LA Compost maintains several compost hubs throughout Los Angeles County. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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California’s new composting law and food waste

Senate Bill 1383 was meant to reduce the disposal of organic waste by 75% by the year 2025. Most California residents either do not know about the bill, or they have not started to dispose of their organic waste separately from the rest of their trash.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/alanaweisberg/" target="_self">Alana Weisberg</a>

Alana Weisberg

April 30, 2022
On January 1, California intended for residents to begin composting through organic waste collection. This law, entitled “Senate Bill 1383 (SB1383), was meant to reduce the disposal of organic waste by 75% by the year 2025.

However, five months into 2022, most California residents either do not know about the bill, or they have not started to dispose of their organic waste separately from the rest of their trash. Many residents are unaware of the law. 

Carrie Stern, a resident of California and mother of two, said she was not aware that the law passed or how to begin composting. The writer of Senate Bill 1383 Nick Lapis explained to me in an interview that “each city and county run their own program, so each tends to be very different from one another,” making it more difficult to enforce the bill on a statewide scale. Although the intention behind California’s bill is admirable, it would be even more effective if we were able to cut down consumer waste rather than simply redirecting it.

American consumers waste 108 billion pounds of food each year largely because they believe the food has “gone bad.” Most Americans rely on date labels or datelike numbers on food and assume that they are indicators of safety.

However, stickers and stamps on foods can be misleading because a significant gray area divides the stages of fresh and spoiled. Because unclear labeling leads consumers to waste considerable amounts of food, the federal government should require a standardized system for food expiration dates.

Food waste not only takes up space in landfills but also contributes to global warming, threatening our future. Our world is heating up at an exponential rate and we should seize any opportunity to limit greenhouse emissions. To do this, we must address the main producer of this waste: the consumer.

When most people go into their refrigerator or pantry, they use the dates on food as indicators for whether the food is fresh but many times those dates correspond with the time frame in which the food company thinks the food will taste best. In other words, the “best by” date designates freshness, protecting the reputation of the food brand, not the health of the consumer.  In addition, customers mistake “sell by” dates, used by grocers to rotate food on store shelves.

Although the task of standardizing food labels seems arduous, a uniform dating system would enable consumers to have a true understanding of their food’s safety. One challenge is that there is not one governing body responsible for food safety. 

It will limit the amount of edible food from entering landfills and reduce the consumers contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The creation of an easy to comprehend labeling system benefits both the consumer and the environment.

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