First published in the Feb. 4 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
South Pasadena has adopted another environmentally friendly ordinance, this one aimed at cutting down on organic waste disposal. But for residents, sorting out how to sort the trash is an early challenge this ordinance presents.
Senate Bill 1383, passed in 2016, aims to reduce greenhouse gas methane in California by diverting the amount of organic waste from landfills. SB 1383 has an ambitious goal of reducing 2014’s statewide organics waste disposal by 75% by 2025.
Jan. 1 was the first day South Pasadena residents in single-family homes were required to put food scraps and food-soiled paper into their yard waste container as opposed to the trash container, as previously was the method.
“This is a big transition for many and we understand that it will take some time to readjust,” the city of South Pasadena told The Review, via email. “City staff and Athens are making every effort to assist the community with this change.”
The term “organic waste” encompasses more than just food. Landscape and pruning waste, lumber, manure, and printing and writing paper also qualify.
According to Athens Services’ website, about 30% of what’s in landfills are these recoverable organics. Decomposing organics emit 20% of the state’s methane.
South Pas residents can visit southpasadenaca.gov/organicsrecycling or athensservices.com/food for a list of organic waste that can be put in yard waste containers.
There’s currently no punishment for incorrectly sorting organic waste, but the city has plans to issue citations starting in 2024. To help residents get the hang of the new system, Athens will be opening lids of trash containers and checking what’s inside.
“As part of the contamination monitoring,” the city said, “Athens Services will periodically conduct ‘lid flips’ where Athens staff will physically ‘flip’ your trash lids to see if they can spot any type of waste that doesn’t belong in that particular trash container. For now, this monitoring will be conducted for operational purposes.”
Residents can continue to use their current waste containers for the time being. Mixed waste containers can be used the same as they have been in the past, but yard waste containers will now be home to organic waste as well.
The new waste routine aligns with the city’s climate action plan, and Athens supports that, as mentioned at the South Pasadena City Council’s Nov. 3 meeting.
“It increases the diversion for the city,” Christian Warner, vice president of government affairs at Athens, said. “The more organics, the more we keep out of the landfill, which means higher diversion for South Pasadena. … Everything that everybody does is going to count.”