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How San Diego restaurants are recycling food waste

The food waste law has officially been a law for one month now and many restaurants have been required to comply.

SAN DIEGO — Restaurants are the backbone of many communities. They bring people together from employees to customers, food distributors and farmers, they lure in tourists and cater to locals. Restaurants help keep our towns running. But it’s no secret the restaurant industry can contribute to a lot of waste.  

People don’t always finish their meals. The kitchen may not use up everything they order.  That’s why at Union Kitchen and Tap in Encinitas, they’re proud to start recycling their food waste

"[It’s] a little piece this restaurant can do to impact the bigger picture," said the General Manager Tyler Glick. As of January 1, they changed their trash ways.  

They now have buckets at various stations including their bar and bigger ones in the kitchen. When the buckets get full, the person assigned to the station is also assigned to take it out back and put it in the food waste bin. 

“I think it’s a great program I think it’s not as scary as it sounded on paper once you get into it, it flows with the restaurant and it’s kind of the new way of business," said Glick.

Encinitas and other cities like Solana Beach, Oceanside, Vista, are a few examples of cities serviced by EDCO. EDCO already has a food waste plan in place.  

“I think the rollout has started and it’s really slow because haulers are operating on different schedules,” says Mallika Sen. Sen is the Environmental Solutions Director at The Solana Center for Environmental Innovation. 

The Solana Center is helping many businesses and residents streamline their recycling.

"I definitely think businesses are excited and a little apprehensive… the main thing is ‘what do we need to do, how do we not disrupt our operations?' it does not have to be an extra burden,” explained Sen. 

Goodonya in Encinitas is a restaurant that’s been recycling their food for years.  

“We really don’t throw away a lot. As a restaurant, you don’t want to waste food,” said Sarah Spry who is the Executive Chef of Goodonya and she does most of the ordering of food from nearly 50 different local farms and distributors. She has the task of figuring out how much they need so things don’t get dumped.  

But the food they do have to dump goes to a company called “The Compost Group.” They pick up two bins of food waste out back twice a week.  

“It lowers your impact on the environment for sure and it also teaches your cooks to be more responsible,” said Spry.  

It’s not only the restaurant staff embracing food waste recycling, a lot of customers at Goodonya are used to it because they have the specific bins out front. For example, your food waste goes into one bin, your recyclables go into another, and your trash goes into a third bin.  

Organic food and giving back to the Earth has always been a priority for Goodonya. 

"Absolutely it is the culture here for sure," Spry said.

And this year, most restaurants and people across San Diego will be doing the same. 

EDCO takes its organic waste to its Anaerobic Facility to be turned to renewable natural gas. 

Republic Services takes the trash from its customers to be used as compost.  

People living in the City of San Diego will not see changes to their food waste recycling until this summer and that’s when they say bins and composting should be available.  

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Related Video: What you need to know about California’s new food waste recycling law (Jan 4, 2022)

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