In Christmas past, some 25 years ago, Manteca buried all of its garbage — recyclables and green waste included.
In Christmas future — early 2019 — food waste tossed into orange carts will be converted to fuel to power municipal refuse tracks that collect garbage.
As for Christmas present, Manteca is at least three years ahead of its neighbors and most of California to meet a state mandate to stop burying food waste and work closer to zero diversion defined as burying 10 percent or less of the garbage city residents and businesses collect.
And part of the credit goes to a jolly green fellow called Freddy Food Waste.
Freddy is the City of Manteca’s Solid Waste Division mascot who makes the rounds encouraging school kids to recycle food waste. The city’s education effort led by Freddy has helped students at Manteca Unified elementary campuses become so effective at separating food e-waste from regular trash after they finish lunch at school that audits show they are the among the best — if not the best — in the state.
“Freddy helps us educate the kids,” Jeremy Kline, the city’s Solid Waste Supervisor told Manteca Rotarians meeting Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room. “That’s half the battle. Having them go home and educate mom and dad is the other half of the battle.”
Kline noted 80 percent of the restaurants in Manteca, most of the supermarkets, and all of the elementary schools are using orange carts to recycle food waste.
He noted the food waste recycling is having economic benefits. Sizzler, as an example, used to employ two six-yard trash bins. Now with orange carts for food waste Sizzler’s garbage has dropped by 90 percent. And since the city isn’t currently charging for picking up orange cart it results in savings on solid waste collection bills for the business.
The city is in the process of building its food waste to fuel infrastructure at the wastewater treatment plant. The food waste is pulverized in what Kline likens to a giant juicer. The process also harnesses methane gas — a pollution byproduct of the wastewater treatment process — to produced compressed natural gas.
“(The process) works for those who see if from a capitalism viewpoint and those from an environmental viewpoint,” Kline noted.
Currently Manteca is only burying between 25 and 30 percent of the garbage businesses and residents generate.
Cart audits have noted Manteca’s garbage tossed in brown carts is 40 percent food waste. The orange cart program currently targets only businesses, restaurants, and schools.
Manteca could also end up taking food waste from other cities without other options to meet the state mandate or who are not in a position to put in food waste to fuel facilities because of their size or wastewater treatment plant design.
If that happens, Kline said other jurisdictions would be charged tipping fees per truck load.
The governor’s office has already recognized Manteca for having one of the state’s top food waste recycling programs while the Environmental Protection Agency has conveyed a similar honor for it being among the best in the nation.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org