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Trash Is getting costly!

Vesta Copestakes, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
I’m old enough to remember before recycling where everything you didn’t want went into the trash can and the local trash service hauled it away…to the dump…a.k.a. landfill which describes a hole or valley everything got dumped into until it filled up.
Then recycling came along and we sorted our trash by category and felt good knowing it would have a second life. Trash men would throw the contents of our bins into trash/recycling trucks divided into categories.  “Single stream” came along about the same time trash trucks were designed to pick up trash mechanically…no people jumping off and on the truck as it rolled down the road. Recycling now gets sorted at the facility owned by the trash company – not us sorting it at home.
We trust our trash service to take care of what we throw away. We complain when they raise our rates, but out-of-sigh…out-of-mind applies here.
Several Sonoma County cities have contracts with local provider Ratto Group – known as North Bay Corp., or Redwood Empire Disposal, and other names depending upon the city it serves.  They are known for their low rates, but also for their less-than-ideal service as well. Sometimes the two go hand-in hand.
“When a complaint was made to the State, late last year, Sonoma County Environmental Health did an inspection of North Bay Corp recycling facility, and issued a Cease and Desist order after finding the facility out of compliance and lacking the appropriate permits.
The Cease and Desist order, issued last fall, was intended to shut down the North Bay Corp. recycling facility on Standish Avenue where all North Bay Corp. affiliates deliver single stream, or blue can materials. For years, the facility skirted the requirement for a Solid Waste Facility Permit by claiming that the residual, or contamination level, was under 10%. But following the complaint, the subsequent inspection determined that nearly 30% of the incoming material was garbage, and not recycling.
The company continues to receive daily fines as they seek to legalize their operations on Standish Avenue.
More recently, the Santa Rosa deputy city manager hired R3 Consulting Group to do a Performance Review of North Bay Corporation, and what they found revealed problems company-wide.
Read more at: Trash Is Getting Costly!

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Hundreds of California recycling centers close – what now?

 Jeremy B. White, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
Blue bins piled high with gleaming cans and pink plastic bags bulging with plastic jugs snaked up to the recycling center outside a Foods Co. on a recent Wednesday morning, with customers lined up to cash in their containers.
A homeless man named Aaron Viramontes said he stops by two to three times a week in search of cash. Another customer who arrived in a minivan loaded with boxes full of bottles said he always brings his empties to the center – “I paid for it in the store,” he noted, “so I should get my money back.”
But completing that transaction could get tougher. The company that runs the facility, RePlanet, has already closed scores of California locations amid a financial crunch that has gotten the attention of policymakers in Sacramento. Nearby centers had already stopped accepting items, and some customers had noticed.
“The question is, where would we recycle” if the closures continue? said John Viernes, a 29-year-old physical therapist who said he got into the habit of bringing his cans and bottles to recycling centers in Hawaii, where “the soil is sacred.” “It would be tough.”
The shuttering of hundreds of recycling centers around California has reduced opportunities to cash in bottles and cans while stirring anxiety for grocery store owners who may be forced to start accepting reusable materials themselves. As interest groups press policymakers for a solution, the situation has again illuminated the ongoing challenges facing California’s labyrinthine recycling system.
“This is a crisis for consumers who aren’t going to be able to get their money back on the containers they’ve purchased,” said Californians Against Waste executive director Mark Murray, “it’s a crisis of the stores who aren’t fond of taking containers back inside the store, and it’s a crisis for recycling centers who want to be in the business of taking back containers but can’t make it work in this financial market.”
Read more at: Hundreds of California recycling centers close – what now? | The Sacramento Bee

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Audit slams Santa Rosa garbage company management 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
An auditor hired by Santa Rosa to analyze the performance of the region’s largest garbage hauler has issued a scathing critique of the company’s management, recycling efforts, customer service and safety record.
The 42-page audit concluded that North Bay Corp. is in violation of numerous terms of its franchise agreement, the lucrative contract that gives it the exclusive right to collect garbage, recycling and yard waste from nearly 50,000 homes and businesses in the city.
The alleged violations, which could lead to substantial financial penalties for the Santa Rosa-based firm owned by James Ratto, include operating a fleet of aging garbage trucks, not recycling to minimum levels, operating an unpermitted, rat-infested recycling facility and failing to answer customers’ calls promptly.
The shortcomings are so significant that city staff will be recommending the City Council not extend the company’s lucrative contract for another five years after 2017, and instead reopen it to competitive bidding.
“I would not recommend (extension) to council because they are so far out of compliance,” said Gloria Hurtado, deputy city manager.
Company officials said they were surprised by the conclusions in the audit and question its accuracy, saying they were not given enough time to respond before the audit was released to the public.The company said it plans to issue a detailed response by June 21, before the City Council takes up the issue July 12.
Read more at: Audit slams Santa Rosa garbage company management | The Press Democrat

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New compost site scrapped at Sonoma County’s Central Landfill 

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

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Recycling centers shut down in Sonoma County

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Craig Butcher used to be able to just drive down the street from his Rincon Valley home to a recycling center behind the Safeway on Calistoga Road.
It was so convenient, the retired Santa Rosa Junior College instructor would even throw his neighbors’ plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans into the back of his truck to ensure they stayed out of the landfill and to earn a little extra money to boot.
But at the end of last month, the company that ran the center, Ontario-based RePlanet, suddenly closed 191 centers around the state, including 17 of its 19 centers in Sonoma County.
The company, the largest private recycling operation of its kind in the state, cited higher operating costs, lower state subsidies and lower prices for bulk recycling on the commodities market as the reasons it scrapped so many recycling centers.
Now Butcher, 73, has to drive across town to the sole remaining RePlanet location in Santa Rosa in the G&G Market parking lot on West College Avenue.
“You want to do the right thing, then all of a sudden the way to do the right thing disappears,” Butcher said.The closure of the majority of RePlanet locations, some of which go by the name Nexcycle, leaves a gaping hole in the county’s recycling network.
Read more at: Recycling centers shut down in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

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Rural roads in Sonoma County becoming dumping ground

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With a loud thump heard across their Piner Road property, the Gaddis family this week received another set of unwelcome roadside ornaments: Two moldy mattresses, a box spring and several bottles of MuscleMilk and E&J brandy.
The discarded beds — grass already growing from the ripped seams — joined another pair of damp and darkened mattresses dropped about 20 yards down the secluded road on the western outskirts of Santa Rosa.
“How would you feel?” said Gaddis, whose husband’s family started Gaddis Nursery in 1926. “You have pride in your home, and someone dumps an old mattress out front.”
The Piner Road property and other rural roads in Sonoma County have become a dumping ground for scofflaws who discard beds, refrigerators, furniture and other large unwanted items — even boats — and drive away.
The problem is so bad that county road staff can easily list from memory the most notorious spots favored by illegal dumpers.
“They’re all over the county. It’s everywhere,” said Janine Crocker, a staffer with the Sonoma County roads department.
Most Fridays, a Sonoma County probation crew drives around collecting large items discarded illegally along the county’s picturesque rural roads.
Read more at: Rural roads in Sonoma County becoming dumping ground | The Press Democrat

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'Closed Loop Fund' seeks to improve recycling infrastructure

David Gelles, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The recycling industry has a dirty little secret: Much of the plastic that consumers diligently sort is never actually recycled. Instead, some of those yogurt containers, translucent takeout boxes and bottle caps are buried in landfills or incinerated.
The issue isn’t a lack of demand for this recycled plastic — specifically items with codes No. 3 through No. 7. Big companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, hoping to burnish their environmental credentials, can’t get their hands on enough of it.
Instead, the problem is infrastructure. Most recycling facilities simply aren’t sophisticated enough to collect, sort, clean and process these plastics and still turn a profit.
The uneven market for postconsumer plastics is just one of the handicaps of the recycling industry, which remains underdeveloped despite decades of public education and investment. Bigger obstacles include the absence of demand for mixed glass, and persistently low recycling rates for everything but paper.
But a new $100 million fund is aiming to move the needle on these issues, starting with those hard-to-recycle plastics.
Founded last year, the Closed Loop Fund provides no-interest loans to cities and below-market-rate loans to companies that want to build recycling infrastructure. What’s surprising is the source of the fund’s cash. Nine big companies including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, 3M and Coca-Cola have committed $5 million to $10 million each. More recycling, the companies say, is in their interest too.
Read more at: Big Companies Put Their Money Where the Trash Is – The New York Times

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Sonoma County garbage company tightens recycling rules 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Recycling Guides for Sonoma and Marin Counties.

Here’s a quick recycling quiz:
Which of the following items are appropriate to put in local blue recycling bins?
A. Pizza boxes
B. Clean shredded paper
C. Consolidated plastic bags
D. Coffee cup tops bearing a triangular recyclable symbol
The correct answer is: None of above.
Sonoma County’s dominant waste hauler is struggling to clean up its single-stream recycling program, and it’s tightening the rules on what is — and what is not — recyclable material.
For years North Bay Corp. has been hesitant to enforce recycling guidelines, urging residents to err on the side of recycling, said Lou Ratto, chief operating officer for the Ratto Group of Companies, parent company of the Santa Rosa garbage hauler.

“Five years ago, we told people if you don’t know whether it’s recyclable, put it in the recycling bin,” Ratto said. “Now, if you don’t know whether it’s recyclable, put it in the garbage.”

The company is under strict orders to get the amount of garbage in its recycling stream — known as residuals — below 10 percent, the maximum it is allowed to have under state law at its Santa Rosa recycling facilities on Standish Avenue.

Read more at: Sonoma County garbage company tightens recycling rules | The Press Democrat

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Recycler fined for garbage-filled Santa Rosa centers

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The company has blamed people who throw garbage into recycling bins for the excessive waste material contaminating its recycling stream. They say the trend toward smaller garbage bins, which are less expensive, has exacerbated the problem.

Sonoma County health officials have begun fining the region’s largest waste hauler for failing to clean up the garbage that is accumulating at its Santa Rosa recycling centers.
The county this week accused the North Bay Corp. of violating the cease and desist order it issued against the company Aug. 28.
The order instructs the company to immediately stop hauling recyclable material contaminated with garbage to its recycling facilities on Standish Avenue without the proper permits.
North Bay officials last week submitted a plan for cleaning up its operations, which includes seeking the proper permits, public education, encouraging employees to report violations, and sending contaminated waste to another facility in Petaluma and ultimately out of the county.
But the county cited “significant shortcomings” with the plan, and began issuing fines against the company of $250 per day after Aug. 28 and $500 per day after Sept. 12. That amounts to $6,750 in fines to date. The fines ramp up from there, increasing to $1,500 per day beginning Oct. 1, $3,000 beginning Nov. 1, and $5,000 beginning Dec. 1.
Read more at: Recycler fined for garbage-filled Santa Rosa centers | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma County tells waste hauler North Bay Corp. to clean up trash piles

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

North Bay Corp. representatives have made no secret of the challenges they face from people putting garbage in blue recycling bins. They told county inspectors that about 50 percent of the material being collected in the curbside bins is non-recyclable.

Sonoma County’s health department has issued a cease and desist order against a Santa Rosa recycling center over the large piles of trash that have been accumulating at its Santa Rosa facility.

The county Department of Health Services issued the Aug. 28 order against North Bay Corp., a division of the Ratto Group, the county’s dominant waste hauler, for two recycling sites on opposite sides of Standish Avenue just south of the city.

The order stems from a complaint the county received early last month that the company was operating an illegal solid waste facility. Officials investigated and found massive piles of garbage inside buildings and uncovered outside.

Recycling facilities in the state are allowed to operate without the stringent regulations on solid waste facilities as long as three conditions exist, explained Christine Sosko, the county’s environmental health and safety director. Material must be separated for reuse; no more than 1 percent of that waste can be “putrescible,” or prone to rotting; and no more than 10 percent can be “residual waste,” meaning anything that’s not recyclable — essentially garbage.

Inspectors, after visiting the sites and consulting with the operators, found that a facility at 3400 Standish Ave., Empire Recycling, was processing 21 percent garbage, while a North Bay Corp. facility across the street at 3417 Standish was processing 27 percent garbage, according to the order.

Inspectors noted birds and rats crawling across mounds of recyclables and garbage 12 feet deep and piles of tires intending for recycling. Recycled material and garbage also had been pushed together, and broken areas of concrete made it difficult to clean surfaces, Sosko said.

If the problems aren’t cleared up, North Bay Corp. could be hit with fines for violating the solid waste permit rules, which the county is required to enforce on behalf of CalRecycle, the state waste agency. The county can levy fines of up to $5,000 per day, Sosko said.

Source: Sonoma County tells waste hauler North Bay Corp. | The Press Democrat