PALMDALE — The city council on Wednesday approved changes to the city’s organic waste disposal ordinance to meet the requirements of state law.
They also heard about the possibility of sending such waste to a processing plant in Lancaster, which will convert it into a source of natural gas fuel and compost.
Organic matter — which includes food waste, yard waste, and even food packaging like pizza boxes and tea bags — produces methane as it decomposes. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
State law, Senate Bill 1383, was passed in 2016 to address the issue of methane and other pollutants released by organic waste in landfills. It aims to reduce organic waste by 50% by 2020 and by 75% by 2025.
According to CalRecycle, landfills release 20% of the state’s methane pollution, and organic waste, such as leftover food, yard waste, and paper, accounts for half of what goes into California landfills.
Similar to separating recyclables, separating organic waste from other waste is intended to keep it out of landfills.
The city previously revised its ordinance to meet the requirements of SB1383, but CalRecycle later released its own model ordinance.
“The regulation pattern didn’t look very similar to what we had,” said Ben Lucha, director of environmental resources.
City officials have been informed by CalRecycle that the existing ordinance is not sufficient. Failure to make the recommended changes could prevent the city from qualifying for grant funding to implement the new rules and could result in fines of up to $10,000 a day, he said.
“I think it’s important that we stick to this, but I also want to say that maybe we can be leaders in finding ways to ensure our residents don’t waste food,” Councilor Laura Bettencourt said, proposing programs that help would make it easier for residents to donate food that would otherwise go to waste.
State regulations have food save requirements, Lucha said, and the city is working extensively with South Antelope Valley Emergency Services (SAVES) and working on a regional approach to these types of edible food diversion programs.
To process the collected organic waste, the city is exploring the possibility of entering into an agreement with Hitachi Zosen INOVA, which is building a processing plant at the Lancaster Landfill.
This plant would use anaerobic digestion to process the waste, resulting in compost and clean renewable natural gas or hydrogen that can be used as fuel for various purposes.
“It’s amazing that this process actually takes trash and turns it into fuel,” said Mayor Pro Tem Richard Loa.
The Council approved the completion of a feasibility study for the collaboration with the Lancaster processing facility.