Starting in April, some Palo Alto residents will be putting their food scraps out on the curb for pickup by the city's waste-management trucks.
The pilot, residential compost program, unanimously approved by the City Council Monday night, Jan. 14, will add food to the list of items taken away for composting.
The program will last for one year and involve a neighborhood that has yet to be selected by the city's public-works department. If successful, the program could be expanded citywide by 2015.
Currently, the food that people throw out ends up in the landfill. The pilot program will eliminate the black trash carts, and all waste will be placed in either the green, composting bin or the blue recycling bin. Food scraps will need to be bagged, according to staff.
The project's goals are four-pronged: to divert food waste from landfill, thus aiding with the city's Zero Waste goals; save money by eliminating separate garbage collection; reduce the number of garbage-truck trips each week and thus emissions of greenhouse gases; and simplify the sorting of waste for residents, city staff said.
The project was developed out of the council Finance Committee's request to reduce costs to the refuse fund through less-frequent garbage pickup. The collection of food waste and compostable materials is considered the optimal way to reach that goal, staff said. Approximately 6,000 tons of food scraps and food-soiled paper could be diverted from the landfill annually and turned into commercially available compost.
The pilot program will cover approximately 700 homes on a single garbage route. The neighborhood will be selected based on various criteria, including that it is a mix of single-family and multi-family homes.
The green and blue carts would will collected by the city's waste hauler, GreenWaste, once weekly as required by the California State health code, staff said.
Councilwoman Karen Holman on Monday questioned whether people would comply with one of the program's stipulations: bagging items such as foil beverage pouches, diapers, bathroom products such as dental floss and hygiene items, and pet waste. City staff said that, for the most part, residents already comply with that requirement.
Holman said she supports a stronger backyard composting program, which she said the city has not pushed.
The pilot program is consistent with the city's Zero Waste Operational Plan and Climate Protection Plan. Both were adopted in 2007 to provide for the collection and diversion of all compostable material.