Palm Springs explained: How, when, why you may need to separate food scraps from your garbage

Senate Bill 1383, which went into effect Jan. 1, requires the separation of ‘green’ waste from other trash. How will that work in Palm Springs? When will it be required? Read on to find out.

The new year brought new laws in California. Among those laws is Senate Bill 1383, which requires that organic waste be separated from other materials when you put out your trash. We looked into how it might work in Palm Springs, when it could start, and why it’s needed. Below is what we discovered.

What happens under SB 1383?

Palm Springs will move from a two-bin system to a three-bin system. Aside from bins you currently place curbside for items that go in the landfill (what we all know as garbage) and for recyclables, you will also have a bin for organic and “green” waste.

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What counts as organic or green waste?

Lots of things do. Everything from fruits and vegetables to meats, fish, and bones is considered organic. Green waste includes landscape and pruning trimmings and also food-soiled paper such as pizza boxes, paper plates, and napkins. You can expect lots of communication from the city about what should and should not go in the new bins.

Why is this necessary?

Simply put, it’s because of climate change. “With methane gas emissions that our food releases when it’s breaking down in a landfill, there are significant impacts on our climate,” explained Tracy Sheldon, the program coordinator for the city’s Office of Sustainability.

How will this work?

Palm Springs Disposal will pick up the bins just like they currently pick up your recycling and garbage containers. The compostable materials will be processed at a separate facility at the Edom Hill Landfill. The facility will turn the organic materials into compost available for purchase. The city must purchase some of it and plans to use it at city parks — possibly as much as 3,800 tons every year.

When do I need to begin separating kitchen waste from other trash?

Not any time soon. Even though the law went into place on Jan. 1, construction of the Edom Hill facility hasn’t started, and trucking it to an existing facility in the Eastern part of the Coachella Valley is too costly. Palm Springs Disposal also needs to acquire bins for everyone, and supply chain issues make that difficult. “There is no firm date we will start,” Sheldon said, adding that sometime in 2022 is the goal.

What if I live in an apartment or condo?

Multifamily complexes must currently have landfill dumpsters and also recycling containers. Under SB 1383, they will also need containers for organic waste. HOAs and apartment managers will need to work with Palm Springs Disposal to make organic waste bins available for people who live in their units.

Will I be penalized for not separating everything?

Not initially. But state law does allow for fines beginning in 2024. The city is not interested in penalizing residents, but will be required to do “lid flips” to check compliance. If organic waste is discovered in a resident’s landfill bin, a fine will be the last resort after all education efforts have been made.

How can I store my food scraps so they don’t stink?

While there are a variety of countertop food scrap bins available designed to trap odors, you can also put food scraps in a bag in the freezer to avoid odor issues. Whether they need to be bagged when they go in the bins hasn’t been decided.

Who pays for all this?

You do, as part of your garbage bill. Whether that bill will increase, however, is still to be determined. A recent survey by the League of California Cities found that most local governments expect to raise rates in response to SB 1383, hopefully less than $1 per year.

Are there alternatives to trucking away compostable materials?

Yes, but not in the city yet. Sheldon said that while the city hopes to work with groups such as Desert Compost to build a neighborhood composting site, nothing is currently in the works. However, there are other options in the Coachella Valley, and some are listed here.

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