Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • Preserving Food and Protecting Good Samaritans

    California is one of the largest food-producing states in the nation, yet 1 in 8 Californians faces food insecurity. This is all the more frustrating given we throw away more than 5.5 million tons of food every year and much of it is still edible, wholesome, and safe for consumption. Food labels often confuse consumers, which either leads them to toss food into the trash prematurely or discourages them from donating it.

    But help is on the way! Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 1219 (Eggman, Chapter 619, Statutes of 2017), the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This law helps clarify protections for food donors, who sometimes hesitate to donate food for fear of civil and criminal liability.

    What many don’t know is that food with an expired “sell by” date can still be safe to eat and safe to donate. This date is primarily intended for retailers to help them track when a product should be sold or removed from a shelf. It is not a “don’t use after” date. AB 1219 aims to increase food donations by clarifying and increasing liability protections for donors.

    The law will provide liability protection for:

    • food donations that have exceeded the sell-by date,
    • food donations that are made directly to end-users (rather than through a nonprofit food recovery intermediary), and
    • “gleaners” who harvest directly from an agricultural crop that has been donated by the owner.

    The bill aims to reduce the amount of food we throw away and divert it to those in our state who need it most. AB 1219 clarifies the scope and provisions outlined in existing California laws and the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, a federal law signed into effect by President Bill Clinton in 1996.


    Diverting food waste from landfills has environmental benefits as well. Food waste comprises about 18 percent of the material disposed in California landfills, the highest amount of any material. When food waste is landfilled, it decomposes and emits methane gas, a super pollutant that intensifies climate change. Climate change impacts California’s air quality, threatens our economy including food production, and contributes to an increase in health afflictions like asthma.

    Simply put, diverting food waste from landfills helps protect public health by combatting food insecurity and fighting climate change. Every ton of food diverted from a landfill prevents 2.08 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere.

    CalRecycle is providing $5 million in grants this year through its Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Programs. These efforts are part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that uses cap-and-trade funds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health and the environment. To learn more about food rescue efforts and food banks, visit CalRecycle’s website

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Oct 30, 2017

  • California Chefs Share ‘Seed to Stalk’ Recipes to Cut Food Waste

    When your business is food, every bite counts. So when California’s top chefs see potential profits literally tossed in the trash can—well—it bites.

    “We make our money by getting all we can out of the resources we have,” explained Sacramento restauranteur Patrick Mulvaney during CalRecycle’s recent SB 1383 workshop focused on developing regulations to reduce food and other organic waste disposal in California. Later in the workshop, Mulvaney went on to share an enlightening anecdote about his restaurants’ past struggle with rainbow chard. 

    “We used the leaves for all sorts of things like ravioli, fillings and mixes … but we’d be left with buckets and buckets of stems.” 


    All too often in restaurants and homes across California, those stems wind up in the garbage and among the roughly 6 million tons of produce scraps and other food waste landfilled in the state each year. Much of these produce odds and ends are perfectly edible and packed with flavor, making them valuable ingredients for chefs who know how to use them. In Mulvaney’s kitchens, more sustainable food management came by way of what he discovered in a decades-old cookbook.

    “(Cookbook author) Marcella Hazan had this recipe for chard stem gratin with parmesan and cream and all of the bad things that taste really good,” he said. That same recipe urged cooks not to throw out the chard leaves, because those are good too.

    “It was a reminder that, sometimes, what we really need to do is just change our perspective,” Mulvaney added.

    For years, ethical chefs have prided themselves on “using everything but the oink” when preparing animal protein, a principle that reinforces respect for ingredients and disdain for waste. Now, more chefs are applying that same ethic to produce through seed-to-stalk cooking. The latest trend in the sustainable food movement not only helps restaurants boost their bottom line by creating dishes out of potential discards, it also brings California closer to its ambitious 75 percent recycling goal while supporting the state’s strategy to combat climate change. When sent to landfills, food scraps and other organic waste decompose and emit methane, a super pollutant with 70 times more potent that carbon dioxide.

    Here’s what some of Northern California’s hottest restaurants tell us they’re doing to create delicious dishes with their produce odds and ends.

    The Riddler (San Francisco) – “Picked herbs that don’t look as lively a day or so after get chopped up and added in to our herby creme fraiche, as well as day-old lemon juice. Once the pickling program begins, we’ll be using herb stems to season the brine. We also love to use butts, ends, and stems in pickles to maximize flavor.”

    Mother (Sacramento) – “We often use carrot greens to make carrot top pesto. It’s quite good.”

    Kru (Sacramento) – “Most of our vegetable ends or scraps go into our different soups and stocks, such as our mushroom broth or ramen broth. We also have a vichyssoise that incorporates the bulb of the leek into the soup, and then we use the end as a garnish by dehydrating the thick, green leaf so it’s almost crunchy and then stand it up in the soup to add height, color, and texture. We get to use the entirety of the plant.”

    Humboldt Provisions (Eureka) – “We serve our oysters raw and broiled in the shell and reuse the shells as ground cover for our sister business, Humboldt Bay Social Club.  We also have donated shells to the City of Eureka to use as decorative ground cover in the plantings in Old Town Eureka.”


    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Jul 24, 2017

  • Starting a Crop Swap: Top 5 Tips


    Here at the California Environmental Protection Agency, we believe in talking the talk and walking the walk. For instance, as California phases in mandatory commercial organics recycling, we have food waste bins in the break rooms on all 25 floors of our building. And, even though CalEPA employees often have produce from the nearby farmer’s market at their desks and have informally shared homegrown produce with others, our building refrains from using chemicals to treat pest issues as a matter of course.

    A grass-roots effort to formally share homegrown produce in our CalEPA building—a crop swap—is our latest sustainability venture. Along with the focus on food deserts, community gardens, community fruit harvesting, farmers markets, and the farm-to-fork movement, crop swaps (aka food swaps) are a growing opportunity to think global and eat local.

    We’d like to share some tips we’ve learned in the process.

    1. Test the “market.” If people are already sharing homegrown produce informally, they’ll likely enjoy a formal crop swap too. Nearly every floor of our CalEPA building has a “giving table” for people to share free stuff on an ad hoc basis. That’s a great place to find interested participants and build an email list for a crop swap.

    2. Build your base in the winter. If you can build a core group of crop swappers through the winter months, your swapping is more likely to take off in the more productive summer months after you have worked out some of the kinks. We found someone always has oranges to swap for grapefruits and grapefruits to swap for lemons in the winter months, but you will get a greater variety to swap in the summer months, and more swappers swapping.

    3. Keep it informal at first. We learned to appreciate the heart of the crop swap is one-on-one swapping. Especially when it’s with co-workers, people tend to be fair without too many rules. Most people already share the bounty of their overproducing fruit trees without rewards, so they may consider getting a variety of crops in return to be a bonus. However, even that small reward can help your crop swap thrive. People come to swap, but they stay to share their interest in gardening.

    4. Be flexible. Some co-workers are busier than others. Offer to swap their crops for them. Others may want to stay after the official swapping and share tips about how their garden grows. That may lead to more formal presentations from some of your members who really know gardening. However, keep presentations as an option at the end of the meeting.

    5. Broaden your scope. Every group occasionally has a potluck. Crop swappers have even better options—try a tomato tasting party so guests can plan which tomatoes they want to plant in their own garden next year. Have a chips and salsa party using your homegrown tomatoes and any other fresh ingredients you may have. Try swapping homemade “products” like lavender sachets, canned fruits, or homemade marmalade.

    If you’re still not convinced that crop swapping is a great idea for your office or neighborhood, consider these additional benefits:

    • Studies show eating a diverse diet rich in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables can lead to a diverse microbiota, which is beneficial for your health.
    • Every homegrown vegetable you grow can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms when compared to the store-bought counterpart. Homegrown vegetable gardens also contribute nearly 8 percent of the total greenhouse gas reductions sought by California by the year 2020.

    Here are some links for more information:

    Sample of regular crop swaps:

    —Burke Lucy

    Posted on In the Loop by Burke Lucy on Jul 6, 2017