Reducing Food Waste: Why It Matters and How to Do It


Throwing food away creates a myriad of problems; diverting it has a wealth of benefits

The science is straightforward yet devastating: The third leading contributor to the greenhouse gas methane, which traps heat in our atmosphere, is decomposing organic waste in landfills. Food waste is the No. 1 type of material disposed of any type, and it accounts for 15% of all material disposed. Greenhouse gases contribute to a myriad of problems, including changes to our climate and disruptions in the food supply chain.

And there is another reason to avoid wasting food: Our region has an ever-increasing hunger issue. One in seven San Diegans were food-insecure before the pandemic; now the number is one in three.

California is addressing the issue with statewide mandates requiring a 75% reduction in organic waste disposal and a 20% increase in edible food recovery by 2025. The regulations, which went into effect January 1, 2022, will require cities and counties to be responsible for implementing programs—such as food scraps collection service.

“SB 1383, the driving force behind these mandates, is a significant law in California around recycling organics and will lead to a massive shift in behavior,” says Steve Weihe, Recycling Specialist with the County of San Diego, and leading public outreach and education efforts.

“Most people are used to putting food scraps and other organic waste into the trash bin, but now it will go into the green materials bin to become compost, renewable fuel or fertilizer,” Weihe says. “Getting that message across will be a priority for us, and will require a coordinated effort from the County, as well as other cities and the waste haulers themselves.”

Changes are coming but they are surprisingly easy—for residents and businesses

With its new recycling statutes, California is taking bold steps to create a healthier environment for future generations. While a cleaner California is something we can all get behind, the new rules and requirements might seem confusing—but they’re actually very straightforward.

Here are the answers to the question on everyone’s minds, “What do I need to do?”

Portions of this article were reproduced from the County of San Diego Department of Public Works Reducing Food Waste newsletter.