Oceanside teams up with city restaurants to find best practices to reduce organic food waste

OCEANSIDE — A state mandate to reduce organic food waste from landfills went into effect in April. To help the city fulfill regulations, Oceanside launched a food waste pilot study this month with seven of the city’s approximately 200 restaurants.

The study will determine a baseline of restaurant food waste and best practices to further reduce waste.

Pioneering the city’s efforts are Barrel Republic, In-N-Out Burger, Local Tap House & Kitchen, Mission Marketplace, The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza, The Whet Noodle, and Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub.

Chef Steven Reyna prepares a pizza at Privateer Coal Fire Pizza. The restaurant is one of seven in the city that will now separate and compost its food waste. Photo by Promise Yee

Chef Steven Reyna prepares a pizza at Privateer Coal Fire Pizza. The restaurant is one of seven in the city that will now separate and compost its food waste. Photo by Promise Yee

The restaurants will work with the city to isolate food waste, and keep data on it. Then collected food waste will be composted at the El Corazon Compost Facility.

Colleen Foster, city solid waste and recycling senior management analyst, said the pilot study purposely includes restaurants of different sizes and cooking practices.

“The pilot list includes a variety of food serving establishments from farm to table, to large scale, quality fast food,” Foster said.

The study will provide a snapshot of the amount and types of food waste produced by different food generators.

That information will help determine best practices for a citywide large scale organics program, which will include education, tools and collection services.

The pilot study that launched on Sept. 1, takes a first look at food waste and disposal practices.

Each participating restaurant is provided training, checklists and labeled containers that designate where waste ends up, whether in the landfill, recycling facility, or organics composting site.

The organics stream is further separated into a pre-consumer stream, such as preparation food scraps, and post-consumer stream, like plate waste.

Charlie Anderson, co-owner of The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza, said first meetings with the city on mandates for green waste recycling were eye-opening.

Anderson said the pilot study asks the restaurant to separate pre and post-consumer food waste into different color trash bags. He added it’s a simple process, but does require staff training.

“The goal is to get a sampling of several restaurants total pre and post green waste, so they can determine the volume of waste to find the correct facility to host recycling it,” Anderson said.

The study will document restaurant food waste for 30 days.

“For one month restaurant staff will separate all waste streams,” Foster said. “City staff will conduct two audits a week on the progress of the program.”

During the month-long pilot study restaurant managers will give weekly reports on diversion results, issues, contamination and other observations.

Anderson said he has already observed that most of the food waste from his restaurant is post-consumer.

City staff will collect, analyze and facilitate composting food waste weekly.

After the 30 days city staff will develop a final report to share with restaurants. It will include best practices the restaurant uses, and how the eatery can improve its efforts to reduce food waste.

Anderson said his entire staff will hear the evaluation, so the restaurant can address food waste reduction as a team.

AB 1826 requires all food waste generators to reduce food waste.

“This includes schools, large restaurants, food manufacturing companies, residential living facilities and most fast food establishments,” Foster said.

Foster said most grocery stores are already taking steps to divert food waste through food donation programs and source reduction practices.

“We are continuing to work with local grocers and other food waste generators to reduce their food waste first and foremost, and to maximize the potential to donate excess food to people in need,” Foster said.

The city also has plans to build a food recovery kitchen at El Corazon Senior Center, which

will provide the capability to process, store and redirect food waste.

Opportunities to expand food donation collection systems will be looked at as well. This includes developing strategies to make it easier for stores, farms and catered events to donate excess food.

This year the state focus is on food waste reduction by large scale generators. By 2020 the mandate will extend to small scale generators.

Oceanside has about 80 large scale food waste generators, which must comply this year.

Additionally there are 200 medium, and 750 small food waste generators in the city.

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