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Food recycling starts at schools
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Students returning to Brock Elliott and Joshua Cowell elementary schools next month won’t be wasting food that they leave on their lunch plates.

Instead, they will help recycle it in a process that will eventually fuel the City of Manteca trucks that collect garbage, green waste, and recyclables.

Manteca and other California cities are working to comply with a state law that eventually bans burying food waste and organic materials in landfills.

The city’s pilot program starts on Thursday, Aug. 6 — the first day of school for Manteca Unified students. Students will be apprised of the new program and how to properly clear their plates during a 10:30 a.m. assembly at each school. Solid waste staff will then stay through the lunch periods to guide them through the process.

Manteca Solid Waste Coordinator Rexie LeStrange said after the pilot program starts at the schools, Food-4-Less has stepped up to be the first commercial participant in the city’s program.

An audit of Manteca’s residential brown Toters showed 40 percent of the contents were food waste as opposed to the statewide average of 20 percent. The audit showed an inordinate amount was fast food.

The city is working on a plan to develop a facility at the wastewater treatment plant that would turn wet commercial garbage — food waste — into compressed gas to fuel cleaner burning garbage trucks. The city’s 30-truck refuse fleet burns through 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day. The conversion process the city is working in would generate 600 gallons of fuel a day. They are working with Tracy to switch recyclables for food scraps in a bid to bridge the gap in fuel production.

Ultimately the 48,000 tons of garbage collected in Manteca  that is currently buried each year would be reduced to 28,800 tons of food waste is diverted and made into clean burning fuel.

Under Assembly Bill 1826, by April 2016 all sources that produce 8 cubic yards or more of food waste such as schools, hospitals, and stores that toss out spoiled produce must have their food waste diverted from landfill  By January 2017, that threshold drops down to four cubic yard or more. At that point it starts to cover all food stories plus some restaurants. By January 2019, the threshold drops to two cubic yards to take in all restaurants.

Ultimately all residential food waste would have to be diverted from landfills as well.