Adam Allington, BLOOMBERG NEWS
Tens of thousands of tons of recyclables have been diverted to U.S. landfills in recent months as the reality of China’s new ban on certain types of imported waste takes hold.
The ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, covers imports of 24 types of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the difficult-to-recycle types of plastic, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), commonly used in plastic bottles.
And China’s import restrictions become even tighter March 1, increasing the sense of urgency U.S. recyclers feel to find new outlets for their products. At the same time, some industry officials say the situation could be a blessing in disguise if it eventually prods the U.S. toward processing more of its own recycling.
“What we’re seeing now is really unprecedented,” said Julie Miller, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
China has been by far the largest market for U.S scrap exports—in many cases the recyclable materials Americans put in curbside containers. China’s crackdown, now three months old, has both U.S. and global waste collectors scrambling to find new markets for their recyclables to avoid disrupting curbside collection services.
Read more at https://www.bna.com/us-recycling-woes-n57982089254/
Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Although nearly 260 destroyed homesites had been cleared of their post-fire debris in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood through Nov. 19, it represents less than a quarter of the burned properties in one corner of the devastating 36,807-acre Tubbs fire.
Just those cleared sites, however, produced a mountain of ash, twisted metal and charred wood — nearly 50,000 tons, according to county officials, with all of it going to Sonoma County’s Central Landfill.
The dump west of Cotati is the main disposal site for what local and state officials are calling the biggest debris removal from a wildfire in California history.
The scorched remains of more than 5,100 Sonoma County homes are bound for the Mecham Road location for burial — loads that have spiked daily traffic from heavy-duty commercial trucks and could burn through the life expectancy for one of the North Coast’s few operating landfills between Petaluma and the Oregon border.
Other than to confirm an increase of inflows from fire debris, a spokesman for Republic Services, the Arizona-based waste giant that operates the county-owned dump, declined to offer specifics about the number of trucks or how much material is now coming through the gates. He added that it presented no need for worries over capacity.
“From where we stand, as the operators, we are not concerned,” said Russ Knocke, Republic’s vice president of communications and public affairs. “Without a doubt it’s something that will factor into overall capacity at the site, but in terms of cause for immediate concern, again, I would say no.”
Still, to handle the additional level of waste and the sudden need for a place to unload it, Republic Services requested a four-month-long emergency waiver at the end of October for its daily weight maximums. Without that, only 2,500 tons of materials from a maximum of 900 trucks are permitted each business day.
Under operations covered by the emergency waiver, on the single biggest disposal day since the fire, the Central Landfill accepted 5,800 tons — about six times the most recent year’s pre-fire average. That compares to roughly 1,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day in 2016, and less than 860 tons daily in 2015.
Read more at: Sonoma County fire cleanup weighs heavy on landfill
Jacopo Prisco, CNN MONEY
For decades, shipping containers have been loaded with American scrap and waste and dispatched to China for recycling.
It’s a $5 billion annual business that is now in danger of sinking.
Beijing notified the World Trade Organization in July that it plans to ban the import of 24 varieties of solid waste, including types of plastic and unsorted paper commonly sent from the U.S.
China said that the ban would take effect from September, giving American companies little time to prepare. ISRI estimates that roughly a fifth of the trade is at risk.
The announcement has made U.S. recyclers that trade with China very nervous.
“In the short term we’re going to see a significant drop of exports from the U.S. into China, and there is a little bit of panic in the market,” said Adina Adler, an official at the U.S. Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).
Read more at http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/11/news/china-scrap-ban-us-recycling/index.html
Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The high stakes question about which company would get Windsor’s garbage contract was finally settled Tuesday with the award going again to Green Waste Recovery Inc.
The 3-1 vote came a month after the Town Council first awarded, then rescinded a contract with the San Jose-based company because of political and legal hurdles associated with its proposed Petaluma recycling transfer station.
The final answer Tuesday was to fall back on its first decision after company representatives said they were looking to locate a transfer station closer to Windsor.“
We will not be proposing a transfer facility in Petaluma,” company spokeswoman Emily Finn said. An announcement about a new location is expected within weeks, she said. “On Day 1 we will have facilities north of Petaluma for recyclables.”
The prospect of garbage trucks on Highway 101 making a long trek from Windsor to San Jose — a distance of more than 100 miles — was one of the concerns raised by Councilman Dominic Foppoli, the lone vote against a contract with Green Waste.
But the lower residential rates and environmental practices of Green Waste earned it majority support.
Read more at: After reversal, Windsor awards garbage contract to Green Waste, its first choice | The Press Democrat
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
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
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
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
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After nine years and $1 million of study, Sonoma County waste officials say they’re abandoning plans to build a new composting facility at the county landfill west of Cotati.
The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency announced Monday that as part of a legal settlement with landfill neighbors, it would no longer pursue the green waste project, pegged at up to $55 million.
“This is not, I think, government’s proudest moment,” said Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park assistant city manager and an agency board member. “On the other hand, it’s better to spend $1 million than $50 million and not have a good solution.”
Under terms of the settlement, the neighbors will dismiss their lawsuit if the agency votes next month to rescind certification of the environmental report for the project and other documents related to the Central Landfill site.
The decision, which won’t be finalized until an agency board meeting next month, marks the second time in a year that neighbors have successfully blocked a composting operation at the Mecham Road landfill.
Read more at: New compost site scrapped at Sonoma County’s Central Landfill | The Press Democrat
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors have voted to extend the beleaguered Sonoma County Waste Management Agency until officials can hammer out a deal to return composting to a local facility and settle a high-profile lawsuit challenging the planned future compost site at the Central Landfill.
The agency, which oversees the county’s multimillion dollar composting operation, will dissolve next February unless representatives from Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Rohnert Park approve a one-year extension until February 2018. The county and the remaining six cities already have voted in favor of extending the agency operations, which include education programs and collection of yard waste, food scraps and hazardous materials.
Santa Rosa and Healdsburg will take up the matter this month. Rohnert Park voted in January against an extension, but city officials could take up the issue again. Meanwhile, officials said they hope to resolve some points of contention.
“We think we can get the fundamental issues resolved before the sunset date,” said Don Schwartz, Rohnert Park’s assistant city manager, who represents the city on the agency’s board.
The agency has been under fire in recent years for what some county and city officials contend is an inefficient organization plagued with prolonged legal troubles. At issue is construction and operation of a new $55 million compost facility at the Central Landfill on Mecham Road west of Cotati. Sonoma Compost Co., a private company and the county’s former dominant compost provider, was forced to close in October by a settlement of a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by a group of neighbors who live near the landfill. The settlement cost ratepayers more than $1.1 million.
Since the closure, ratepayers have seen increases of about $4 on their monthly garbage bills to pay for the costs of hauling organic matter out of the county, said Patrick Carter, the agency’s interim director.
“We are desperate to bring compost back to Sonoma County — our farmers need it, and outhauling all that waste is not a good economic or environmental solution,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, the county’s representative on the 10-member board of directors for the agency. “The question is how do we build a state-of-the-art facility without being subject to lawsuit after lawsuit.”
Read more at: Sonoma County supervisors vote to extend compost agency | The Press Democrat