Environment

Leftovers on restaurant diners’ plates will be turned into compost, biofuel

Teresa Lucero, discards the remains of fava beans in to a food recycling bin as she prepares them on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Mulvaney’s B & L restaurant in Sacramento, Calif. WasteRight Sacramento is a new program to help local restaurants and food providers comply with AB 1826, the state law aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring food providers to recycle food waste.
Teresa Lucero, discards the remains of fava beans in to a food recycling bin as she prepares them on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Mulvaney’s B & L restaurant in Sacramento, Calif. WasteRight Sacramento is a new program to help local restaurants and food providers comply with AB 1826, the state law aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by requiring food providers to recycle food waste. rbyer@sacbee.com

Food left on diners’ plates that goes back to restaurant kitchens in Sacramento County will go into the compost bin instead of landfills.

Sacramento County officials teamed with Sacramento restaurateurs Bobbin and Patrick Mulvaney on Thursday to kick off WasteRight Sacramento, a new program to recycle commercial food waste. The program is aimed at helping the county meet state requirements to divert 75 percent of waste from landfills by 2025, said Etienne Ozorak, county waste and recycling program manager.

Under Assembly Bill 1826, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2014, waste haulers statewide must provide organic waste recycling services for businesses. The program began with large waste generators that disposed of 8 cubic yards or more of food waste per week, Ozorak said. The program is now being rolled out for smaller restaurants and food providers that generate at least 4 cubic yards of organic waste per week.

A study by CalRecycle found that more than 30 percent of the 30 million tons of waste that California puts into landfills each year could be diverted to create compost or mulch, or converted into commercial bio-natural gas, according to a WasteRight Sacramento news release. Sacramento businesses contribute 48 percent, or 216,000 tons, of the food waste disposed of in the area per year.

The diversion effort isn’t just about saving space in landfills but about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing organic materials believed to contribute to global warming.

“I’m very focused on the greenhouse gas-reducing aspect of the diversion,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna.

Thursday’s kickoff event was held at Mulvaney’s B&L restaurant in midtown Sacramento. The restaurant has been at the forefront of the food-waste recycling effort. Co-owner Bobbin Mulvaney said the restaurant for several years has separated food waste for composting, providing the compost to an organic farmer that supplies the restaurant with produce.

“We saw the food coming full circle,” Mulvaney said.

Under the WasteRight program, restaurants and food providers will separate uneaten or discarded food, including vegetables, fruit, meat, bread, coffee grounds and tea bags, from other waste and recycled materials and place it in a separate bin or toter for pickup by separate waste-hauling vehicles, Ozorak said.

The waste is then hauled to certified processing facilities, where it is either converted to bio-natural gas or compost. One of the facilities has contracts to provide compost to vineyards in the Napa Valley, Ozorak said.

Thursday’s event was sponsored by the Sacramento Solid Waste Authority, a joint powers authority that oversees commercial solid waste management in the city of Sacramento and unincorporated areas of Sacramento County.

More information about the WasteRight Sacramento is available online at WasteRightSac.com.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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