- The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has awarded more than $25 million in grants to communities to boost organics recovery and recover edible food.
- The 10 projects receiving the funding are expected to transform almost 500,000 tons of organic material into valuable products such as biofuel and compost. Grants range from approximately $161,000 for West Coast Waste and $217,000 for Recology to multiple $3 and $4 million awards for larger scale projects from the likes of Waste Management and Athens Services.
- Three projects will be to build or expand anaerobic digestion facilities, four involve building or upgrading composting facilities and equipment, two will upgrade equipment at material recovery facilities, and one will construct an "organics blending barn," where various types of waste will be mixed for composting. Two of the composting projects also had received funding in a previous grant cycle.
CalRecycle awarded the funds from California Climate Investments, which is a cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to going toward organics and recycling programs, program funds also are put toward a variety of programs such as boosting renewable energy, zero-emissions vehicles, public transportation, environmental restoration and affordable housing.
CalRecycle considers a number of factors when determining which communities will receive the grants. In addition to examining greenhouse gas reduction and the amount of material diverted from landfill, it also weighs project benefits to low-income and disadvantaged communities.
The agency's director notes that organics are the single largest part of California's waste stream. In addition to simply reducing the amount of food waste sent to landfill, organics programs lessen the amount of methane formed when food waste is compressed in landfills. The agency says methane is more potent than carbon dioxide, and reducing it can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
The organics sector is growing rapidly within the waste and recycling world, and many discussions currently center on infrastructure and investment. CalRecycle's grant program is viewed as a national model for funding organics projects through its cap-and-trade program, but the agency believes much more can be done. It has been in talks with philanthropic organizations about potential partnerships that would further expand funding opportunities for communities', businesses' and nonprofit organizations' organics programs.
Policy is also considered a prime way to expand organics program uptake. California passed a commercial organics diversion mandate more than two years ago, which has prompted waste and recycling companies to move beyond their established business models and to try offering organics services as well.
Other policies reflect California's desire not just to increase composting but to reduce food waste as a whole. For example, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law to standardize food date labeling among manufacturers to reduce the amount of food going to landfill when it's incorrectly believed to be expired, as well as a law to expand the state's liability protections to cover food donations.