Green New Deal News

Monterey will see more required waste recycling

MONTEREY — Monterey is expected to soon experience a major shift in complying with a state law prohibiting organics such as food waste from entering landfills when requirements of the legislation are adopted later this year.

That’s the message the City Council will receive Wednesday during a study session that will include a report on state climate change goals. Those goals include producing less of the greenhouse gas methane at landfills. That, in turn, is accomplished by diverting organics such as food scraps out of the landfill and into facilities that are better suited to capture the methane.

Methane, a naturally occurring gas generated by decomposing organic matter, is also a major contributor to the collection of gasses that are affecting climate change. Methane is 72 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide which is generated by burning fossil fuels, according to a report from the city’s sustainability division.

Ted Terrasas, the sustainability coordinator for the city, said the requirements of Senate Bill 1383, passed by the California legislature in 2016, will be adopted in the fall and will include:

The law established targets to achieve a 50% reduction in the level of the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020 and a 75% reduction by 2025.

The Monterey Peninsula appears to be well on its way in those efforts. Jeff Lindenthal, the director of communications and sustainability for the Monterey Regional Waste Management District that operates the county landfill, said the district installed a pilot technology called an anaerobic digester back in 2013 that is excellent at keeping a good amount of methane out of the atmosphere. The district was the first in the state and second in the country to use the technology.

The way it works is food scraps from restaurants are hauled in and then loaded into the digester. A bacterial agent that works much like the bacteria in our gut begins to break down the organic material. The methane that is captured is then burned to make electricity — so much electricity that the landfill is energy independent and sells excess electricity back to power companies.

Methane is a natural gas that does not create pollutants or greenhouse gasses when burned.

The current digester is at capacity now and the district is about to embark on a three-year project to construct another facility with a far greater capacity than the 5,000 tons of waste per year.

Additionally, most of the methane produced by decaying organics in the landfill is siphoned off using a piping system buried in the landfill itself, Lindenthal said. The methane is collected through perforated pipes and vacuumed out to be used to produce the electricity.

The district collects enough methane to generate 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 5,000 homes, he said.

For the most part, residents and restaurants are getting on board. Pacific Grove, Marina and Seaside, for example, put in food waste carts at their respective farmers markets.

“People responded positively,” Lindenthal said. “They had to add another cart in PG.”

In January, restaurants that generated a certain amount of organic waste were required to significantly divert organics away from their trash bins and into recycling.

Which circles back to Wednesday’s study session. With the state cracking down on behaviors contributing to climate change and requiring far more from municipalities, the requirements by the state to collect, monitor and report levels of organics diversion will likely put more demands on city staff as well as the Monterey City Disposal Service and the Waste Management District.

The study session will be held from 4-6 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 580 Pacific St.