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How SB 1383 Compliance Affects California Grocers

Andersen Ross/Getty Images Grocery Store Family

The Earth's core temperature has risen steadily since the 1950s with no end in sight unless human influence on the global climate is reduced significantly in the next decade.

California's SB 1383 focuses on organic waste diversion, aiming to reduce short-lived climate pollutants in the state with a focus on organic waste recycling and surplus food recovery.

The legislation is in response to amplify California's overall climate strategy and to recover edible food from the waste stream. The last seven years have been recorded as the warmest, with 2016 and 2020 tied as the two hottest years to date, according to NASA.

Beginning in 2022, jurisdictions must implement organic waste collection to all residents and businesses and divert the materials to anaerobic digestion or composting facilities.

Food-focused businesses such as grocers face a particular set of challenges to meet compliance. CalRecycle's Environmental Program Manager Kyle Pogue recently provided context about SB 1383 and the ramifications and requirements for California grocers.

"Grocers here in California and grocery stores, specifically, are hubs of your communities. You're a very important aspect of what happens in the 540 plus jurisdictions out there in the state of California," he told them.

The state's goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 through legislation such as SB 1383.

When a traceable organic material ends a landfill, that material breaks down and products methane. Landfills in California are the third largest source of methane emissions in the state, with the possibly of climbing to number one, Pogue indicated. 

The 2018 Disposal Facility-Based Characterization of Solid Waste in California showed that 5,859,534 tons of food was sent to landfills during the year, only eclipsed by 6,525,762 tons of paper and 7,537,507 tons of non-food organic waste.

"With that amount of organic material we need a holistic suite of programs," Pogue said. "We need prevention activities on the front end to reduce food waste being generated. We need recovery options to in turn feed people or ultimately animals or we need to process it on the end and produce biofuels and compost that have a lot of beneficial uses as well."

Provisions of SB 1383 have two numeric goals specific to capping the amount of organic waste sent to landfills: 11.5 million tons of organic waste, or a 50 percent reduction by 2020 and 75 percent reduction in landfilled waste, or 5.7 million tons by 2025. The state needs to divert more than 25 million tons of organic material out of landfill to meet the 2025 goal.

The third goal is the 20 percent recovery of currently disposed edible food for human consumption.

Pogue explained that "these are statewide goals. These are not individual jurisdiction or generator mandates that doesn't mean that grocery stores only needed to recover 20% of their currently disposed edible food. And these are really statewide targets predicated on local government program implementation."

One in five children in California are food insecure under current pandemic conditions and hunger has tripled, increasing the urgency for food recovery.

None of the new requirements of SB 1383 should be new to grocers, Pogue said, as the state's AB 1826, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2016, was the precursor for mandatory commercial organics recycling.

Jurisdictions across the state must provide a green container for source-separated organics, a blue container for recycables and a gray container for all other solid waste.

While this is seen more often on a residential level, SB 1383 requires organic waste generators to subscribe to the local collection service provided by the jurisdiction or to self-haul organic waste. Commercial business must provide containers for customers that comply with labeling or color requirements; to inspect containers, to annually educate employees, contractors, tenants, customers; and to arrange access for inspections when needed by local government.

"We really want to try and limit the amount of contamination going into these containers when from an organics collection perspective," he said. "Contamination down the line causes problems in organics processing facilities that actually ultimately compost, digest or do other things with this material."

Pogue explained the elements of a successful edible food recovery program for jurisdictions which encompasses education commercial edible food generators on requirements, increasing access to food recovery organizations, monitoring commercial edible food generator complains and increasing edible food recovery capacity. 

While permissive language is not mandatory, a jurisdiction may choose to fund food recovery programs through franchise fees, local assessments or other funding mechanisms.

But what constitutes edible food? Edible food, Pogue said, is food intended for human consumption. It is not solid waste if it is recovered and not discarded. Lastly, it meant the food safety requirements of the California Retail Food Code, such as food on a buffet line.

"It doesn't mean that pre-prepared foods that aren't exposed that way cannot be donated, and they should be," he said. "But this shows that only under save conditions should they be recovered."

Under SB 1383, food generators are categorized under two tiers.Tier one generators must meet compliance by Jan. 1, 2022, with Tier two generators reaching compliance by Jan. 1, 2024.

Tier one generators have more produce, fresh grocery and self-stable foods to donate. This includes grocery stores and supermarkets as well as food distributors, food service providers and wholesale food vendors.

Tier two generators have more prepared foods such as restaurants, hotels, state agency cafeterias, large venues and education facilities.

"Edible food generators shall arrange for the maximum amount of edible food that would otherwise be disposed to be recovered for human consumption," Pogue emphasized. "Some can get confused in between this 20% goal, which again is a statewide goal, and really recovering the maximum amount. Two of the main components of this is that you have contracts with food recovery organizations or food recovery services that will collect your edible food."

Recordkeeping requirements for commercial generators require the establishments keep contact information for food recovery organizations, a contract or MOU for food recovery organizations, schedules for food donation deliveries or collections, quantity of food donated in pounds or alternative metric and the types of food each organization will receive or collect.

In turn, food recovery organizations must keep the name, address, and contact information for each tier one and two commercial edible food generator the service or organization collects or receives edible food from in addition to the quantity in pounds of edible food collected from each tier one and two commercial edible food generator per month.

"[Food recovery organizations] also need to keep a record of the name, address and contact information for each commercial edible food generator that they're serving," Pogue added. "They also need to keep the quantity and pounds from each one of those commercial animal food generators. This record-keeping rolls up into reporting. And this reporting goes to local governments to say, 'how are we doing here?' It has to be physically located in the jurisdiction that collects and receives this food to report that amount per calendar year."

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