In 2022, the State of California’s SB 1383 law came into effect, providing that every jurisdiction provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses. But how is this waste collected and can they use compostable bags?
California’s State regulations do allow for compostable bags to hold organic materials such as food scraps, paper, leaves, green material and the like, provided they adhere to certain standards. The laws also extend to any compostable plastic bags NOT adhering to these standards to be banned from sale or shipping to the State.
What Are Compostable Bags?
Compostable plastic is an alternative to the typical toxic plastic most popular items such as plastic bags have been made from for decades. A ‘next-generation’ plastic, compostable plastic is made from renewable materials that will break down when they start to compost.
While a typical plastic bag may take thousands of years to break down, compostable plastic can be broken down in an industrial composter. The materials that make up the plastic may vary, but include renewable materials such as corn, soy protein, potato, tapioca starches, lactic acid and cellulose. These materials mean that compostable plastics are non-toxic and can decompose when composted.
What Are The Benefits Of Composting?
The benefits of composting plastic bags are many, and the proper disposal of compostable items results in reduction of waste, lower environmental footprint and nutrient-dense fertilizer.
Some of the benefits include:
- Reduces contributions to landfill.
- Does not leach or leave behind toxic chemicals.
- Less greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing.
- Lower water and energy consumption during manufacturing.
- Safe for humans, animals, wildlife and the environment.
- Provide great fertilizer when composted correctly.
You can dispose of your compostable plastics with other compostable or organic materials in a home composter, industrial composting facility or a worm farm. In California, you can place them all in your green bin for the City to take to an industrial composter.
What Is Certification?
There are many different ways and companies to certify compostable bags. In California, compostable bags must adhere to ASTM Standard and/or Vincotte OK Compost HOME certification and are the only applicable certifications admitted into the State.
There are five common certifications across several countries including the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The most common are Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI, USA), Australasian Bioplastics Association (ABA, Australia), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM, USA), International Organization for Standardization (ISO, global) and European Bioplastics (eV, Berlin).
A certification for compostable plastic essentially means that it is non-toxic and can be broken down in a composting environment. Companies providing compostable plastics can have one or several of these certifications, meaning a third-party has verified their product as compostable and non-toxic for soil.
How Are California Reducing Food Waste And Encouraging Compostable Bags?
California’s new laws aim to reduce food waste and encourage composting. Organic waste can be placed into the green bins that the City supplies. Organic waste that can be composted includes:
- Food scraps
- Green materials
- Landscape and pruning waste
- Organic textiles and carpets
- Tea bags or coffee grounds
- Paper products
- Printing and writing paper
- Compostable plastic.
Jurisdictions in California can select from a variety of organic waste collection services which will produce clean, organic feedstock that can be recycled into compost, electricity, paper, renewable gas. The onus is on the City to educate residents and businesses to understand the process and benefits.
Where Can You Dispose Of Compostable Bags in California?
As with all compostable plastics, you can dispose of them in several ways:
- Industrial composting facility
- Home composter
- Worm farm.
In California, if you choose to not compost at home, you can drop off for collection at a composting facility. You can search in your local area for a collection coordinator or collection point: https://www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/LGCentral/Contacts
You can drop off at your local waste transfer station or if you have a green cart, you can place compostable materials in there for collection. These carts can be filled with food scraps, soiled paper, plants, items labelled compostable and displaying a green or brown stripe.
If you’re unsure, you can contact your local collection coordinator or waste transfer station.