What Happens to Food Waste in San Jose?

You may have heared a lot about new state regulations designed to keep food waste out of the landfill, where it creates greenhouse gases. You may be wondering what this means for your garbage and recycling services and whether you need to do anything differently.

The short answer is that you don’t need to change how you dispose of your garbage, recycling and yard trimmings. But it’s important to dispose of food waste correctly.

The City’s garbage processor does something called “backend processing.” This means that, before the garbage goes to the landfill, it is sorted much like recyclables are at a recycling facility. In this process, food waste and compostable food-soiled containers are separated out. This organic waste is sent to a composting facility in Gilroy – the same one that composts the City’s yard trimmings. This system put San José in compliance with these new regulations, known as SB 1383, before they even went into effect! And without you doing anything differently!

There are some things to keep in mind though:

-If you’ve got a recyclable food container such as clear plastic clamshells, be sure to empty and scrape the food residue into your garbage before you put the containers in the recycling. No need to rinse in this drought, but we do want to keep food and liquid from contaminating other recyclables in your cart.

-If you have paper packaging that’s food-soiled, it should go in the garbage so that it can be composted.

-Food waste does not go in your yard trimmings pile or cart – even if it’s from your trimmed fruit trees! That fruit also goes in your garbage container.

At Z-Best, the composting facility in Gilroy, food waste and yard trimmings are used to make two different grades of compost. Compost from food waste is used locally in landscaping and median projects. Compost generated by yard trimmings is higher quality and can be incorporated into soil, used in agriculture and for growing plants. Both help keep soil healthy, and healthy soil can sequester carbon underground. Since we need healthy soil everywhere, you may also consider composting at home. And to reduce the amount of food waste we create in the first place, visit our Waste Reduction webpage for some handy ideas.

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