Recology eyes big boost in composting in Sonoma County
Carole Carpenter always felt funny about throwing thousands of pounds of used coffee grounds into the garbage.
The manager of the popular Railroad Square café A’Roma Roasters knew the rich brown granules made a great soil fertilizer, a fact she was reminded of whenever customers asked if they could take some home to sprinkle in their gardens.
“It seems like such a waste to just throw them in the garbage,” said Carpenter, who has managed the operation for 20 years.
But with limited kitchen space, no simple way to set the coffee grounds aside for gardeners, and no green bin to dispose of them in, Carpenter just did what was easiest — she told employees to toss them in the dumpster along with all the café’s other food waste.
So Celia Furber, the waste zero manager with Recology, the city’s new garbage hauler, and John LaBarge, a Recology waste zero specialist, sat down with Carpenter last week to see if they could find ways to help the eatery keep more food waste out of the landfill.
It turns out that A’Roma Roasters should have been composting its food waste since Jan. 1, 2017. That’s when businesses that create more than 4 cubic yards of organic waste a week were required under AB 1826 to begin diverting it from landfills. Larger producers were required to start a year earlier.
But the city’s previous hauler, The Ratto Group, did not make it easy to set up the service, Furber said.
That’s something Recology officials are finding as they roll out service under a new contract in Santa Rosa and take over existing Ratto Group contracts in Sonoma and north Marin County.
“We’re finding lots of businesses that wanted the service but it was just really hard to set up with the Ratto Group,” Furber said.
Six months after Recology took over Ratto operations, the San Francisco-based hauler has been making a concerted effort to keep organic material out of commercial and residential garbage streams that flow into the local landfill.
Santa Rosa residents are receiving green kitchen scrap pails with their new green bins, as well as detailed instructions about what can go in them. Customers in the six other cities that Recology serves, as well as the unincorporated areas of the county, are also receiving the educational brochures.
The goal is to drive home the point to customers that they not only can but should be putting a wide range of kitchen scraps into their green bins. The green bins aren’t even being called yard waste bins any more, but are now referred to as compost bins.
That roasted chicken carcass? Throw it in with the lawn clippings. Those greasy pizza boxes and dirty napkins? Toss them in with the leaves and branches. Banana peels, egg shells, dairy products, tea bags, small bits of untreated lumber, and yes, coffee grounds. They all can now go in the green bins.
The change was made after Sonoma Compost shut down 2-1/2 years ago and the county began hauling green waste out of the county to other compost facilities that accepted kitchen scraps, explained Patrick Carter, executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency.