California’s community composting law: changing the world from our home

By Stella Álvarez

This week we were chatting with Kourtnii Brown, one of the founders and directors of the California Alliance for Community Composting . We talked about a law approved in the State of California in the United States, which invites us to make the planet a better place, and above all to do it, from our home. This Law seeks that 75% of the organic waste produced in the houses and premises of cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego, be converted into the compost that will be used by farmers in the state of California for food production . Some have called this new product, ie home and commercial composting, the “ Brown Gold ”.

Composting is produced with organic waste from homes and commercial premises such as peels and seeds of fruits, vegetables , bananas, food waste, fallen leaves from trees or mown grass in gardens; Kourtnii tells us with total conviction: “Speaking of organic waste, if it was ever alive, it will be again.” These organic products are separated from the rest of the garbage, deposited in special containers and kept under certain temperatures and conditions, so that they do not produce bad odors or mosquitoes and so that the result is a useful compost for growing food .

This Law came into effect in 2022 and is revolutionary in every sense of the word. First of all, and it is obvious, it has the advantage of changing the use of synthetic chemical products for organic products to feed the soils destined for food production. Organic waste provides natural nutrients and contains the necessary microbes for the fertilization and regeneration of soils . In addition, as is known, organic waste from homes and commercial premises is responsible for 50% of the methane gas in the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas . Giving them a sustainable treatment alleviates the health of the environment.

But the novelty of the Law is also in its social aspects. Its community spirit makes it different. They proposed that the solution to the problem of waste and soil depletion should not be of an industrial nature, as has happened in many countries, where a large company disposes, uses and markets organic waste. Kourtnii tells us, “With industrial strategies, waste is often placed near low-income communities, and truck congestion can make environmental problems like air quality worse . It can also worsen social justice problems. For example, when they export their “waste” to another community instead of using it for some benefit of their own”. With the California Law the intention is that they be thelocal community organizations that manage and direct the places necessary for the logistics of the program and benefit from the economic resources obtained. The communities represented by their organizations, such as the Alliance in which Kourtnii participates, are the ones who decide how the compost is collected, stored and transported. They also carry out intense virtual and face-to-face educational work so that people in their homes, institutions, or in commercial premises can contribute to the success of the initiative.

The law is ambitious in its goals: they expect that in the year 2025 of the 26 million pounds of organic waste that are produced annually by homes and commercial establishments in the state of California, 75% (20 million) will be composted. Despite its demanding goals, composting is not mandatory for people in their homes or for business owners. The law invites, persuades. For those who are mandatory, it is for the governments of large cities and small municipalities. They must guarantee that the necessary mechanisms exist for logistics and demonstrate compliance with the respective composting percentage.

California’s community composting law is a collective effort where each link: households, social organizations, local administrations, has a commitment. Without everyone’s participation, the initiative can fail. But the benefits are also collective, they are a sign of a new socially and environmentally sustainable economy.