Tag Archives: solid waste

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

Sonoma County weighs how to bring back composting

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Black soldier flies eat decomposing food scraps, turning it into natural fertilizer. Anaerobic digestion converts yard debris into organic compost in an oxygen-starved environment while making natural gas out of the methane produced. Compost facilities incorporate worm farms to break down food and yard waste into high-quality compost for backyard gardeners and large-scale farmers.

Sonoma County waste officials are considering such technologies as part of a plan to bring locally produced compost back to the county, roughly a year after a high-profile Clean Water Act lawsuit forced the shutdown of Sonoma Compost Co., a private operation at the Central Landfill west of Cotati that since 1993 served as the largest local producer of compost.

Between now and Nov. 14, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is seeking input and assessing interest from businesses with experience in composting, as well as entrepreneurs who may be interested in launching new local composting operations. Requests for specific proposals are expected to open early next year.

Hauling the 88,000 tons of yard waste and food scraps produced in the county to four outside sites in Novato, Ukiah, Napa and Vacaville costs ratepayers $4.5 million per year, according to waste agency officials, up from $2.5 million when it was handled locally. Garbage bill rates have ticked up slightly, compost has become more expensive and transporting organic material to neighboring sites ratchets up emissions of greenhouse gases associated with producing compost, county waste officials said.

Supervisors expressed support this week for the idea of multiple sites run by the private sector, a reversal from previous plans to have the waste management agency operate a central site. Private composting business could halt the practice of trucking away compostable materials, reduce waste management agency costs and eliminate future risks of legal action.

Read more at: Sonoma County weighs how to bring back composting | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable Living

Deciphering California’s (intentionally) confusing plastic bag propositions

Richard Frank, LEGAL PLANET

If you’re a registered California voter who supports implementation of California’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags without further delay, vote Yes on Proposition 67 and No on Proposition 65.

California’s longstanding efforts to eliminate single-use plastic bags from the marketplace and the environment have finally reached California voters.

The November 8th general election ballot contains a breathtaking 17 separate propositions–16 proposed initiative measures and one referendum measure.   Propositions 65 and 67 both deal with the same subject–a proposed ban on single-sue plastic bags.  Those dueling measures are confusing–intentionally so.

To understand those measures and the political intrigue involved, a bit of background is required.  For years, environmental organizations have lobbied to ban ubiquitous single-use plastic bags from grocery, drug and convenience stores, because so many of the non-biodegradable bags wind up in landfills, or worse.  They clog sewers and sewage treatment plants, and form a particularly noxious threat to the ocean environment.  They often entangle (“entrain”) fish, seabirds and marine mammals, and contribute to the massive plastic “dead zones” that have formed in the Pacific Ocean and other marine environments.

Read more at: Of Initiative Wars, Plastic Bags and Poison Pills | Legal Planet

Filed under Sonoma Coast, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

Sonoma County’s improving economy means more trash 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CalRecycle spokeswoman Heather Jones said the disposal increase and recycling rate decrease suggested the state needed to continue expanding its recycling infrastructure.

Sonoma County threw away nearly 63,000 tons more trash last year compared with the year before, according to recent figures that indicate the nation’s improving economy hampered local efforts to divert more waste from landfills.

The county disposed of about 386,900 tons of material in 2015, the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency reported last month. That’s an average of 4.3 pounds of waste per person per day, compared to 3.6 pounds per person per day a year earlier.

The latest figures show local waste disposal increased significantly as the economy improved in recent years. The county threw out about 306,100 tons in 2012, and disposal has increased each year since then, according to reports from the waste management agency.

Officials said the disposal uptick was driven by the economic rebound — a factor that fueled a similar increase for the state overall.

As a whole, Californians last year sent 33.2 million tons of material to landfills in 2015, up from 31.2 million tons in 2014, according to the state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle. On a per-resident basis, Californians threw away 4.7 pounds per person per day in 2015, as opposed to 4.5 pounds in 2014. The Sonoma County waste figures do not include recycled or composted material, nor do they encompass hazardous waste or trash generated on tribal land, said Patrick Carter, executive director of the county waste management agency.

Waste disposed at county transfer stations increased to about 278,400 tons in 2015, up about 5,000 tons from 2014, according to Carter. The total county figure also includes waste that originated in Sonoma County but was disposed of elsewhere. Carter said the total increase was likely driven by a better economy, which he said could have resulted in more construction and demolition debris as well as more trash from consumer spending.

“When people have no disposable income, they’re not going to be buying things, and they’re not going to be throwing those things away,” Carter said. “But when they’re making more purchases, either they’re getting rid of their old stuff or they’re getting rid of packaging and things like that.”

Read more at: Sonoma County’s improving economy means more trash | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Op-Ed: Reboot, rather than fix California’s outdated recycling law 

Editorial Board, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

It’s still the simplest environmental act a consumer can take in California: Recycle that used bottle or can.

But complex shifts in the global commodities market, aggravated by California’s dated recycling system, have forced the closure of hundreds of recycling centers statewide. State lawmakers have been working, understandably, on a stopgap solution.

Unfortunately, California needs to reboot its entire program.

At issue is the state’s “bottle bill” program, which was enacted in the 1980s when most communities lacked curbside pickup. Though it has served its purpose over the years, even at its outset, it was flawed.

Born from the remnants of a failed 1982 ballot measure that would have given consumers the nickel deposit and in-store take-back that so many other states have, the California law was a political compromise. The aim was to encourage recycling, yes, but it also to control costs for beverage manufacturers and recyclers, and give retailers a way out of the unsanitary and cumbersome chore of in-store redemptions.

The result was a system in which manufacturers of beverage containers paid a “processing fee” to help cover the costs of thousands of recyclers in the event the scrap value of recycled goods didn’t cover their expenses. Consumers got a smaller rebate than in other states, and the savings helped underwrite thousands of recycling centers, most of them in grocery store parking lots.

That sufficed for a while. But over the decades, environmental awareness and waste management mandates have pushed recycling here to whole new levels. Most municipalities now have curbside programs that do the recycling for consumers and keep the rebate. Churches and nonprofits are also lined up to take recyclables off consumers’ hands.

Meanwhile, however, the state’s complex interlocking system of recycling fees and payments has been strained by these and other changes, from curbside gleaning to high U.S. labor costs that cut into private recyclers’ profits. Now global commodity prices have fallen, cutting into the scrap value of aluminum, glass and other recyclable materials.

The result is an outdated and unsustainable infrastructure. As The Sacramento Bee’s Jeremy White has reported, the number of recycling centers statewide has fallen from around 2,100 to fewer than 1,800 in recent years.

Read more at: Reboot, rather than fix California’s outdated recycling law | The Sacramento Bee

Filed under Sustainable Living