Californians will soon have to take an extra step when sorting their trash for collection. Composting programs became effective New Years Day — requiring residents to think a little harder about what goes into the “trash bin.”

Items like egg shells, food waste and food-soiled papers will have to head to the “green waste” bin, along with all landscaping and yard debris, per Senate Bill 1383.

“It’s really not that complicated,” said Alexa Kielty, a specialist in San Francisco’s Department of Environment Zero Waste Program. “Right now people already put a lot of their organics – their food scraps – in their trash bin. What we’re talking about is putting your organics in a separate bin [when taking them out to the curb].”

The decision to separate compostables was put on the ballot as a way to both ease up on landfills and reduce climate warming.

Not much will change, the same recycling, trash and green waste bins will be used. However, Californians will now have to make sure that their food items make it to the green waste bins with all the yard trimmings.

Violating the new mandate could result in fines up to $500 a day for individuals.

While it may seem like a nuisance to keep track of what winds up in your trash bin, the real work will happen once it’s all collected from your home. No glass, aluminum or plastics will be permitted. Once it’s all ground up and ready to go, it’s sold to farmers and vineyards, to make its way back to the earth.

“[The compost] actually has the ability to retain tremendous amounts of moisture,” Kielty said.

“It allows farmers to grow more food than they would otherwise because they don’t have to  grow that food with a petroleum-based fertilizer, they don’t have to use pesticides, they don’t have to use herbicides — so you’re getting healthier, more robust fruits and vegetables by using compost.”

Reducing the amount of organic material that makes it to state landfills also reduces the amount of methane gas in our state, according to CalRecycle, the organization leading the charge for change.

Landfills emit 20 percent of the state’s methane, a climate super pollutant 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the department said. They also emit air pollutants like PM 2.5, which contributes to asthma.

The state’s goal is to reduce organic waste disposal by 7 percent by 2025. This could mean redirecting some “17.7 million tons of organic material” away from trash bins and into green waste bins.

Aside from reducing organic waste, SB 1383 also requires businesses across the state to maximize edible food donations, Kielty said.

“We don’t want to be composting food that could be eaten by people in need,” she said.

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