Logistics of food waste recycling gets in the way

Some city officials are salivating at the possibility of a food waste diversion plan, but it's not on the table — yet.

Under the terms of a new contract approved at the July 16 council meeting, Waste Management is obligated to come up with a plan to divert restaurant food waste from the landfill, but only if requested by the city and at an acceptable cost.

"This is a very, very complicated issue," said consultant Richard Tagore-Irwin, who assisted the city in negotiating the new contract.

Waste Management has advised the city that a food waste diversion program is not currently viable due to the lack of a processing facility to support it.

Protein waste is the problem. Meat, fish and dairy items must be taken to special facilities. Only five such facilities exist in Southern California, none of them in Orange County.

"As we speak, Los Angeles County has agreed to accept some of the waste," Tagore-Irwin said.

That raises the specter of enlarging the city's carbon footprint to deliver the food waste, as well as the cost of fuel.

The diversion program also requires space at the site.

"Some of our restaurants have no space for grease traps — how will there be room for recycling," asked Councilwoman Toni Iseman.

City Manager John Pietig said space is a major problem, especially in older cites.

"Both the city and Waste Management are working on it," Pietig said.

One solution he offered was sharing the recycling containers, depending on whether neighboring eateries get along.

Waste Management is not obligated to implement food waste collection services for single family dwellings until the city approves a Waste Management proposal and agrees on the costs.

Food waste diversion is one of the sustainability programs in the new contract. Other hard-to-recycle materials include electronic- and toxic-waste.

The new contract calls for universal access to recycling. That means that recycling will be made available to every Waste Management account, commercial or residential, which helps meet the city's goal to be a leader for environmental programs.


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