What El Cerrito residents need to know about the Mandatory Composting Program


A state law requiring the recycling of organic waste will go into effect in Contra Costa County on January 1. El Cerrito is making plans on how he will implement the law.

Organics like food scraps, yard waste, paper and cardboard soiled with food make up half of the waste in landfills and are the third-largest source of methane in California, according to the California Department of Recycling and Salvage Resource. To reduce methane emissions, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law in 2016 setting targets to reduce the disposal of organic waste and food.

El Cerrito plans to expand green waste collection, which it already does, and provide more information on how to sort waste.

“A lot of the waste ends up as litter,” said Will Provost, director of El Cerrito’s operations and environmental services division. “It can end up in our storm sewers and streams. So I think our hope is still to improve the quality of stormwater, reduce plastic, fight climate change and improve public health in general. “

What does this mean for the people of El Cerrito?

Most of El Cerrito’s residents in single-family homes and small apartment complexes are already in compliance with the new law. Large apartment complexes will have to provide the same services either through the city or through a private carrier.

At an Environmental Quality Committee meeting in September, some residents expressed concerns about the lack of education on proper sorting. Rochelle Wheeler said she was having trouble finding information on the city website.

“I spent a lot of time looking through the city’s website and container labels, trying to figure out which were compostable plastics and which were recyclable plastics, and it wasn’t clear to me,” Wheeler said.

Provost said more education and awareness would be carried out. Postcards, brochures and newsletters on how to properly sort organic waste will be sent to each address. The city is also working on new container labels to help identify compostable waste.

Provost said residents who did not sort properly will receive a note on the door or a letter in the mail. He said an exam can be done at the curb, looking in trash cans or by truck at the end of a route.

What does this mean for businesses?

El Cerrito businesses already collect organic waste, such as food scraps and dirty paper, and they also need to offer customers recycling and composting options.

Under the new law, businesses like restaurants and grocery stores will be required to collect food that would otherwise be wasted and redistribute it to hungry people. The food recovery program will be implemented in two phases. In January, supermarkets, grocery stores, food service providers, food distributors and wholesalers will donate their food. In January 2024, restaurants, large venues, hotels, healthcare facilities and state agencies with on-site catering facilities will join the food recovery program.

What does this mean for schools?

El Cerrito schools must either subscribe to the city’s collection services, contract for service independently or register to transport organic waste yourself. Private schools will follow the city’s business requirements.

Any school with an on-site catering facility must begin the food recovery program on January 1, 2024.

Will there be a penalty?

There will be no penalty for non-compliance until January 1, 2024. Businesses and multi-family homes that do not have space or do not generate enough organic waste can apply for a waiver.

Businesses and residents without recycling or organic services should contact the city and East Bay Sanitary Co., which provides services in El Cerrito, by December.

Howdy Goudey, a member of El Cerrito’s environmental quality committee, said the two-year window for some companies to comply provides flexibility but does not help the program.

“I understand the need to give flexibility to businesses, but that really just continues this confusing problem,” Goudey said.

What do we still have to understand?

An additional tax on garbage for residents and business owners is possible as the mandate requires more bins and staff. However, city officials said they hoped to avoid the fee by using existing staff and grant funds, and renegotiating with the carrier.

“The city of El Cerrito is currently on a tight budget, not least because of the pandemic and loss and income related to recreation,” said Provost. “There are a lot of different fronts, a lot of different conversations, trying to implement that and being creative about how we do it to try to avoid having to fundraise the other way. “

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