Romancing the garbage: business recycling and AB341

For the last two weeks in this space we've looked at nature's basic recycling process of composting as practiced on a personal level by Nancy Swenson, DUSD School Board President. At the far end of this individual scale are global, national, regional, and local industries devoted to the management of our human waste products, from penicillin to plastics and everything in between--as we've already detailed to some extent in past columns. "Waste management" isn't very romantic at a casual glance, but it's a topic of monumental daily concern to those responsible for handling, marketing and disposing of waste products. These participial designations suggest the very real intersection between business and government practices regarding waste management.In Downey specifically there's a four-way collaboration between businesses, the City of Downey, CalMet Services, and the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, all under the jurisdiction of State and Federal laws. Looming just ahead for these four entities is the July 1 implementation of CA AB341 which adopts a goal of 75% waste diversion for certain businesses and multi-family residences. The evolution of these goals reads as follows in the statute: "SECTION 1. (a) The Legislature finds and declares both of the following: (1) Since the enactment of the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 , , , , local governments and private industries have worked jointly to create an extensive material collection and recycling infrastructure and have implemented effective programs to achieve a statewide diversion rate above 50 percent. (2) Although the state now leads the nation in solid waste reduction and recycling, the state continues to dispose of more than 40 million tons of solid waste each year, which is more than the national average on a per capita basis. Additional efforts must be undertaken to divert more solid waste from disposal in order to conserve scarce natural resources. (b) The Legislature further finds and declares all of the following: (1) Approximately 64 percent of the state's solid waste disposal is from commercial sources, including commercial, industrial, construction, and demolition activities. In addition, 8 percent of the state's solid waste disposal is from multifamily residential housing that is often collected along with the commercial waste stream. (2) The state's local governments have made significant progress in reducing the amount of solid waste disposal from single-family residential sources that make up 28 percent of the state's disposal, but have faced more challenges in reducing disposal from the commercial and multifamily sources." This introductory rationale for the new legislation is chock full of significant figures underlining the reasons for ramping up a 50% diversion rate to 75%. And the crux of the legislation is expressed in the bill as follows: "41780.01. (a) The Legislature hereby declares that it is the policy goal of the state that not less than 75 percent of solid waste generated be source reduced, recycled, or composted by the year 2020, and annually thereafter." Most striking here are the realities that businesses and multi-family residences constitute nearly three-quarters of the state's solid waste disposal stream and therefore have become the focus of these increased statewide goals. Quoting further, the new law requires that, "on and after July 1, 2012, a business that generates more than four cubic yards of commercial solid waste per week or is a multifamily residential dwelling of five units or more shall arrange for recycling services, consistent with state or local laws or requirements, including a local ordinance or agreement, applicable to the collection, handling, or recycling of solid waste, to the extent that these services are offered and reasonably available from a local service provider." In Downey that service provider is CalMet Services, which collects business waste--trash and recycling--as contracted with the City, and transports most of it to CalMet's Paramount facility for sorting and transfer. (A certain amount also ends up at the local DART site, now owned and administered by the Sanitation Districts of L.A. County.) Despite its ominous title, "Mandatory Commercial Recycling" (MCR), AB341 is actually a lot more about education and encouragement, at least in its early stages, than about enforcement. This perspective is confirmed not only by the wording of the statute, but also by City of Downey Integrated Waste Coordinator Kathy Simmons. In our next installment on romancing the garbage, we'll further detail the 4-way collaboration outlined above that Downey businesses will be engaging, in order to achieve AB341's ambitious 75% diversion goals.

********** Published: June 21, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 10