Author: U.S. Gain
U.S. Gain

SB 1383: Impact to Refuse Haulers

When talking about sustainability goals, much of the focus has been on reducing carbon (dioxide). However, it shouldn’t be the sole focus. Short-lived climate pollutants (SCLP’s) account for 45% of human-caused global warming to date in the United States—only preceded by carbon dioxide (CO2). SCLP’s include black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons. Even though they stay in the atmosphere for a shorter amount of time than carbon dioxide, they result in a greater per molecule global warming impact. In California, currently, 20% of the state’s methane emissions come from organic waste in landfills—a primary focus of the state’s SB 1383.

What is SB 1383?

Senate Bill 1383, also referred to as California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Law, aims to lower methane levels across the state by reducing the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills. CalRecycle defines organic waste as “food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste.” As these materials decompose and break down, methane (CH4) is released into the atmosphere: a substance over 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

Additionally, since millions throughout the state are food insecure, this legislation aims to prevent excess food from being discarded—rather, redistributed to those in need. These two primary objectives of SB 1383 translate to the targeted reduction timelines below:

  • Reduce California’s organic waste disposal 50% by January 1, 2020 and 75% by January 1, 2025 (compared to a 2014 baseline)
  • Recover at least 20% of edible food that would otherwise be disposed of for human consumption by 2025

Why Does SB 1383 Matter?

As of January 1, 2022, regulations to meet the organic waste reduction targets took effect and are now enforceable at the state level. This means that residents and businesses are now required to sort, separately collect food scraps, yard debris, and food-soiled paper from trash and recycling, and subscribe to an organic waste collection service. However, the first two years of implementation will focus more on educating and helping citizens and businesses stay in compliance. In total, over 20 million tons of waste will need to be diverted from landfills through either composting, anaerobic digestion, or chipping and grinding. However, it’s estimated that existing infrastructure can only accommodate ~10 million tons.

Specific to cities and counties, SB 1383 further requires these entities to procure 0.08 tons of organic waste per resident as CalRecycle defines above (ex. 8,000 tons/year for 100,000 residents). To fulfill procurement targets, organic waste can be processed by any combination of compost, mulch, biomass electricity, and renewable natural gas (RNG); however, many municipalities aren’t sure how they’ll meet these requirements.

Currently, compost and mulch supply throughout the state is limited and biomass electricity isn’t readily available in many areas. Many believe RNG will help meet most of this procurement target; however, for RNG to meet SB 1383 standards, it must be produced in-state from organics diversion. This means that the current RNG supply from in-state dairies, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants is not SB 1383 compliant today—translating to limited supply, increased competition, and stranded assets in current operational (carbon-negative) RNG projects.

What Does SB 1383 Mean for Refuse Haulers?

With procurement targets weighing heavily on municipalities, they are beginning to require refuse haulers commit to running a certain percentage of their fleet on SB 1383 compliant gas. As refuse fleets compete for municipal contracts, many fear that due to the lack of compliant supply, they’ll have to pay a premium for the gas they’re able to receive.

To put this into perspective, the conversion factor is as follows: one ton of recovered organic waste equates to 21 DGE of RNG. If we return to our scenario above, in a town with 100,000 residents and a procurement target of 8,000 tons/year, this municipality will require 168,000 DGE of RNG, annually. From a state wide perspective, as of January 1, 2021, there were ~39.5M residents across all California jurisdictions, equating to more than 66,300,000 DGE of RNG required annually in the form of a transportation fuel. For reference, in 2020, California had over 151,500,000 DGE of transportation RNG—supply that will not count towards the state’s organic diversion requirement.

Next Steps for Your Refuse Fleet

Between now and the January 1, 2024 timeline for local enforcement of SB 1383 to begin, many refuse fleets are left to evaluate how RNG fits into their fueling portfolio—especially with looming electrification mandates on the horizon. That’s where U.S. Gain comes in. As an off-taker to SB 1383 compliant gas, we can help developers connect their excess gas to fleets, like yours. For help identifying just what this legislation means for your fleet and how you can plan for your compliance timeline, reach out!

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