Many people sent me emails with questions and suggestions in response to last week’s column about curbside residential food scrap recycling in Ventura County. These are the ones that most readers will find relevant.
Kitchen garbage disposals
Joe Hammock, Simi Valley, asked how kitchen garbage disposals would fit into the new law. Only sewage sludge from receiving wastewater treatment facilities can be considered compostable as food disposal down sinks is considered compliance with the mandatory organics recycle rules. However, wastewater treatment facilities will become overwhelmed if too many people rely on garbage disposals. Phil Archer, an ex-Lead Wastewater Operator at Venturas Water Reclamation Facility, stated that the available space for adding microorganisms will eventually run out.
Gina Dorrington, Ventura Waters Assistant Manager of Operations, expressed concern about the ratio of solids to water. Increased food intake without significant increases in water could lead to rotting food accumulating in sewers and causing hydrogen sulfide toxic buildup in the pipes. Water management costs will rise if cleaning equipment is upgraded and sewer cleaning frequency increased.
Some supermarkets can use industrial-sized garbage disposals to discharge to the sewers by obtaining permits. These permits can be costly, but the revenue must be used to improve the wastewater infrastructure to handle the flow.
Food scrap collection in rural areas
Dennis Zine, general manager at the Bell Canyon Community Services District summarized some concerns of rural residents. Bell Canyon homes are situated on large lots and shared with coyotes, mountain-lions, and other wildlife. Residents are concerned that food scraps mixed in with yard waste and lumber will attract scavenging animal.
Baking soda and rinsing will prevent food smells from lingering in containers. It can be difficult to address the food itself. Some people find that their freezer is a good place for food scraps to be stored before they are taken to a curbside organics shop. Frosting reduces odor. On the morning of collection, add frozen food scraps to the carts.
Another option is to place food scraps under a layer if you don’t have enough space or stomach to store them in a freezer. Place food scraps at your yard waste cart the morning you or your gardener are done mowing your lawn or collecting leaves.
Clean up spilled carts
Joseph Silvia from Thousand Oaks emailed me to express concern about the last resort solution to cleanup carts that have been damaged by animals, wind, or other unexpected events. In some areas, municipal street sweepers are the last resort for cleanup. Mr. Silvia said that too many vehicles park on streets during street sweep days. He said that each vehicle prevents sweeps three times its length.
Lining kitchen containers
Ventura resident Cheryl Snider wanted to know more about kitchen-sized containers. Who gets them? And how can they be lined. Ventura city staff distributed pails among single-family homes. Ojai provided pails for pick up, but residents are required to use their own containers in their kitchen. Only areas that require food scraps to go into organics carts are recommended to line with plastic bags. If you want to keep containers clean, you can line them with newspaper or a bag made of paper. These can be thrown into the cart as well.
Proper cart placement
Refuse collectors have concerns as well. Place carts at curbs, with hinges facing your house. For automated grippers, leave enough space between carts. You must close your cart lid if you are unable to do so. In some cities, you will need to purchase additional service from your hauler in order not only to avoid spills during collection but also to prevent birds from scavenging your cargo.
Do not let your precariously balanced load fall over.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary report, the on-the job death rate for trash truck drivers exceeds that of police officers. It is dangerous to exit truck cabs in order to clean up spills. Drivers shouldn’t expect to receive cleanup services due to truck idling pollution or collection costs.
Although the new recycling program presents some challenges, it is essential to reduce methane emissions from landfills as well as comply with state law. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
David Goldstein, an Environmental Resource Analyst for the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached by calling 805-658-4312 firstname.lastname@example.org.