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EYE ON The ENVIRONMENT – Please use no “biodegradable” plastic for food waste – VCReporter| No “biodegradable” plastic for food waste, please – VC Reporter

EYE ON The ENVIRONMENT – Please use no “biodegradable” plastic for food waste – VCReporter| No “biodegradable” plastic for food waste, please – VC Reporter

David Goldstein

Some people don’t like plastic bags. They don’t want plastic bags for the new food-scrap recycling program. Residents in some parts of the county must keep food scraps separate and away from their yard clippings.

Plastic bags pose the greatest environmental problem due to wind-blown litter. However, bags in this recycling program are less likely to be littered if they are filled with food. Harrison Industries made an exception last week after many people expressed dissatisfaction about the use of plastic bags. Harrison Industries customers in Ventura, Camarillo and Ojai can now use securely fastened paper bags provided that the food is not too moist to soak paper, create holes, or spill out onto the organics cart.

Acceptance of biodegradable materials is another request from some residents in these same areas as well. A package of plastic bags that claim to be biodegradable is on my desk. It was given to my desk by a helpful person with the intention of encouraging degradable plastic bags in both the must-bag and no-bag areas of the county. Some people suggested that degradable plastic could be used to divert from landfills food service items that are not reliably recyclable from curbside recycling bins.

Unfortunately, both local food composting programs have more problems than they can solve with degradable plastic.

Degradable plastic is visually the same as regular plastic. It is important to get rid of yard clippings so that quality compost can be made. Ventura County’s organics recycling programs will not allow plastic made from corn starch to be purchased. All plastic collected from these programs will be meticulously removed and disposed of.

Residents are asked to place food scraps directly in curbside organics carts Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley or Moorpark. This increases the sorting requirements and costs the new program. Residents are asked for food scraps to be placed in bags and then put them into organics bags Oxnard, Ventura and Ojai. These bags can be fragile and could cause ripping or spillage. Excessive food contamination from yard clippings can lead to permit violations at local compost facilities that handle yard clippings and lumber, but are not permitted to receive separated food waste.

Brandon Kaysen was the Venturas recycling manager. He was one of the first to visit new organics processing facilities at both the Gold Coast recycling center, where bags are removed form mixed loads, as well at Agromins at the Simi Valley Landfill where food is removed and transferred to Kern County to be composted. Kaysen says that bags have remained intact despite co-collected materials. According to Todd Vasquez–Housley from Oxnard Environmental Resources Manager Todd Vasquez–Housley this has allowed yard trimmings from residents of Oxnard and Ventura, Fillmore, Fillmore, and Fillmore to be composted locally. Both compost sites are operated by Agromin.

Bags must be strong and durable. A hauler will not allow residents to use bags. Santa Paula and Athens Services Thousand Oaks residents are advised not to bag food scraps. However, some customers insist on bagging. Rondi Guthrie is Athens vice president for government affairs. Residents are asked to use transparent bags. Sun Valley sorters will remove organic trash, but if they see food in a bag, they will open it and throw it away, she explained.

There is another way to bag your trash if you live near a bag-based program. Johnny Johnston, a former Ventura County CEO, contacted me to compare the curbside program with backyard composting. He has been doing this for decades. Participating in the curbside program is more environmentally friendly than home composting. The truck will stop fewer times, which means it uses less fuel and creates less pollution. Home composting is also a better option for refuse rates, as the truck will collect less material, which lowers the program’s costs.

David Goldstein, an Environmental Resource Analyst at the Ventura County Public Works Agency can be reached at 805-658 4312 or david.goldstein@ventura.org.

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