Orange County residents turn kitchen scraps to power source

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2016 6:19 PM

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Some Orange County residents are learning how citrus peels, lawn clippings — even chicken bones — have a second life as a clean energy source.

Six months ago, the Costa Mesa Sanitary District started asking residents to separate kitchen scraps and yard waste so the materials could help make fuel.

It's the first such program in Southern California, and the response has been strong, The Orange County Register reported Monday (http://tinyurl.com/gv673nv ).

So far, more than 7 million pounds of material that otherwise would have gone to a landfill has been recycled. Already, nearly half of single-family households separate scraps into a separate kitchen pail, according to a study of more than 1,000 households conducted by the University of California, Irvine.

Instead of heading for the trash, the scraps are trucked to a compost pile in the desert. Starting next month, they will be fed into an anaerobic digester that creates a brew that gives of biogas.

That gas will be used to power the trucks that hauled the waste.

Government is helping create a market for the material. California has a goal of diverting 75 percent of waste from landfills, and the California Air Resources Board plans to consider regulations that would eliminate organic waste from landfills by 2025.

The program still has its flaws. In apartment buildings, it's not easy to create space for scraps that can get smelly as they sit. Even the most conscientious recyclers don't produce a large volume of material, and some people don't think it's worth the effort.

Overall, though, Costa Mesa seems to be succeeding.

"I hadn't spent a whole lot of time thinking about our garbage," said Shawna Rousseau, a Costa Mesa resident of 16 years. "It's (now) my normal train of thought as to what I do. And if it helps the environment, why not adopt it?"