The Cambrian

Composting pails coming to Cambria

Longtime Cambria resident and businesswoman Kathy Unger was among the first of more than 51,000 in San Luis Obispo County to receive a new collection pail for food scraps to be dumped in with greenwaste each week and then turned into compost. Mission Country Disposal is providing the pails to encourage people to help reduce solid wastes in landfills.
Longtime Cambria resident and businesswoman Kathy Unger was among the first of more than 51,000 in San Luis Obispo County to receive a new collection pail for food scraps to be dumped in with greenwaste each week and then turned into compost. Mission Country Disposal is providing the pails to encourage people to help reduce solid wastes in landfills. ktanner@thetribunenews.com

Many North Coast residents can now put most of their food scraps in their greenwaste containers.

Cambrians and San Simeonites are the first among thousands in San Luis Obispo County to receive free food-scrap pails where they can place everything from banana peels, corncobs and apple cores to meat scraps, fish trimmings, peels, eggshells, rinds, pits, grains, pasta, baked goods and other toss-aways.

No paper, wood, plastic, glass, metal, liquids, grease, waxed containers or paper plates are to commingled with the foodstuffs. That means the mystery meat from the back of the fridge can go into the pail, but the foam container and plastic wrap around it cannot. And leftover tofu is OK, but not the tub in which it was purchased.

The scraps residents accumulate in the pails then are dumped into greenwaste wheeler bins for weekly curbside pickup, along with plant trimmings, raked leaves and other greenwaste. Some residents recommended that people use bungee cords to secure the lids of the greenwaste cans, to discourage wild animals from nighttime scavenging.

Use of the food-scrap pails isn’t mandatory, but it is highly recommended by Waste Connections, the private garbage-disposal company that serves most communities from San Simeon to Nipomo.

The lightweight green-and-cream-colored pails are a little larger than a six-pack of bottled soda, or a standard two-slice toaster.

The units are designed to provide maximum odor control, according to the Sure-Close brochure delivered with the pails. For details, call 805-543-0875.

Waste Connections (which operates as Mission Country Disposal on the North Coast) is providing the pails to about 51,000 single-family homes countywide (apartments and businesses will come later). A representative of the firm estimated Monday, Aug. 15, that getting the pails to all the single-family homes served by the program will take about three weeks.

The greenwaste and food-based garbage will be recycled into compost. For now, that recycling is being done at an outdoor Engel & Gray Inc. compost facility in Santa Maria. The firm already takes Waste Connections’ greenwaste and works closely with vineyards and retail stores to supply them with finished compost.

However, on Thursday, Aug. 25, county planning commissioners will consider Hitachi Zosen Inova’s application to build and operate a new Kompogas-technology, anaerobic-digestion plant in a modified-and-enlarged existing building on Waste Connections property at 4388 Old Santa Fe Road, south of San Luis Obispo, near the county regional airport.

The operation would add 36,000 square feet to an existing 13,128-square foot warehouse building. Other additions would include an office trailer, an 80-space parking lot, a vehicle weighbridge, a 5,000-square-foot digester, a 3,500 square-foot presswater tank, a 7,500 square-foot biofilter, an 1,059 kW combined heat and a power unit with flare, site grading and stormwater facilities.

The facility would produce compost to be marketed to agricultural and retail users, as well as a residual liquid (dubbed, compost tea) that also could be sold to agricultural users. If approved, the plant could begin operating in 2018.

Methane produced during the composting process could eventually produce power for up to 650 homes a year. About 20 percent of that energy would go back into operating the new facility. The other 80 percent will be sold to PG&E.

Methane produces greenhouse gases, and the new plant would reduce harmful emissions.

The project goal — as Waste Connections representatives told the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors and attendees at a Feb. 18 board meeting — is to keep all organic waste out of the landfills, according to Waste Connections.

The state’s goal is to divert 75 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2020.

Nick Wilson contributed to this story.

If you go

San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission meets starting at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St., Room D170, San Luis Obispo. Among items being considered is an application by Hitachi Zosen Inova to build and operate an anaerobic-digestion plant to process green and food waste from the Waste Connections service area, including the North Coast. The project is at 4388 Old Santa Fe Road, south of San Luis Obispo.

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