New Los Angeles Program to Divert Food Scraps from Landfill

food_wasteLos Angeles is trying to catch up to its green giant neighbor to the north, San Francisco , by implementing a food recycling program.  Small problem: some of LA’s residents don’t seem overly cheery about the thought of sorting food scraps.

"You want me to have a meal, then separate my garbage...I'm already separating my cans and bottles, [and] I'm already separating my grass clippings from my trash? OK, what next, man? Do I need to sift through my feces as well?" quoth eloquent LA resident Larry Roberts when asked to use the new green food recycling buckets provided by the city.

The daunting mission of converting non-believers like Larry is given to brave citizens who act as “recycling ambassadors.”  These ambassadors distribute green two gallon pails in which residents will collect their left over food scraps before pouring them into the leaves and trimmings dumpster they roll to the curb for the collection truck. Currently, Los Angeles recycles its yard trimmings into free compost for farmers and residents at Lopez Canyon and if the recycling program works food scraps will be added to the mix.

The LA recycling initiative attempts to divert 600 tons of food waste which ends up in Los Angeles landfills each day. The pilot program is launching with 5,000 LA households.  The goal is to eventually surpass the participation level in San Francisco which includes over 2,000 restaurants and 75,000 households. The food waste collected in San Fran is converted to organic compost for nearby vineyards.

Los Angeles, like other cities beginning food recycling programs, now has the daunting task of convincing residents who already recycle that they need to go one step farther.  Food scrap recycling nationwide could cut our waste output by 12 percent. Luckily a few LA residents seem to understand the importance of collecting food scraps in their new kitchen bucket. "It's not that hard to do, ya know? I just put it next to my kitchen trash there," says 85-year-old Lilly Ann Yamaka. She says she's eager to do what she can for the environment and future generations. "The young people should be, too," she warns. "If they wanna have a planet left."