Organics Recycling Challenge: Invasive Pests

CalRecycle oversees the state’s recycling and waste management programs to achieve a society that uses less, recycles more, and takes resource conservation to higher and higher levels. More than 30 percent of California’s waste stream is organics like yard trimmings and food waste—materials perfectly suited for value-added products such as compost, fertilizer, and biofuels. Doing so cuts pollution, combats climate change, and creates jobs.

One of the lesser-known challenges we face in managing organic waste to better and higher uses is something all too familiar to our agriculture industry: invasive pests. Such insects and the diseases they carry can threaten our crops and trees—and when they do, it increases the amount of organic waste we must responsibly manage.

Palm weevils—a particularly invasive species wreaking havoc on Southern California’s palm trees—are one example. Palm weevils are beetles with large snouts that burrow into the trunk of the palms, eventually causing the crown of the tree to collapse and the tree to die.

Under laws enforced locally and by agencies such as the California Department of Food and Agriculture, infested organic materials are quarantined and fully composted before leaving the quarantine zone. With a mission to reduce how much organic waste goes to landfills, where it produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, CalRecycle partners with CDFA to educate Californians on how to prevent the spread of invasive pests in organic materials.

The transportation of yard waste and woody debris can transfer pests and diseases from one location to another. To prevent or slow the spread of pests, agriculture officials conduct trapping, eradicate pests when found, and enforce quarantines. If not managed correctly, these invasive species can destroy food crops and undermine our economy.

Every county within California faces unique challenges to prevent the spread of deadly pests and disease. CalRecycle and CDFA recently presented specialized training at CDFA’s annual Pest Prevention University, providing local officials with information on how to safeguard California ecosystems and promote stronger collaboration.

When clearing organic material from your yard, keep an eye out for unhealthy foliage or pest insects. If you find infested material, cover it immediately with a tarp and contact the CDFA Pest Hotline (800-491-1899).

 

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— Christina Files
Posted on Nov 9, 2017

Summary: One of the lesser-known challenges we face in managing organic waste to better and higher uses is something all too familiar to our agriculture industry: invasive pests. Such insects and the diseases they carry can threaten our crops and trees—and when they do, it increases the amount of organic waste we must responsibly manage.