Food to Power

Landfills are the third largest source of methane in California, a greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Organic matter makes up almost half of what Californians dump into landfills. The resultant emission problem is going to reduce with the new Food and Yard Waste bill (California’s SB 1383, effective January 2022) that requires curbside food waste recycling. Coincidentally, Del Mar is renegotiating its solid food waste contract for the next decade. 


The current 10-year contract with Waste Management (valued at about $13M) is ending this coming June. A thorough process has been in place to find the provider offering the highest quality service at the lowest reasonable cost. At the time of writing this article, city staff were wrapping up their evaluations of the proposals, and getting ready to present their recommendations to the City council, which is tentatively scheduled to award the new contract at its February 7 meeting. 


Three San Diego local providers are likely to have submitted proposals: EDCO (who has an anaerobic digestion facility, located in Escondido), Republic Services (which uses off-the-grid solar powered Otay Compost Facility, located in Chula Vista), and Waste Management (whose CORe process facility converts food waste into green energy, located in Los Angeles). The details of the Request for Proposals and evaluation criteria can be found in the Complete Packet for the Regular September 7th, 2021 City Council meeting. 

Typical food waste bucket contents. Photo, Betty Wheeler

Humans are creatures of habit, and changing our ways takes time. In fact, recycling is still a challenge for some, despite the simplified message from Waste Management (with images to illustrate what goes in and what doesn’t). How smoothly can curbside organics recycling be weaved in, when recycling continues to be less than adequate? Clem Brown, Del Mar’s Environmental Sustainability & Special Projects Manager, explains that the city has integrated in its Request for Proposals that providers supply a kitchen food waste receptacle (like a pail) for residents to collect food scraps all week. They will then simply pop the pail’s content in the green bin the night before collection. An even easier way to approach curbside organics recycling is to freeze food scraps and add the frozen bloc to the bin! These great tips will make the transition a breeze, once the new waste contract is in place this summer.


What will go in? Vegetable or fruit peels, meat or fish bones, leftovers gone bad, coffee grounds, egg shells, food-soiled paper that is unsuitable for the blue bin. Sounds doable, right!


This State regulation is poised to be a significant contributor towards reducing emissions. With all the can-do energy we can find in our town, let’s get ready to be part of the solution!