Food scrap recycling program is rolling out to residents
The city of Sunnyvale is planning to roll out its new food scraps collection program over the next eight weeks and residents will soon be receiving new garbage carts.
The FoodCycle program, when fully implemented, will have residents in single-family homes and mobile home communities begin using a garbage cart split in two. The larger side will be for regular garbage, the other for food scraps that will be collected and turned into animal feed.
The new carts and trucks arrived at Specialty Solid Waste and Recycling in Santa Clara on Sept. 7. Cart delivery began Monday and will continue through Nov. 3.
According to Nick Nabhan, general manager of Specialty Solid Waste, residents can leave their old carts out on the curb and Specialty staff will replace them with new carts.
“We’ll dump the old cart of garbage, put it down, we’ll pick it up and deliver the new one the same day,” said Nabhan, adding that the old carts’ metal will be taken out, and cart bodies will be chopped up and used to make new ones.
According to Nabhan, if the old cart is not at the curb, Specialty staff will try again during the following week’s collection day.
Earlier this year, the city asked residents by mail for their preferred new cart size. According to the city manager’s report, only 50 percent of residents responded to the mailer. Those who did not respond will receive a cart similar to the size of their current one.
The FoodCycle program has been in the works for more than two years. A pilot program ran from March 2015 through December of that year with 500 households in five neighborhoods across the city.
In the test run, residents were given carts that were split evenly between food scraps and garbage. According to the city, 74 percent of the households participated in the program by putting food scraps in the separate compartment.
The city said that a common complaint from residents was that the garbage side of the test carts was too small. As a result, the carts that residents will receive in the coming weeks have a 30 percent to 70 percent split, with the smaller side intended for food scraps.
According to the city, roughly 31,000 households in single-family neighborhoods and mobile home communities will begin participating in the FoodCycle program in the coming weeks. Residents living in multi-unit dwellings will not participate.
Recyclable food items include fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, shells, meat, bones, tea, coffee grounds, leftover food, spoiled food and freezer-burned food. Residents can put scraps into clear plastic bags, paper bags and newspapers.
The scraps will be processed at the Sunnyvale SMART Station and sent to the Sustainable Organic Solutions facility in Santa Clara to be made into feed for pigs.
Jerry Nabhan, operations officer at Specialty Solid Waste and Recycling, said the pigs that will dine on the scraps are not intended to be sold for food. Their purpose is solely to dispose of the food scrap waste in an environmentally friendly manner, he said.
The city wants to divert 8,000 tons of food scraps from landfills each year, with a goal of diverting 75 percent of food waste by 2020 and 90 percent by 2030.
“It’s important to remember why we are doing this, which has to do with greenhouse gas reduction,” Mayor Glenn Hendricks said. “This is important for Sunnyvale; we want to be and pride ourselves on being a leader in environmental sustainability. This is another tool in our tool belt that we’re using to be a more sustainable city.”
Sunnyvale Mayor Glenn Hendricks, left, and Nick Nabhan, manager of Specialty Solid Waster and Recycling, hold one of Sunnyvale’s new FoodCycle carts. The yellow side will hold fruit and vegetable scraps, eggs, meat and bones. The black side will be for trash such as to-go containers, paper towels and pizza boxes.