Tag Archives: solid waste

Oakland law firm demands Windsor review garbage contract proposals 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An environmental law firm that helped shut down Sonoma County’s composting operation is now taking aim at efforts by Windsor and Santa Rosa to pick a new garbage company to serve their residents.

The Oakland-based firm Lozeau Drury last week sent an 83-page letter to Windsor demanding a full environmental review of the various proposals the town has received for its 10-year garbage contract.

Attorney Richard Drury, in a letter received just a few hours before the Windsor Town Council was set to meet April 19 to pick a new garbage hauler, argued the town had failed to review the impacts on air quality, greenhouse gases and neighbors of a planned facility in southwest Santa Rosa.“There are few decisions that a town can make that have more direct environmental impacts than the determination of how to handle its garbage,” Drury wrote in his letter.

The town had concluded no environmental review was needed. In light of the letter, town attorney Robin Donoghue urged a delay until the town could review it and respond appropriately.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Councilwoman and Mayor Debra Fudge, who viewed it more as a bid to influence the town’s selection process than protect the environment.

“I saw the CEQA letter as an effort from someone associated with one of the haulers to try to blow up our process, and I’m not happy about it,” Fudge said.

Read more at: Oakland law firm demands Windsor review garbage contract proposals | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Republic’s Sonoma County MRF (Material Recovery Facility) expansion makes room for new material lines 

Cole Rosengren, WASTE DIVE

These facilities and many others are part of the ongoing trend that has made single-stream material recovery facilities predominant in the U.S. Recently announced advances in artificial intelligence indicate this shift could accelerate in coming years with a move toward greater efficiency and potentially less need for human labor.

Republic Services recently announced an expansion of the Sonoma County Recycling Center in Petaluma, CA that increases capacity to 200 tons per day.

The facility grew to 38,000-square-feet to accommodate a new processing system from the CP Group. This made room for multiple new material lines, a baler and a bale storage area to protect sorted material from the weather.

A multi-year analysis from the county and multiple municipalities pointed to self-haul material, commercial dry waste and construction and demolition waste as three areas to focus on. As a result, the facility now has a new in-feed conveyor for commercial cardboard, mixed paper, containers, film and plastics and a hopper-fed C&D system with sorting stations.

Read more at: Republic’s Sonoma County MRF expansion makes room for new material lines | Waste Dive

Filed under Sustainable Living

Sonoma County officials seek to resurrect regional green waste composting operation

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The search for a new home for composting Sonoma County’s green waste is moving forward as officials seek to finally end the costly practice of shipping green-bin material off to neighboring counties.Within several years, the county may again have a single main facility — or several smaller ones — to process grass clippings, food scraps and other green waste, which has been sent by truck to other counties for the past year and a half since the former central site shut down amid a lawsuit over water pollution concerns.

It is not yet clear exactly what form a renewed regional compost operation — long a disputed county matter — would take. But the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is advancing plans to bring in a private operator to handle the green waste from local cities, with a request for development proposals likely going out later this spring.And the waste agency — which is on the cusp of securing a new lifeline from local governments — is looking to learn from its past troubles by shifting as much responsibility as possible onto the shoulders of the new private operator.

“Essentially, we’re just the customer at this point,” said Patrick Carter, the waste agency’s executive director. “We’re committing a flow of green waste to a private company on private land, where they assume all of the liabilities for making sure that it is in compliance and operating correctly, in exchange for us committing our flow for 10-plus years. It’s a different model.”

Sonoma Compost Co. processed green waste at the county’s central landfill west of Cotati from 1993 until October 2015, when its closure was triggered by a Clean Water Act lawsuit.

The county began sending green waste to sites in Ukiah, Napa, Novato and Vacaville for disposal, a practice that now costs more than $4.7 million annually, according to Carter.

Read more at: Sonoma County officials seek to resurrect regional green waste composting operation | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Single-bin recycling frustrates California’s goal to divert trash from landfills

James Dunn, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

As single-stream recycling evolved, “people got more and more confused,” Salyers said. “They would throw things in that weren’t” recyclable. “We’re trying to tell them what they can put in their blue cans.”

Recycling sounds like an ideal solution to reduce mountains of trash. Facing business and legal issues, local recycling efforts are also plagued by technical and market problems.

Trash typically contains nearly two-thirds of its weight in organic material that could be composted or glass, metal, plastic or paper that can be recycled. Nearly 25 years ago, California passed law to divert recyclable material out of garbage. Some of that effort worked, but recyclables separated by businesses and consumers into blue bins often contain trash that contaminates the good stuff, reducing its value in markets for used plastic, glass, metal and paper.

Sonoma County’s trash volume dropped from 375,000 tons in 2007 to 263,000 tons in 2014, still nearly half a billion pounds. At that rate of more than 1,000 pounds per person per year, the 1.3 million people in Sonoma, Solano, Marin and Napa counties toss away more than 1.3 billion pounds of stuff a year.

The Ratto Group, owned by James Ratto, does trash pickup and recycling in Sonoma County with subsidiary companies that sprawl across the region under its North Bay Corporation: Redwood Empire Disposal in Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa Recycling and Collection, Petaluma Refuse and Recycling, Rohnert Park Disposal, Windsor Refuse and Recycling, and Novato Disposal.

Marin Sanitary Service, operated by the Garbarino family, operates from headquarters in San Rafael. Napa Recycling and Waste and Napa County Recycling and Waste serve that county. Sister company Upper Valley Disposal and Recycling serves Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Garaventa Enterprises serves Solano County.

An audit by R3 Consulting Group for the city of Santa Rosa presented last year alleged that Ratto’s company did not meet minimum levels of a 45 percent diversion of recyclables, and operated trucks and a recycling facility that fell short of acceptable standards.

The city contract with Ratto expires at the end of 2017 and brought the company about $27 million a year.

“The company’s two material recovery facilities are approximately 15 years old, antiquated, and are not able to process the incoming recyclable materials to current industry standards,” the R3 report said. “There is no effective means for metering the incoming materials,” and “we observed numerous rats in the facility,” far more than staff observed in comparable facilities.

One facility was ordered closed, and Ratto Group faces potential fines that could reach $14 million.

Read more at: Single-bin recycling frustrates California’s goal to divert trash from landfills | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Sustainable Living

Five bidders for Santa Rosa’s garbage contract

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Five companies are bidding to take over Santa Rosa’s lucrative garbage contract, including the San Francisco firm buying the county’s dominant garbage hauler.

Nine companies had expressed interest in bidding for the exclusive right to collect garbage, recycling and yard waste from Santa Rosa homes and businesses.

But by the time Monday’s 3:30 p.m. deadline arrived, just five companies had submitted bids to the city, said Gloria Hurtado, deputy city manager.

The contract held by The Ratto Group since 2003 runs out at the end of 2017.

“I think five is a really good number,” Hurtado said. “There are some national companies and some more local groups, so I think it’s a good combination.”

The bidders include Recology, the San Francisco-based company which last week agreed to purchase Ratto’s entire North Bay operation, including contracts for eight of the nine Sonoma County cities and its unincorporated areas, plus Novato and West Marin.

Another is Waste Management, the massive Houston-based company that served Santa Rosa for 33 years as Empire Waste Management before James Ratto, using a combination of low rates and political influence, convinced the city to turn the contract over to him. Waste Management subsequently got out of all its contracts in the county.

Also in the hunt are Green Waste Recovery of San Jose, which serves a number of communities in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Cruz and Monterey counties; Waste Connections Inc., a Toronto-based company with operations in 37 states and Canada; and Sonoma County Resource Recovery, a new partnership about which Hurtado had no additional information, but which sources say includes Marin County garbage interests.

City staff are reviewing the bids, and will schedule interviews with the companies, visit their existing operations and then present their findings to the City Council sometime in April.

Read more at: Five bidders for Santa Rosa’s garbage contract | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Santa Rosa-based Ratto Group selling North Bay garbage empire to Recology of San Francisco

Kevin McCallum, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Buyer: Recology
Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 1921
Employees: 3,000 (est.)
Owner: 100 percent employee owned

James Ratto, owner of Sonoma County’s dominant but embattled garbage hauler, is selling his waste and recycling empire to a San Francisco-based rival in a multimillion dollar deal that promises to reshape the region’s garbage business.

Ratto on Friday agreed to sell his companies, which handle garbage and recycling services in eight of Sonoma County’s nine cities as well as parts of north Marin County, to Recology, one of the largest solid waste firms on the West Coast.

“He’s getting out of the garbage and recycling business,” Ratto spokesman Eric Koenigshofer said Saturday. “It’s a major event in the history of Sonoma County.”

The deal sets in motion several months of review and calls for Recology to take over Ratto’s entire North Bay garbage operation, including its Santa Rosa recycling facilities, dozens of trucks and a workforce of 440 employees.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It would bring to a close the remarkable career of an Italian immigrant who began collecting garbage cans on the streets of San Francisco at the age of 16 and through tenacity and competitive drive became rich building and selling solid waste businesses in the North Bay.

Read more at: Santa Rosa-based Ratto Group selling North Bay garbage empire to Recology of San Francisco | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Sustainable Living

Regulators turn up heat on ‘illegal’ North Bay Corp. recycling site

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Regulators appear to be losing patience with Sonoma County’s largest garbage hauler for its continued use of unpermitted Santa Rosa recycling facilities, hiking fines on the company and referring it to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.

Sonoma County health officials are threatening to levy fines of up to $5,000 per day on North Bay Corp. for operating two recycling facilities on Standish Avenue in defiance of a cease-and-desist order that is now nearly 16 months old.

The company argues it would be “an impossibility” to shut down both facilities because it would prevent the company from picking up curbside recycling.

The beefed up enforcement follows an inspection last month by state waste regulators who noted longstanding problems at the facilities and instructed local officials to turn up the heat on the hauler.

Officials at CalRecycle last week said “immediate enforcement action is required” to address the “illegal operations” on the property, warning that “further extensions to cease operation and correct violations are not appropriate.”

Read more at: Regulators turn up heat on ‘illegal’ North Bay Corp. recycling site | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Santa Rosa buying Petaluma hay ranch as treated waste disposal site

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa is buying a Petaluma pasture to make sure it has enough places to put people’s processed poop.

The city is close to acquiring a 235-acre Lakeville Highway hay ranch so it can use the property to spread a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process known as biosolids.

The approximately $2 million deal, which was advanced by the Board of Public Utilities Thursday, highlights the pressures the city faces in finding affordable ways to recycle waste in an era of increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Santa Rosa recycles its wastewater to irrigate crops and produce geothermal energy at The Geysers, the latter solution costing the city $205 million to build while earning engineering and sustainability awards.

But less known by the general public is what happens to the 26,000 tons of thick black sludge that remains behind annually after the main treatment processes are complete.

That’s enough to “fill the entire playing field of AT&T Park eight feet deep every year,” said Mike Prinz, director of subregional operations for Santa Rosa Water.

More than a third of it is mixed with green waste like chopped up leaves and grass clippings to make high-quality compost, most of which is sold to local farms, vineyards and landscaping companies.

A far cheaper option has long been to apply the nutrient-rich material, which has the consistency of wet coffee grounds, directly to farmland as fertilizer.

Because the waste goes through an extra 21-day digestion process to capture methane to power the Llano Road treatment plant, it has far fewer pathogens and odors than the byproducts of other treatment plants.

Nevertheless, there are strict rules about how it can be applied, including that it be disked into the soil, set back from creeks and public access restricted after application.

Read more at: Santa Rosa buying Petaluma hay ranch as treated waste disposal site | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Waste from California dairy farms presents climate change challenge 

CBS SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5)

Got milk? Chances are it’s from California. There are more dairy cows in the Golden State than anywhere else in the country. But all that milk and cheese comes at a cost to the planet.

Tom Frantz keeps a running count. He says dairy farms have taken over his farming community in the San Joaquin Valley. “There are ten of them within what I call smelling distance of my home,” he said, noting they’ve moved in in just the last 10 years.

We’re not talking about mom-and-pop operations.

“These are milk factories,” said Frantz. “We went from zero cows to about 60,000 cows, within about five miles of where I live.”

“6,000 animals in one dairy has the waste stream of a city of half a million people,” said Frantz.

But unlike a city, most dairies don’t treat their waste. After separating out the solids to use as manure, they dump the rest of the waste into open lagoons and let it evaporate.

“This waste stream is just rotting in these giant lagoons,” said Frantz.

It’s not just the smell. The lagoons of manure also emit methane, and lots of it.  If you account for climate impacts over 100 years, which is the basis of AB 32, dairy and livestock operations are directly responsible for 5.4 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. But in the state’s short-lived climate pollution plan, that uses a 20-year global warming accounting. The impact triples to 15 percent.

“They are incredibly potent climate pollutants,” said Ryan McCarthy, Science & Technology Policy Advisor with the California Air Resources Board. “Really tackling and addressing the way that dairies manage their manure would represent one of the most significant climate programs we have in the state,” said McCarthy.

Read more at: Waste From California Dairy Farms Present Climate Change Challenge « CBS San Francisco

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy

Santa Rosa garbage firm facing millions in fines

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It’s been a rotten couple of months for the region’s largest garbage hauler.

In September, Sonoma County rejected the North Bay Corp.’s request to operate a regional recycling center in Santa Rosa, upping the stakes in the standoff over the company’s unpermitted Standish Avenue facility.

Then earlier this month, Santa Rosa informed the company that it faces $13.4 million in potential fines from years of alleged contract violations.

While neither action is final, combined they illustrate the increasingly uphill and expensive battle North Bay owner Jim Ratto faces as he struggles to keep his garbage and recycling empire intact.

Company officials say Ratto will need to invest at least $4.5 million to upgrade one of North Bay’s two Santa Rosa recycling centers, both of which have operated for more than a year despite a cease-and-desist order from the county Department of Environmental Health.

To date, the county has fined Ratto $496,500 for running facilities that, because more than 10 percent of the material they take in is not recyclable, need a solid waste permit.

The upgrades, expected to begin next month, will force the company to halt operations for several months and haul recyclable material to other counties while the work is completed, said Eric Koenigshofer, vice president of special projects for the company.

“When we’re all done we’ll have a brand new sorting line and that will make a huge difference,” Koenigshofer said.

Read more at: Santa Rosa garbage firm facing millions in fines | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living