Getting the Green: CIWMB's Organic Outlook

Organic materials — yard trimmings, grass, woody debris and food scraps — still constitute about 40 percent of the waste being landfilled in California, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), Sacramento. To encourage composting and the use of organic materials, CIWMB recently designated organics as one of its priority areas.

The Board's organics activities programs focus on the sustainable management of organic materials while reducing the amount generated. Core activities include: sustainable landscaping practices (including grasscycling); food scrap management; increased use of compost and mulch for agriculture and erosion control; biomass “conversion” technologies such as hydrolysis and gasification to help manage urban organic residuals; and continued refinement of and training in composting regulations.

“We continuously examine the effectiveness of our programs and try to adjust them to better our clients,” says Howard Levenson, supervisor of CIWMB's Organic Materials Management program. “For example, we found that promoting grasscycling by itself to commercial landscapers was less effective than including it in a broader sustainable landscaping outreach program.”

CIWMB is planning to hold several regional workshops on food scrap management and sustainable landscape architecture. It will also hold a forum on biomass conversion technologies in Sacramento May 3-4, 2001. Lastly, CIWMB is finalizing a report on the status of the compost and mulch industry in California, which, for the first time, will provide a baseline for this growing industry.