How to compost food scraps, organic waste for your garden plants after California's new law
Q. I read that there is a new law that requires all food waste to be composted in Redding. I was visiting my daughter and her family in Davis and they have a separate container for their food waste. I have not heard anything about this here. How can I comply with this new law?
A: The “law” you are referring to is SB 1383. The goal of this mandate is to divert food waste from the landfill. About 40% of all the waste that goes into the landfill is food waste.
Even though the mandate went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, it’s being phased in over the next two years, so some parts of California will not see a program to recycle food waste in place until next year.
My advice is to start composting your own food scraps and other organic waste, if you have the space. This allows you to divert your waste and your yard will benefit from the wonderful compost you will make. If you have limited space, try vermicomposting with worms, the topic of next week’s column.
An easy, fast and inexpensive composting method is to use chicken or field fence wire to create two round tubes three feet in diameter. Locate them in an out of the way, location near a water source as you will need to add water to the pile.
Next, start filling the first wire round with “browns” — carbon-rich materials such as shredded paper, and “greens” — nitrogen-rich materials, such food waste. Alternate them in layers like a cake. You can do this overtime by collecting your food waste in the kitchen and then covering it with a layer of “browns” each time you add “greens” to the pile. The “browns” layer should be a bit thicker than the “greens” layer.
Once the pile is at least three feet tall, you can start mixing and wetting. When correctly moistened, the materials should feel like a damp sponge. Keep the pile moist and mix once per week. With this composting method you should have compost in three to four weeks that you can use in your garden or landscape.
While the first compost pile is composting, you can start filling the next wire round.
If you don't have room for this type of compost pile you can purchase a compost bin. The best ones are the ones you can turn. Make sure to place it in the shade as it can get too hot in the sun and kill off the bacteria needed to breakdown the organic material.
Here are some examples of compostable materials. For fastest composting results, materials should be chopped or shredded.
- Greens (nitrogen-containing material): Grass and shrub clippings — chopped small, wilted flowers, raw fruit and vegetable trimmings, hair, coffee grounds, wet tea bags, manures and food scraps that don't include meat or dairy.
- Browns (carbon-containing materials): Dry leaves, straw, sawdust, crushed egg shells, shredded paper, paper towels, compostable containers, coffee filters and dried tea bags.
Don't compost dairy or greasy foods, dirt, ashes, fish, animal products and diseased plants. These can be buried if you have yard space. Soil organisms will break them down within a couple of months.
Once an organic waste program is implemented in your area you should get more guidance as to what to do with this type of waste in your organic recycle bin.
Dig deeper:Everything you want to know about California's food composting law here in the North State
To learn more about this state mandate, listen to the city of Redding's podcast “Let’s talk (Organic) Trash” at bit.ly/3PziqEW.
The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 530-242-2219 or email email@example.com. The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners' questions using information based on scientific research.