Sunnyvale residents turning food scraps into eco-friendly products

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Sunnyvale turning leftovers into eco-friendly products
The city of Sunnyvale has already taken composting to one step further -- turning leftover food and scraps into eco-friendly products

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- A big change coming Saturday for many in California. Food scraps must be separated for composting to help reduce waste going to landfills. However, the city of Sunnyvale has already taken this one step further -- turning leftover food and scraps into eco-friendly products. Residents have already been rewarded by seeing lower trash bills.

900 tons. That's how much waste comes into Sunnyvale's recycling center on a daily basis. However, 18% of it gets diverted from going to a landfill facility because of a food scraps program started in 2015. Thanks to residents placing leftovers, trimmings from fruit and vegetables and other food waste in a separate container, all of it will be transformed into eco-friendly products.

As you can imagine, bits and pieces of food scraps do not look appetizing, but after processing, they will eventually become biofuel and animal feed.

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Starting New Year's Day, all California residents and businesses must separate food scraps for composting. However, Sunnyvale wanted to do more by working with a contractor.

"They pick up the mash at the Smart Station, and at their facility, they dehydrate it, they pasteurize it, and they're able to make it into a USDA approved animal feed, also into fertilizer, and they're also able to make the fats into biofuel," said David Krueger, Sunnyvale's solid waste programs manager.

It takes more effort for residents to separate their food scraps, as they do with recyclables. However, the city's 31,000 residential customers received a reward. They saw their waste bills drop an average of 10 percent in 2019 -- savings resulting from reducing trash sent to landfills.

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"We accept all kinds of food, including animal bones and meat, which you can't put in your yard waste if you're composting. But you can't put in other things that might be considered compostable like napkins and paper bags," said Jacqueline Guzman, Sunnyvale deputy city manager.

An additional payoff is giving residents an opportunity to do something to help the environment.

"It reduces the amount of methane that comes out of landfills that can contribute to climate change," said Krueger. "I think people feel good about helping the environment and helping the community."

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