SB 1383: The Implications on CA Food Services Operators

California SB 1383 compliance is just one of a number of priorities corporate food service and facilities managers are juggling while gearing up for the big back-to-work push, but, because non-compliance penalties will begin January 1, 2022, it’s critical to understand key provisions ASAP.  The key points are outlined below and include:

  • Methane gas reduction targets
  • Edible food recovery provisions
  • Recycling requirements
  • Penalties
  • Local Impact
  • Next steps for managing waste

So, what is SB 1383 anyway?

Former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1383 into law back in September of 2016. The bill, officially the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCP) Reduction Act, is designed to reduce methane emissions in the state by reducing the amount of organic waste sent to landfills by 50% by 2020 and by 75% by 2025 in comparison with 2014 levels. 

Why Does Reducing Methane Gas Matter?

Organic waste – think food scraps and yard trimmings – gives off methane when it decomposes in a standard landfill, rather than breaking down in a compost facility. Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, 84 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. At the time of the bill’s writing, it was estimated that 20% of the state’s methane emissions were caused by organic waste in landfills.

Edible Food Recovery Provisions

The bill also requires that by 2025, 20% of edible food currently sent to landfills be recovered for consumption, as well as requiring communities to use the output of these programs including renewable energy, compost and mulch. Edible food recovery requirements are being implemented in two phases, with most food service operations falling into the Tier 2 category. For those businesses—restaurants, hotels, and onsite food service operations—compliance is required as of January 1, 2024.

Recycling Requirements

SB 1383 expands on the goals established by two other key California laws:

  • AB 341: Mandatory Commercial Recycling, which in 2011 established the target of 75% recycling (or composting) of all solid waste by 2020, and
  • AB 1826, passed in 2014, that requires businesses to recycle (compost) their organic waste.

Upcoming Penalties

The law grants CalRecycle the regulatory authority to define and implement the specific programs to achieve the goals set out in the bill. CalRecycle, or the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, is the agency that handles implementation and monitoring of all the state’s waste management programs. It’s part of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency.

A key piece of CalRecycle’s authority is that on January 1, 2022, their enforcement provisions, including penalties for noncompliance, take effect. The penalties are unique to SB 1383; financial penalties had not been included in AB 341 or AB 1826.

Impact: What This Means At the Local Level – and For Your Business

CalRecycle implements their targets through each local government and their contracted waste hauler(s), like Recology in San Francisco and San Mateo county or Specialty Solid Waste & Recycling in Sunnyvale. These haulers are required to implement protocols, including waste audits, to regularly check for contamination in the three collection bins (waste, recycling, compost) – in other words, are the items that are placed in each bin actually ending up in the correct bin?

We’re already seeing these audits trickle down to business customers, who are being notified by their waste removal company that their waste streams are out of compliance, and they will be fined if they can’t comply. That’s led to businesses hiring staff to sort trash. Talk about a dirty job!

Next Steps: Managing Waste

Many businesses who are providing meals for their employees have shifted to compostable wares (single use plates for communal dining or containers for employees eating at their desks or remotely) to reduce their trash. But this move makes sorting the waste particularly tricky, since different haulers and locales have different rules for accepting wares for composting. And those rules are likely different than the rules your employees are following at home. Even with new signage and education efforts, counting on changing employee habits to solve the problem is pretty unlikely.

Remember AB 341’s target of 75% reduction of solid waste? That means that getting the equation right isn’t just a matter of sorting the trash properly. Reducing trash (in the gray or black bin) is also a must. So if you’re in a city or county that doesn’t accept compostable foodware, using them on your campus will actually make the issue worse.

During our June webinar on how reusable foodware containers can simplify food services operations, Mary Lindemuth, Environmental Program Specialist for the City of Sunnyvale, spoke about the importance of SB 1383 compliance.

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Your best bet to comply with SB 1383 and avoid paying fines and penalties is making the switch to reusable foodware, whether it’s plates and utensils or takeaway containers.

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