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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Everyone Separates Food Scraps From Trash Now?

Uploaded: Jan 9, 2022

We take a break from our regularly scheduled Dry January program, to discuss a new California law Senate Bill (SB) 1383, aimed at reducing food waste, and hopefully adding real soil amendments. I haven’t heard much about it. Has anyone started this program in their neighborhood yet?

I can just imagine somebody these days, "Oh I won't separate my food scraps. You can't make me. WAAA. WAAAA. WAAAA."Don't take away my freedom not to give a cr**-a** about good food, good soil or the planet."

But hopefully not.

Food waste is key to great tasting, organic food. As Dr. William Horwath, Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry at UC Davis said in my book Cool Cuisine – Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming, “Organic agricultural is a fantastic idea, except we just don’t have enough compost to pull it off on a large scale in the U.S.” Seasoning the soil with potato peels, banana skins, and leftovers is in our best interest as eaters. It brings nutrients to the soil microbiome, which they share with our vegetables, leaving us with better flavor and nutrition. Think of the soil as a fine Bordelaise sauce, and food scraps as the herbs and spices needed to season the mix to perfection.

New CA Requirements for Handling Food Waste

California cities and counties are beginning to implement edible food recovery and composting programs outlined in Senate Bill (SB) 1383 to meet the statewide goals of reducing the landfilling of organic waste by 75 percent and increasing the recovery of disposed edible food by 20 percent by 2025.

As of January 1, 2022, all single-family residences, multi-family residential complexes, and businesses must subscribe to a curbside organics collection program from their local waste hauler. Additionally, food handling businesses are required to redirect surplus edible food to food recovery organizations like food banks to help feed those in need.

Click here to link to the bill.

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Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 10, 2022 at 8:14 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Food waste is just that, waste. You can't stop chicken from having chicken bones, corn from having husks, nuts from having shells they are all waste.

What you can do is stop people buying food and not using it. Stop the bulk buying wastage. Stop the encouragement to make us buy more than we need. Stop the huge portions in restaurants that are taken home and left to rot in the refrigerators. Stop the deals to supersize.

Prevention from over consumption or at least over purchasing would make more sense to me.

Posted by Ronnie Delgado, a resident of Mountain View,
on Jan 10, 2022 at 8:42 am

Ronnie Delgado is a registered user.

We toss our food scraps into the garden.

Stuff like fruit & vegetable skins break down easily adding nutrients to the soil.

And discarded crab shells add calcium.

We don't throw any meat waste products out there because it attracts wild animals
that tear up the garden.

Saves a trip to the garbage can.

Our SE Asian neighbors also use nightsoil to fertilize their vegetables but this can be tricky.

Posted by Marian Lockhart, a resident of Los Altos,
on Jan 10, 2022 at 10:03 am

Marian Lockhart is a registered user.

Is nightsoil available at the local garden centers and what makes it so special?

Posted by Dirk Peterson , a resident of another community,
on Jan 10, 2022 at 11:25 am

Dirk Peterson is a registered user.

@Marion Lockhart

I suspect that you will not be able to procure nightsoil at your local garden center.

Nightsoil is human excrement meticulously and slowly aged to bring out its natural organic enhancements.

When I was serving in Viet Nam, the locals used it to fertilize their vegetables.

Extreme caution must be exercised as e-coli and cholera can be easily transmitted into whatever is being grown in this medium.

Insufficient public health measures and lack of information is why so many of our global diseases emanate from 3rd world countries.

Miracle-Gro would be a far safer bet than using one's poop to ensure a bountiful vegetable garden.

Posted by Lacy James, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 10, 2022 at 11:48 am

Lacy James is a registered user.

*Nightsoil is human excrement meticulously and slowly aged to bring out its natural organic enhancements.

EEW...that is so disgusting! No wonder you cannot buy it at a commercial gardening center.

Posted by Ashley Nguyen, a resident of North Whisman,
on Jan 10, 2022 at 12:31 pm

Ashley Nguyen is a registered user.

My grandmother still uses nightsoil in her backyard but not to grow vegetables.
She applies it to her camelias so that they will bloom in time for the Tet holidays.

Using nightsoil is a time-honored cultural and agricultural tradition among many Southeast Asians including East Indians, Cambodians, Laotians, and the Vietnamese.

No different than using bat guano to encourage plant growth.

Posted by Jim Ferrin, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jan 11, 2022 at 10:29 am

Jim Ferrin is a registered user.

>> No different than using bat guano to encourage plant growth.

There's a big difference. Bat guano is harvested from bat caves.

Human nightsoil is not considered a true guano which is sourced from winged animals living in the wilds (e.g. bats, birds etc.).

Nightsoil can be procured nearly anywhere (if one chooses to do so).

It's far more advisable to stick with discarded household produce matter as potential garden fertilizer (rather than relying on bats or a toilet) to further enhance one's legacy and/or reputation of having a green thumb.

Safer too.

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Jan 11, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Alan is a registered user.

The one thing I wonder about is: how good is city compost for food? We have religiously put our food waste the green bins for several years, and get free compost from Recology for our ornamental garden ... however, there's something about its smell that's a bit different from the compost you might get from Lyngso or some other garden supply place; it's not quite that sweet, earthy smell you want. How good are they at making sure plastic and other junk don't get in there? Having lived in apartments in the past, I have evidence that some people are massively challenged in the concept of how to properly sort things. Do they monitor this?

Posted by Justin Morales, a resident of Castro City,
on Jan 11, 2022 at 3:09 pm

Justin Morales is a registered user.

Yikes. Small wonder my friends in San Jose avoid shopping for fresh produce in Little Saigon.

Nightsoil gives a whole new meaning to natural & organically farmed.

Posted by Melba James, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Jan 11, 2022 at 3:31 pm

Melba James is a registered user.

In addition to being a soil supplement, does nightsoil add any flavor to the vegetables being grown in it?

Posted by Butch Wilkins, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Jan 11, 2022 at 7:20 pm

Butch Wilkins is a registered user.

When I was in Nam, the local villagers would hand-roll balls of human dung and then plant them around their veggies, sort of a timed release fertilizer.

The Viet Cong used the same substance on their punji sticks, sharpened bamboo spears coated with human dung which created horrible bacterial infections if one were impailed by one.

I cannot even imagine consuming fresh produce grown under these conditions.

Posted by Jeremy Taylor, a resident of Los Altos,
on Jan 12, 2022 at 9:39 am

Jeremy Taylor is a registered user.

? In addition to being a soil supplement, does nightsoil add any flavor to the vegetables being grown in it?

@Melba James
Why not give it a try & let the rest of us know?

Posted by Jennie Swift, a resident of another community,
on Jan 12, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Jennie Swift is a registered user.

All things considered, I imagine nightsoil could be considered pre-processed food scraps.

Posted by Mavis Patterson, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Jan 12, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Mavis Patterson is a registered user.

Does one wear dungarees when harvesting bat guano or nightsoil?

Posted by SP Phil, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Jan 12, 2022 at 2:23 pm

SP Phil is a registered user.

The new state requirements for handling food scraps: Isn't that what we've been doing in Mountain View for many years, by using the small green bins?

Posted by Laura Stec, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jan 13, 2022 at 9:58 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Thanks to my neighbor who called GreenWaste - Portola Valley's garbage collection company. Here's what they said:

"Please note the programs offered throughout California will vary by City. For Woodside & Portola Valley residents, you will be placing any food waste into your GRAY Mixed Compostable cart as we have been doing. The new law requires for organic material to be processed at a High Diversion Facility, and our MRF meets the requirements of a High Diversion Facility. All the material is transferred to our facility and we are sorting the material and composting the material as the new law if requesting, and we have been doing this for a few years now."

Posted by Judith Wasserman, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jan 13, 2022 at 10:50 am

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

Not sure how this got sidetracked into night soil discussion. I think the county health department would love to chime in.

Palo Alto has had compost collection for years. In the beginning there was a lot of posting about fruit flies, but that seems to be a solved problem. Between the green waste bin and the blue recycling bin, my weekly black garbage is down to about 1/3 of a black garbage bag.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 13, 2022 at 10:56 am

Steve is a registered user.

Municipal sewage sludge has been processed by the city of Milwaukee since 1926 and sold under the brand name Milorganite. Since then nearly 4 million tons of Milorganite has been sold, preventing nearly 10 billion tons of solid human waste from going into landfills. It is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and is recommended for use on lawns and is EPA approved for use in vegetable gardens. It is available nationwide through Ace Hardware, Lowe's and Home Depot. For more info check out the Wikipedia link Web Link

Posted by Esther Steinman, a resident of North Whisman,
on Jan 13, 2022 at 11:08 am

Esther Steinman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Adeline Meriweather, a resident of Los Altos Hills,
on Jan 13, 2022 at 1:44 pm

Adeline Meriweather is a registered user.

* discarded crab shells add calcium.

We toss our discarded egg shells into the garden which also adds calcium to the soil.

Posted by Darin Gallagher, a resident of another community,
on Jan 15, 2022 at 11:50 am

Darin Gallagher is a registered user.

The use of food scraps for whatever purpose is nothing new.

My kinfolk in Kentucky have always used them to feed their pigs.

And pig poop is often used as fertilizer for corn, beets, and string beans.

So what is the big deal?

Whether the fertilizer is derived from animals or humans makes no difference as long as you are assured of having a bountiful crop.

Posted by Harvey Chen, a resident of St. Francis Acres,
on Jan 15, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Harvey Chen is a registered user.

FYI. Plant fertilizer can also be made from recycled plastics.

Web Link

Posted by Lucas Waller, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 15, 2022 at 1:58 pm

Lucas Waller is a registered user.

The potential use of discarded plastic to fertilize my backyard plants has me intrigued.

Since most plastics are non-biodegradable, I am hoping that someday there will be a convenient spray-on chemical that breaks down the plastic into usable non-organic fertilizer.

That way I can continue to toss my plastic trash directly into the shrubbery and on my weedpatch lawn as I regularly do

Posted by Errol Mann, a resident of another community,
on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:21 pm

Errol Mann is a registered user.

Converting plastic to useable plant fertilizer is a brilliant concept and would reduce much of our refuse problems.

It could also be incorporated into plastic plant container material as a nutrient supplement.

Posted by Asa Goldman, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 16, 2022 at 11:12 am

Asa Goldman is a registered user.

Plastics should become an ally to humananity rather than a pariah.

All of the eco-cross bearers still wearing fleece garments (Patagonia, Eddie Bauer etc.) made from recycled plastics should be the last ones to condemn the infinite uses of plastic.

Plastic is a practical convenience and not an adversary.

Only the reckless and irresponsible disposal of plastic by-products should be condemned.

Posted by Laura Stec, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jan 16, 2022 at 7:36 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Before covid, a group of Portola Valley folk were invited on a tour of Greenwaste - to see how they separate the food scraps from the trash. . I want to finally reschedule that soon if possible. If you want to join us, drop me a note. Great discussion everyone!

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 25, 2022 at 4:31 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

What is really wrong with plastics is the disposable nature of the product.

When plastics first took off back in the early 60s, they really solved many problems. Glass bottles broke too easily and broken glass was a big problem when things like shampoo was knocked over in a bathroom. Children using expensive dinner plates often dropped them and a plastic set with cartoon characters lasted for many years before the child became tired of them and preferred to use grown up plates. Plastic toothbrush handles replaced bone toothbrushes, plastic combs replaced metal or ivory combs, metal storage for foods often rusted and tupperware replacements were longer lasting and more hygienic, etc. etc. etc.

At some stage, plastics became single use items. All household items will eventually break and need replacing. Getting back to some of the original ideas for safety and longer life of plastics is just as important in the reuse mantra.

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