On far right Luke Girling, owner of Cyclops Farm, shares sustainable farm practices. Discussions named ways businesses repurpose unsold food and compost uneatable organic waste. Next steps are to organize citywide services. Photo by Promise Yee
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Stakeholder meeting looks to meet AB 1826 requirements to divert organic waste

OCEANSIDE — The view of green planted fields and the ocean was beautiful and the food was delicious, as farmers, chefs and recycling experts met for a potluck dinner and discussion at Cyclops Farm on Monday to brainstorm ways to meet the AB 1826 mandate.

State regulations call on restaurants and grocery stores to divert methane producing organic waste from landfills by finding other uses for it.

Colleen Foster, city solid waste and recycling management analyst, said she organized the stakeholder meeting because of the numerous calls she has received about the new state mandate.

As of April cities must provide opportunities for large-scale organic waste generators to divert waste, which includes large grocery stores and restaurants. In January 2017 the requirement extends to midsize organic waste generators.

In August 2017 cities must report their education and compliance efforts to the state.

By 2025 all organic waste will be ban from landfills.

“There’s no other choice (but to divert organic waste),” Foster said.

On Monday the city solid waste and recycling green team led discussions by asking stakeholders to look at organic waste they generate and how they dispose of it.

Discussions shared ways to repurpose unsold food for use in soup kitchens and senior meal programs, and processes to compost uneatable organic waste.

Representatives of nonprofit soup kitchens and the local composting facility shared their successes. It was mentioned that best practices often save businesses money as well.

Those present agreed that organization and infrastructure is needed to coordinate large scale, on demand citywide services.

Foster said the state is aware that city and regional facilities and systems to accomplish waste diversion are not in place. She added the bill is driving local solutions.

Monday night discussions brought up that hauling services to the local El Corazon Compost Facility need the collaboration of the city contracted trash hauler, and should be the last step in the waste diversion process.

Future city plans are to set up a third organic waste bin and cart uneatable organics to the composting facility. Arrangements to establish citywide services are about two years away.

Other efforts however, are already underway.

As a follow up to meeting discussions, restaurant owners present were asked to set up a trash evaluation with the city. During the evaluation solid waste and recycling staff will educate the owner and employees on best practices, and provide a trial organic waste bin to test future practices.

Then the city green team will follow up and monitors trash disposal through restaurant records, drop in visits, and color-coded trash bags for recyclables and organic waste.

Information gathered will help city staff coach restaurants to best organic waste practices, and fine tune citywide efforts.

“It’s not just about an organic bin, we’ll monitor the amount of food waste for six months and help,” Foster said.

A sign up sheet for restaurant evaluations, and future monthly meetings on efforts was established to keep the night’s momentum moving forward.