beds and onsite food services and large event venues must comply by January 1, 2024.

Establishments covered under the proposed ordinance must "arrange to recover the maximum amount of edible food that otherwise would be disposed" and "contract with food recovery organizations or services" to collect the food.

The proposed ordinance requires the establishments to "maintain specific records and make them available to the City for annual reporting purposes."

It also allows City enforcers to "access the premises and review records."

"Food recovery organizations or services that enter into agreements with generators would be required to report annual edible food collection data to the City and participate in capacity planning," staff said.

"The City would review and verify edible food recovery legal agreements between generators and recovery organizations on an annual basis."

The City launched an outreach program last December that informed businesses and multi-family property owners without green organics containers, according to staff.

Homeowners and business owners were also informed of the requirements of the proposed ordinance.

"While not in the proposed organics ordinance, the City is required to annually educate all generators, including commercial edible food generators, about organics recycling requirements and would continue updating and distributing outreach materials as needed," staff said.

Adopted in 2016 -- SB 1383 -- is "considered to be the most significant waste reduction mandate to be adopted in California in the last 30 years," staff said.

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