From Green to Brown to Green Again: Composting in LA

Decomposing is the process of organic matter decaying, ultimately resulting in compost. Compost is produced by a variety of organic materials that get broken down by bugs, microorganisms, and bacteria, and is especially useful in creating fertilizer because it reintroduces nutrients into the soil.

While households can create a composting system individually, the city will actually do it for you!

In 2022, the Los Angeles Environment and Sanitation Department started a “curbside organics recycling” program, known as OrganicsLA, in which the city collects organic waste from residents’ green bins to turn into compost. This new program was in response to Senate Bill 1383, a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as limit the amount of organic waste in landfills. In order to utilize this program, Los Angeles residents can put a wide variety of food scraps and other organic waste into their green bins and the city will pick it up on the designated pick-up day. The city also offers free kitchen pails to put food scraps in.

Some items you can put in the green bin, according to the LA Sanitation Department, include fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggshells, bread, grains, beans, meat, bones, fish, shells, coffee grounds and filters, food covered napkins and pizza boxes, grass clippings, and untreated wood. While typically such materials like meat and bone would not be put into household compost, because the compost piles in the city are on a larger scale and reach greater temperatures, it is fine.

While many things can be composted, there are some items to keep away from the green bin. These items include anything plastic, glass, produce stickers, waxes, pet waste, pet litter, oil, and grease, even if these aforementioned products are labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable.” Although products may be labeled “compostable,” the LA Sanitation Department notes that these products often do not decompose as quickly as needed for commercial composting. It is especially important to have materials that decompose fully, seeing as the compost produced by the city is sold to farmers and then used to grow organic products.

Composting is a great thing to do because it not only keeps organic waste out of landfills and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it also fuels the creation of more food.