Graduation Date

Spring 2023

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources: option Environmental Science and Management

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Kevin Fingerman

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. James Graham

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Dr. Sintana Vergara

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff


Food waste, Humboldt County, Waste management, Composting, Anaerobic digestion, Curbside collection, Vehicle routing model, WARM, Technoeconomic analysis, Residential

Subject Categories

Environmental Science and Management


The most prevalent material in the California landfill-destined solid waste stream is food. Food waste is not only an economic and social concern, but a significant environmental challenge as well. Most food waste is disposed of in landfills, where it anaerobically decomposes and releases methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas and driver of climate change. Policies passed in California, including AB 1826 and SB 1383, aim to implement organic waste recycling programs and reduce methane emissions by diverting organic waste from landfills. The technology to process this food waste exists, but these facilities are limited or nonexistent in rural areas such as Humboldt County, California. Organic waste collection programs have been identified as key drivers of the construction of new facilities and growth of existing facilities, but implementing these collection programs can be expensive, challenging and variable depending on the type, scale, and location.

This thesis characterizes the spatial distribution of food waste generation in Humboldt County, and uses vehicle routing models, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions accounting, and technoeconomic analysis to estimate the environmental and economic costs and benefits of implementing a curbside collection service for residential food waste in the cities of Arcata and Eureka. These two cities contain 35% of the county population and together generated an average of 42% of Humboldt County’s landfill-destined waste over the years spanning 2016 to 2020. I found that a weekly food waste collection service, serving 4,200 residences across the cities of Arcata and Eureka, would cost approximately $26,000/month, or $250/ton, and divert about 1,200 tons of food waste from the landfill each year. Recycling this food waste through composting or anaerobic digestion could result in net greenhouse gas emissions savings between 350 and 500 MTCO2e each year while also producing valuable soil amendments and supporting Humboldt County compliance with AB 1826 and SB 1383.

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