Romancing the garbage: mandatory commercial recycling as of July 1

Last Sunday "Mandatory Commercial Recycling" (MCR), as described by California AB341, took effect for certain businesses throughout the state. While the word "mandatory" sounds foreboding, CalRecycle, the state agency charged with implementing the new law, is taking a stance of flexibility on enforcement with both jurisdictions (such as the City of Downey) and businesses.The new law requires 75% compliance from businesses generating more than four cubic yards of waste per week, though most small businesses in Downey use one 3-yard bin, according to City of Downey Integrated Waste Coordinator Kathy Simmons (who also retired as of July 1). Similarly, the new regulations apply to multiple-family residences, whose waste is also collected as part of the commercial waste stream--but only those with five or more units. Ms. Simmons indicates that the majority of commercial waste in Downey is transported to CalMet Services' Paramount Resource Recycling (PRR) facility, and that the waste collected there already meets the new state requirements. This perspective is confirmed by CalMet Services General Manager, Bill "BK" Kalpakoff. The process, according to Mr. Kalpakoff, involves five commercial routes in Downey, collecting two daily loads each, for a total of sixty-five to seventy tons per day. This commercial waste is sorted on the floor and then mechanically separated on a belt sort-line in a huge open hangar at PRR into green waste for composting, recyclables, and what's called "wet waste" or "dirty MRF," which typically will end up in commercial landfills, including one in Orange County, as well as a certain amount that goes to the DART facility in Downey. ("MRF" is an acronym for "Materials Recovery Facility," the generic term for such recycling locations; "DART" stands for "Downey Area Recycling and Transfer," the MRF responsible for residential recycling in Downey.) Regarding compliance with the new law, CalMet knows which businesses will need encouragement, according to Ms. Simmons. The city's responsibility, in collaboration with CalMet, will be to provide flexible outreach and education to businesses and focus on insuring that larger businesses in particular, including multi-family complexes with 16 units or more, are in compliance. In support of ongoing recycling efforts, Simmons points out that recycling containers are free to commercial businesses, underlining the fact that the white metal bins provided for businesses are used for "single source" recycling, which is then sorted as described above at PRR. Further, there is no intention on the part of City of Downey Waste Management to require additional enclosures for added containers that might be put into use, though Simmons notes that the requirement to have a waste enclosure is ultimately a zoning issue. Another encouragement to larger restaurants is the suggestion to get equipped with a separate bin for wet garbage, a version of the "wet waste" described above to be contracted privately, which would further advance compliance goals. Kalpakoff relates the possibility of pilot programs in kitchens which would provide separate buckets and barrels for this process, to be conveyed in waterproof containers in special trucks to facilities equipped with tub grinders, which could turn this waste into composting. In fact, CalMet works with a subsidiary, Tierra Verde Industries, at its facility at the Great Park in Irvine (formerly the El Toro Marine base) "specializing in composting greenwaste to create high-quality mulch products and groundcovers," as stated on the CalMet website. CalMet also offers comprehensive electronics recycling at PRR through a separate service called "e-Recycling," which, in conjunction with two other facilities, recycles about 40 million pounds of e-waste annually, according to 2009 figures. Finally, CalMet is also affiliated with a medical waste service provider. With respect to implementing MCR under AB341, Simmons is optimistic, summarizing its goals as "workable, doable, but not enforceable."

********** Published: July 05, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 12