First published in the Nov. 12 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The way South Pasadena’s waste will be collected will look a little different starting in the next calendar year.
The city expects to work with Athens Services, a waste collection and recycling company, to meet the requirements of state Senate Bill 1383, following deliberation by the City Council last week on how it will comply with the legislation. SB 1383 was signed into law in 2016 with the goal of reducing short-lived climate pollutants such as methane emissions created by organic waste. The bill mandates that the city provides organics collection services and require residents and businesses to divert organic waste from landfills.
“We are going to do everything that we can to work with the city to help the city comply with SB 1383, no matter where we’re at in negotiations,” Christian Warner, vice president of government affairs at Athens, told the council at its Nov. 3 meeting. “We work with CalRecycle all the time in multiple cities. They know what we do, they know what 1383 programs we’ve already instituted.”
SB 1383 objectives include achieving a 75% reduction in disposal of organic waste by 2025 and, as a commercial incentive, rescue at least 20% of would-be disposed food waste, if edible, for Californians experiencing food insecurity.
The city’s course of action to help reach these goals is lengthy. First, South Pasadena will provide organic waste collection services, which was the focal point of last week’s discussions.
Organic waste includes untreated and unpainted lumber as well as paper and paper products, such as used pizza boxes. Food waste is a subset of organic waste and includes items such as fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, shellfish, bones, rice, beans, pasta, bread, cheese and eggshells.
The council did not pass an ordinance at the meeting, rather opting for staff to bring back a revised ordinance that includes clear definitions of what constitutes food waste, organic waste and waste matter.
Starting Jan. 1, residents will be required to use current barrels to separate food waste and combine it with yard waste. The city may provide colorized bins and/or barrels in the future, depending on the outcome of ongoing discussions between Athens and the Athens ad hoc committee, which is handling the city’s contract negotiations with the firm.
If organic waste and non-organic waste mix, it will result in a violation of the ordinance. The first violation will result in a $100 fine. The second violation will be a $200 fine and the third and subsequent violations will be a $500 fine. Enforcement will be done by the city code enforcement officer.
To prevent fines, Athens has a “lid flip” operation in which workers check to see if there is contamination in the barrels. If there is, they will talk with residents to make sure the mistake does not occur again. Fines are meant for habitual offenders who continuously flout the new law.
“Enforcement is a touchy thing,” Warner said. “We are not going to fine residents $100, $200, $500 because they accidentally may have done something. I already know my sons are going to throw the wrong stuff in the wrong barrels. They’re kids. With the enforcement, the enforcement is really based on what we, meaning the city and the hauler, choose to do.”
There’s also a financial incentive for residents to comply with the new ordinance. As residents put more into the organic waste container, they can reduce the size of their mixed waste bin, which can lead to a reduction in their overall bill.
City staff will bring back a revised ordinance at the Wednesday, Nov. 17, council meeting.