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Get ready to sort your kitchen waste: New recycling rules start Friday

Organic waste program redirects food scraps into compost, not landfill

Starting Friday in Sacramento city and county, all these things -- including the used pizza box -- can be placed in the organic-waste container to be recycled into compost. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

You will never look at a soiled pizza box or a banana peel the same way.

Friday is the start of Sacramento’s new organics recycling program. It’s part of a statewide rollout of new programs designed to cut down on organic waste – anything plant- or animal-based – in landfills.

Senate Bill 1383, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown more than five years ago, is finally kicking in. This state law mandates cities and counties to divert organic waste from landfills, where it breaks down into methane – among the worst greenhouse gases. Instead, the waste can be turned into compost to nourish soil or used to generate energy.

When it comes to climate change, methane is 80 times more potent that carbon dioxide. Food scraps alone represent up to 20% of all landfill material. According to CalRecycle, Californians throw away almost 6 million tons of food scraps each year.

How each municipality and county accomplishes that diversion of kitchen waste is up to them. And new rules vary in every county.

Customers are asked to keep their kitchen scraps (including meat, bones and leftover prepared food) separate from their household trash. Those scraps will then be collected weekly.

In Sacramento, the kitchen scraps are going into what used to be the “yard/green waste” container. That garbage can will now be referred to as the “organic waste container.” All the yard trimmings are still going into that container, too. And so will soiled food wrappers and other paper that can’t be recycled (such as pizza boxes); those items used to be confined to the trash.

The organic waste container will be used to dispose of kitchen scraps, green waste and food-soiled paper, says Sacramento. (That's the same in both city and county.)

Specifically, kitchen scraps include: Cooked and raw food waste, such as uneaten vegetables, fruits, trimmings, meats, dairy, bones, baked goods, eggshells, etc.

Green waste includes: Grass clippings, small branches, leaves, cut flowers, garden trimmings, wood chips, and clean wood (no paint, no stain, etc.).

Food-soiled paper includes: Used napkins, paper cups, coffee filters, greasy pizza boxes, tea bags, used (but uncoated) paper plates, etc.

As for paper, experts recommend placing several sheets of newsprint at the bottom of the organic waste container each week before filling. The newspaper can help absorb any liquids that may accumulate.

In addition, cover any additions of kitchen scraps to the container with a layer of dried leaves, grass clippings or more newspaper (preferably shredded). That will help keep down any fly or pest issues.

(Note: No pet waste is accepted in the organics bin, as well as such items as coated-paper milk cartons, glass or metal containers, or treated or painted wood.)

To get residents to start separating their organic waste, the city of Sacramento is offering a free 2-gallon food scraps pail. The covered pail can sit on the counter or go under the sink. To get yours, go to SacOrganics.org . County residents can find locations to get a free scraps pail here: SacGreenTeam.com

Since each county sets up its food waste recycling programs, residents of Placer, El Dorado or Yolo counties should contact their county waste management departments for procedures and pickup schedules.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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