2022: New food-related laws take effect in California

As 2022 begins, three new food-related laws take effect in California. All three aim to improve how our food system functions. Senate Bill 1383, which aims to expand composting, will have the most significant impact on the lives of everyday Californians.

#1: SB 1383-CalRecyle

The law, passed in 2016, took effect on January 1st and aims to reduce organic waste in landfills by 75% by 2025.

Throughout 2022, jurisdictions will roll out programs to collect organic waste in designated waste bins (you may have already received one from your apartment complex or city). All you have to do is put anything organic (e.g., apple cores, banana peels, coffee grounds, etc.) in your organic bin—preferably without a bag. The waste will then be turned into fertilizer and natural gas. Alternatively, you can keep your organic waste to compost and then use it as fertilizer for your garden. This law could help to remove 15% of methane emissions, which is the equivalent of 1.7 million gas-powered cars! Waste management customers will see their monthly bills go up modestly to pay for this change. 

#2: SB 343—the “truth in environmental advertising” law

This law took effect on January 1 and involves categorizing and labeling plastic products. Previously, many plastic products bore the recyclable arrow symbol, but, unfortunately, much of it could not be recycled in California. As a result, people thinking they were being environmentally conscious were unknowingly adding to our planet’s waste problem—with much of it ending up in landfills in developing countries. However, now when you buy a plastic product and see the recyclable arrows, you can be sure the plastic is, in fact, recyclable!

#3: Redefining the term “bioengineered”

The third law is actually a federal rule, referred to as the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, that will standardize many different state food labeling policies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new rule changing the labeling of food products labeled as “GMO” to the updated “bioengineered” or “derived from bioengineering” took effect on January 1st. 

The new label of “bioengineered” simply means food that has been modified in a way that couldn’t have happened through natural growth. Congress actually passed this law on labeling GMOs to harmonize different state policies into one national standard back in 2016; it’s the federal rule from that law that took effect this year. 

The takeaways regarding these changes:

  • Make sure you and your family are separating your organic waste! If you haven’t received a designated bin from your trash provider, reach out to them. If you are new to separating your organic waste, don’t despair; it’s as easy as recycling. One tip: if you are worried about the smell, you can place a small bin in your freezer until it is full and then place it in the bin for removal.
  • Now, when you see the recycling symbol you can know with confidence that the product is actually able to be recycled!
  • When you see something labeled as “bioengineered,” it does not mean the product has been changed since you last purchased it—only the labeling. Some products will have a QR code, so you can use your smartphone’s camera to learn more.

Share this information with your friends and family so they are aware of the new policies!