Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, on Monday introduced AB 1594, which would encourage local governments to recycle and divert their green waste from landfills.

Compostable organic materials currently comprise about one-third of what is disposed in landfills annually. Much of this material is used as alternative daily cover (ADC), a temporary overlay on an exposed face of a landfill, which provides a barrier from odor and insects at the end of the work day.

When green materials are disposed in a landfill, however, they decompose in an oxygen-deprived environment, which leads to the generation of methane, a greenhouse gas, as well as significant water quality impacts.

Williams said green waste should be used as compost instead.

“Global warming is the moral issue of the next hundred years,” Williams said. “The major question is: Are we willing to change business as usual to avoid profoundly hurting less fortunate people around the world and in our own country? These materials should be properly composted so we as a state can reduce our contribution to global warming.”

Existing law authorizes green waste to be used as an alternative daily cover as well as exempts green waste from a statewide disposal fee collected by the Board of Equalization. This exemption, coupled with the recycling credit local governments receive toward their diversion goals, ends up encouraging the use of green materials for ADC instead of other more environmentally friendly uses.

“The state’s recycling policies have inadvertently created a perverse incentive to landfill yard trimmings, a material that can be readily composted,” said Nick Lapis, the legislative coordinator for Californians Against Waste. “When landfilled, these same materials release potent greenhouse gases and pose a risk to water quality.”

Mike Sangiacomo, president and CEO of Recology, added: “Organic material is a valuable resource pure and simple. California should strive for the best and highest use of this resource, whether it be in the form of compost or energy recovery. Dumping organics in a landfill and calling it recycling is both environmentally and economically short-sighted.”

A representative of an advocacy group agreed.

“The use of recovered yard trimmings and other green materials as alternative daily cover at California landfills is the largest single impediment to the development of a robust composting industry in our state and a significant contributor to greenhouse gas production,” said Bill Camarillo, a Ventura County composter and executive committee member of the California Compost Coalition, a statewide compost advocacy group. “The expanded use of compost here will not only aid global warming efforts, but will enhance the quality of California soils through the introduction of organic matter, preventing soil erosion, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and enabling water retention at time when we need it most.”

— Josh Molina represents Assemblyman Das Williams.