On Jan. 1, 2022, California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction law, aka SB 1383, went into effect, requiring jurisdictions to provide organic waste (or composting) collection services to the public, then recycle those materials in facilities. It’s all part of an effort to reduce methane emissions statewide.
The Truckee and North Lake Tahoe region is in a unique situation, according to this law, because portions function as high-elevation or low-population jurisdictions. Thus, the region has a small organic waste footprint and faces challenges, such as bears and weather, in collecting organic material. The following jurisdictions in or near Moonshine Ink’s coverage area qualify for specific waivers, meaning they’re exempt from providing such a service:
Low Population Waiver (Counties)
El Dorado County
Olympic Valley Public Service District (Placer)
Elevation Waiver (Counties)
El Dorado County
Elevation Waiver (Cities)
South Lake Tahoe
That being said, are there still local composting options available even if it’s not required by the state? Short answer, yes. Long and thorough answer, see below.
What are the best ways to compost in the Truckee/North Tahoe region? How does composting help waste streams?
Slow Food Lake Tahoe (SFLT) volunteers began collecting kitchen scraps from the community and successfully turning them into compost for its Food Bank Garden in 2017. Shortly after, Keep Truckee Green (KTG) approached us for a partnership based around encouraging more of our community to compost by making it clearer and convenient. Together, we began offering affordable household compost buckets that can be used to store kitchen scraps throughout the week before bringing them to a nearby drop-off location. We highly recommend this method over trying to start one’s own compost pile at home, which can often lead to unwanted smells, attracting critters, and even the unintentional feeding of bears.
From May through October, SFLT asks the community to bring collections of fruit and veggie scraps, old flowers, eggshells, coffee grounds, leaves, sawdust from untreated wood, and shredded white paper to the SFLT Food Bank Garden located in the Truckee River Regional Park. There, we have a drop-off that’s open anytime during park hours for dumping materials (no bags, please, even the compostable type), which need to be covered with a small amount of hay to start the composting process. Once these scraps are turned into compost, aka garden gold, it’s used to feed the soil in SFLT’s Food Bank Garden, which hosts many free edible gardening educational days for adults and children while growing food for Sierra Community House’s hunger relief program. Your contribution to our compost is valuable to our community in so many ways!
From September through April — or anytime for those who wish to compost animal products (meat, dairy, seafood, fats, bones) — we ask that you bring your food scraps to the public food waste dumpsters in Truckee, managed by KTG. You can find the green-colored dumpsters behind Truckee Town Hall, Glenshire General Store, and Mountain Hardware on Donner Pass Road. These food scraps are brought to Full Circle Soils & Compost in Nevada where they are processed into a rich compost that is sold in bags at our local nurseries for gardens.
If you insist on a home compost, try vermi-composting with earthworms. It takes a little more time and attention than the previously mentioned options, but we’ve had many community members who say this is the way to go for home composting in our mountain town. Keeping it in your garage, under the house, or on your kitchen countertop are all options with this method.
Regardless of which composting option you choose, keeping organic waste out of your garbage helps prevent potent greenhouse gasses from being released when it breaks down in the landfill. A cared-for compost pile is turned or stirred periodically to add oxygen to the mix, which prevents these environmentally harmful gasses from forming. The process of creating compost is a natural way to break down the organic waste that we humans aren’t using and return the nutrients to the soil, where compost helps to balance soil density and pH. This contributes to healthier plant roots and growth, delivers nutrients to the soil to make plants stronger, and acts like a sponge to help keep plants from drying out and soil and pollutants from running off into our rivers and lakes.
For those who want to get more involved with composting, come down to the SFLT Food Bank Garden on Wednesday mornings through October to work with our compost experts and help turn and sift the piles. Come get your hands dirty with us, it’s a great way to learn! For more information on composting visit: slowfoodlaketahoe.org/compost.
~ Amy Fagel, president of Slow Food Lake Tahoe