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Food waste recycling expands
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Manteca is now recycling the rough equivalent of 18 Ford-150 pickup truck loads a week of food waste.

The city’s fledging food waste recycling effort that eventually will power Manteca’s fleet of refuse collection trucks by compressed natural gas produced from the food blended with methane gas at the wastewater treatment plant now involves three schools and six businesses.

Rexie LeStrange who is overseeing the rollout of food waste collection at all schools in Manteca Unified as well as commercial ventures such as restaurants, grocery stores and the city’s two hospitals that generate a lot of food waste indicated businesses are meeting the challenge.

“Their food waste is all very clean,” LeStrange said. “They are doing an excellent job.”

Most of the businesses now involved in the food waste collection are in East Manteca. They include Food-4-Less, Grocery Outlet, I-HOP, Mt, Mike’s Pizza, Chezi Shari at the golf course, and Second Harvest Food Bank. The three schools involved so far are Woodward,  Brock Elliott, and Joshua Cowell.

The city is currently collecting about 36 cubic yards of food waste a week. A Ford-150 pick-up bed can carry roughly two cubic yards.

Cal Recycle during a recent inspection of Manteca’s efforts noted no other jurisdiction in the Northern San Joaquin Valley has progressed as far as Manteca has.

The food waste is currently being trucked to Harvest Power in Lathrop where it is converted into compost.

Once a facility has been put in place at the wastewater treatment plant sometime next year, the city will start producing fuel for trucks. A sorting device is also being out in place at Lovelace Transfer Station where food waste from residential Toters will be separated from other garbage and sent to the wastewater treatment plant. 

Commercial food waste will be collected separately as it is now. Ad an added bonus, the containers the food waste is placed are locked which also should greatly reduce if not eliminate people scavenging through them for food and creating a mess. The waste containers are locked for health reasons to avoid smell becoming an issue as well as to prevent it from attracting flies.

While all cities and counties need to start recycling food waste under state mandate, Manteca is one of the first to go a step further and combine it with sold waste from wastewater to convert it into fuel to power vehicles.  The city has started replacing its refuse collection trucks with those that burn natural gas. Eventually as all of the more than two dozen trucks reach the end of their useful life , the entire fleet will be converted. The switch will also help Manteca to meet stringent air standards that are being put in place for the San Joaquin Valley. 

Manteca and other California cities must reduce the food waste they bury by 50 percent by 2018 under state law.  Food waste — based on a survey made of random residential brown Toters switched out on a collection day that had their contents shifted through by hand —  constitutes 35 percent of Manteca’s garbage. While that seems high it is below the state average for food waste in garbage at 40 percent.

Effective recycling programs and various cost-saving efficiencies that the city has put in place such as hybrid powered trucks as well as having a front-line crew of drivers always looking for ways to reduce expenses has allowed Manteca to go nine plus years without a solid waste hike. It is an unmatched record for the Northern San Joaquin Valley.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email