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Food Scrap Recycling Program FAQs

  1. Program Overview
  2. Cart Details
  3. Food Waste Recycling: How-To
  4. Additional Education and Resources

Program Overview

View the Residential Program Overview Powerpoint Slides from November 30, 2021.

View YouTube video of November 30, 2021 Program Overview Presentation.

Will it affect my rate?

Yes, all rates will be affected - residential, multifamily and commercial. These rates cover the costs of yard waste and food waste recycling services and the processing of those materials.

Will I be fined if I don't do this?

SB 1383 is State law requiring full participation in diverting organic material. The law includes State-mandated penalties for non-compliance through a City ordinance. Initially, multiple warnings will be issued. If the contamination continues after multiple warnings, contamination charges may be assessed. However, if there is a dispute regarding the contamination incident, customers are encouraged to contact Waste Management’s Customer Service at 866-723-9077.

When will I get inspected?

The new California State law requires residential route reviews to take place bi-annually.

Is everyone required to recycle organic waste?

Yes. All residential and multi-family properties and commercial businesses across California are required to recycle organic waste generated onsite.

What if I don't want to participate in Waste Management's organic curbside collection of food waste and yard waste? I have my own backyard composting system in place and drought tolerant plants that do not require regular trimming.

Per SB 1383, California residents are required to receive food waste cart service. Residents may also utilize backyard, small-scale, and community composting systems to recycle their food scraps.  

Cart Details

Regarding changing cart colors, what type of each material should be placed in each container?

  • BLUE-lidded cart - Recycling cart: cardboard, plastic and glass containers and bottles, aluminum and tin cans, and paper (place these items loose in cart)
  • GREEN-lidded cart - Organics cart: food waste, grass clippings, leaves, tree/brush trimmings, weeds, dead plants
  • BLACK-lidded cart - Trash cart: Styrofoam, chip/candy wrappers, bathroom waste, diapers, pet waste, plastic bags, palm fronds/branches, and other non-recyclable garbage (bag these items)

View the Accepted Materials Guide.

Why are cart colors changing?

SB 1383 requires uniformed cart colors across the State for both residential and commercial services. Blue will signify recycling; green or brown for organics; and black for trash. This consistency will help reduce confusion and contamination of recycling across California.

What will happen to all the food waste being collected?

The food waste will go to Waste Management facilities to be processed and composted for beneficial reuse.

What if I put my food waste in the trash?

When you don’t put your organics (food and yard waste) and recycling in the correct carts, it is considered contamination. If you contaminate, you will be alerted of your contamination via a door hang tag. It’s important you don’t contaminate because then Waste Management cannot recycle correctly. If you continue to place food waste and yard waste in the trash cart, then Waste Management fines can occur. For more information, visit https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/slcp/faq/enforcement.

Why isn't food waste collected separately than green waste?

SB 1383 allows for commingled food waste and green waste to collect food waste and green waste separately. Orange County has a regional processing system that allows for commingled food waste and green waste to be processed together.

Are the new bins required by SB 1383, and why?

SB 1383 requires standardization of cart colors throughout the State. Trash containers must be grey or black; organics containers must be green; and recycling containers must be blue. All containers must be clearly labeled with what does and does not go into them.  As part of Waste Management’s new contract with the City, all customers will receive new containers which comply with the State-mandated requirements.

Who is paying for the cost of the news bins?

The cost of the new bins is included in Waste Management’s contract – and along with the cost of other SB 1383 requirements – has been factored into customer rates.

What will happen to the old bins?  Do we stick them in the new bins?

The old containers will be removed by a separate team of drivers. Customers will be notified via mail and Waste Management’s automated messaging system in advance of when their container exchange will take place. When it comes time for a customer’s containers to be exchanged, Waste Management requests that old containers be left curbside, so it can be removed by the end of the next business day. If a customer’s containers have not been removed or if further assistance is required, customers can call 866-723-9077.

Food Waste Recycling: How-To

Will there be a smell in my kitchen? How can I avoid odors and residue?

Current participants in other cities have cited no smelly kitchens! There are many ways to alleviate smells. Some people use kitchen pails with a closed lid – some pails even have carbon/charcoal filters. Keeping the kitchen pail or food scraps in the freezer until collection day is an option to alleviate smell. Dumping your pail out in the cart frequently also helps.

Empty, rinse, and dry your kitchen pail frequently. You may line your pail and organics container with a piece of paper or paper napkin to absorb any liquids and food waste. Consider lining your organics container with a layer of green waste before placing your food waste inside. Consider buying a charcoal filter for your organics bin to mitigate odors. Keep your food scraps in the fridge or freezer and empty them directly into the organics cart on your service day to minimize odors. All single-family residents are eligible to receive one free cart exchange per year, per waste type (excluding food pails). Contact Waste Management Customer Service at 949-642-1191 or visit https://wm.com/us/en/support for assistance.

What kind of food waste can I place in my pail? 

Basically, if it grows, it goes! This includes meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, bread, pasta, rice, grains, plate scrapings, food soiled paper (minimal amounts acceptable), grass, leaves, small branches, shrubbery, plants, weeds, and garden trimmings. Please refer to the “What Goes Where” section of your WM service guide for the complete list of acceptable and unacceptable items.

Will Waste Management provide kitchen pails for indoor collection?

Yes. Residents have/will be receiving kitchen pails.

Can I place fats, oils, and grease (FOG) in my organics waste cart?

Food is prepared with oil and grease, so there will be a residual amount that is accepted into the food waste bin.

Where do I buy a pail?

Food waste counter top pails will be distributed to residents and additional pails can be purchased at stores like Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon. You can also repurpose a container or bowl you have at home to collect food scraps.

Can I use a plastic bag? Can I use biodegradable bags?

No plastic bags are accepted. WM prefers that you do not use any bags. If you need to mitigate odor or the "yuck" factor, recycled brown paper bags are acceptable. 

What if my organics cart (exterior) gets really dirty or smelly?

WM recommends rinsing your organics cart out over your lawn or another yard area to help mitigate a smelly container. Lining the cart with yard waste prior to food waste is helpful at keeping the carts clean and odor-free. If necessary, WM can swap out your cart(s) once per year. Please note that the City's consultants, who have worked Mission Viejo and other Orange County cities initiating organic recycling programs in the commercial sector since 2016, have not experienced a single vector issue in the hundreds of food waste collection programs they have implemented. 

What about dirty/soiled napkins or towels? Can I place biodegradable cutlery in the food waste cart?

A minimal amount of food soiled paper is allowed. Biodegradable or compostable cutlery is not accepted.

Can I continue to place yard waste in my green container?

Yes, all yard/grass clippings, gardening, and tree trimmings should still be placed in your green organics container. Please note that palm fronds and logs/stumps are NOT accepted – place these in your trash cart if they fit.

Can I place compostable or biodegradable products in my organics container?

Unfortunately, these products often do not break down at industrial composting facilities currently. At this time, Waste Management asks that you do not place these products in your organics container.

Can I put the food in a compostable bag, and put that in the organic bin?

Single-family residents who participate in the co-mingled food waste and green waste organics program should not place plastic bags or compostable bags in the organics bin. Unfortunately, at this time, these products often do not break down during processing. If you collect your food waste in a plastic or compostable bag, empty the food waste into your organics container and place the bag in your trash container.

Will I be receiving a fourth cart to separate food waste?

No, food waste will be co-mingled with the green waste in the organics cart. For customers who currently have only a trash and recycling cart, you will receive a third cart for organics collection.

Can I request a smaller organics collection container?

Yes, Waste Management offers 35-, 65-, and 95-gallon cart sizes to meet the specific needs of residents. To request a change in size, contact WM Customer Service at 949-642-1191 or visit https://wm.com/us/en/support for assistance.

How will containers be monitored for contamination under SB 1383?

As part of Senate Bill 1383, jurisdictions and haulers must monitor for contamination inside the collection containers. The goal is that each customer should place all recyclables in the recycling container, all organic waste in the organics container, and material that cannot be recycled into the trash container. WM SmartTruckSM technology audits organics and recycling materials for contamination each and every collection. When contamination occurs, WM provides the customer targeted feedback and education that includes photo or video evidence of the collection and the container contents to help drive the desirable behavior change and reduce contamination. Please ensure your preferred contact information is up to date by setting your preferences on your online https://wm.com account or My WM mobile application.

I live in a condo. Where am I supposed to put that little container where I collect food scraps until they are put in the organic bin?

The small kitchen pail provided by Waste Management may be kept in your kitchen to be used daily; however, please note this can be stored anywhere within the household that is most convenient to you. These tips will help keep your organics pail clean and fresh:

  • Empty, rinse, and dry your kitchen pail daily.
  • You may line your pail and organics container with a piece of paper or paper napkin to absorb any liquids and food waste.
  • Keep your food scraps in the fridge or freezer and empty them directly into the organics cart on your service day to minimize odors.

How does WM get the organic material to where it will be composted?

Waste Management will haul the material to the composting facility to be processed.

Will my WM rates stay the same during the length of the new contract?

By the end of November, customers will have received a notice from Waste Management regarding their rates that will be effective January 1, 2022. Thereafter, rates will increase in small increments annually based on changes in CPI and post-collection components.

Additional Education and Resources

Will there be subsequent community workshops or town halls once the new program is implemented?

Yes, the City and Waste Management will contact residents on upcoming opportunities to learn more about SB 1383 and its impacts on residential customers. Keep an eye out for WM bill inserts with additional information and visit the City's Solid Waste & Recycling website.

Will the City host classes on home composting?

Yes. Sign up for the City’s eNewsletter or visit the City's website, news and event pages for dates.

Are residents required to donate food?

No, the law only requires certain businesses like hotels, large venues, and large restaurants to donate edible food. However, if you would like to donate, there are several locations in Orange County where you can drop off your non-perishables to be distributed to food insecure community members.