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Santa Clara’s Residential Food Scrap Program Still Needs Work

The City of Santa Claras Residential Food Scrap pilot program has many residents up in arms. Mostly about their trash can breaking.

Almost two years after the City of Santa Clara launched its residential food scrap pilot program, some residents are still unhappy about how the program is going.

“Just going through a neighborhood on any given Thursday; you can see broken lids, you can see the trash cans are so full that you can’t even close the lid because there’s no room,” said Santa Clara resident Elisa Christine Baublitz. “One 13-gallon bag fills up half the trash can. It’s impossible if you have a bigger bag.”

Baublitz says in the two years since the pilot program started, her trash can has broken at least a dozen times and she’s talked to neighbors who say the same thing.


“I see [the repairman] basically every day,” said Baublitz. “This poor guy just drives around in his truck to replace the cans that are broken and to fix the lids. It just seems so pointless.”

The City understands that there’s an issue with the trash cans but feels like the program is still a success. Since it was enacted, garbage trucks have collected 3.8 tons of food scraps every day; totaling about six pounds per customer, per week.

“That’s the benefit of doing the pilot, we learned things along the way, and we can hear from people about having the smaller capacity on the garbage side,” said Karin Hickey, Santa Clara’s Environmental Program Manager. “We wanted to change things up a little to alleviate that as much as we could.”

The City has to get ready to roll out the program with or without changes so it can comply with State Bill 1383, which was signed in 2016.

The bill requires that the state reduce organic waste. There must be a 50 percent reduction by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025. Cities and counties are responsible for making sure that happens.

Dave Staub, Santa Clara’s Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works, says there will be changes to the program before it is rolled out citywide.

“We would not move forward with the current containers that are out there based on the container performance and feedback we’ve gotten from residents,” said Staub. “[If] we were to roll out the food scrap program citywide, there would be container modifications, but there would still be a divider.”

Staub says in addition to changing the containers, when the program is rolled out citywide it will also include soiled paper. That means napkins, pizza boxes, and paper towels among other things will be added to the food scrap side. Adding those would increase the amount of waste placed in the food scrap side of the trash bin every week.

Baublitz says she understands where the City is coming from, but since she composts herself, she has no need for the food scrap side of the trash can. She thinks another solution may be the best for the City.

“It would be great for people to [recycle food scraps], but maybe they need to have a community [bin] that’s good enough for the area,” said Baublitz. “People can go and drop it off just like they would a donation.”

The Santa Clara City Council will hold a study session on Sept. 17 where City staff will present multiple options for what kind of organic recycling program is rolled out citywide.

Santa Clara is still collecting feedback on the food scrap recycling program and is happy to work with residents who are having issues. Anyone who has questions can call 408-615-3080.

Kaiser Permanente

  1. Suzanne Dougan 2 years ago

    We have a can and are a house of three adults. We recycle as much trash as possible, so the can is fine

    We don’t like the bucket either but attached it inside a cabinet to take it’s ugly look off the counter

  2. Robert Brown 2 years ago

    I walk through the neighborhoods using this split can every day. Some days I peek into the compost side and I have never seen anything other than a few corn husks in them, and I see overflowing jammed trash sides every day. This is a very ill-conceived design.

  3. Weej 2 years ago

    We are on our 4th can now and based on this article, this pilot of a FAILURE.

    The cans allow rain in and are impossible to clean. They break frequently, are hard to manage and do very little to solve the problem of food waste. We are NOT putting any six pounds of waste per week into the container.

    However, the city, as is typical of politicians and their beaurocrats, is claiming success:

    “The City understands that there’s an issue with the trash cans but feels like the program is still a success. Since it was enacted, garbage trucks have collected 3.8 tons of food scraps every day; totaling about six pounds per customer, per week”.

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