Now Available: Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County

NCRA Report highlights ways to meet SB 1383

We are proud to announce the release of Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County, the first-ever study of wasted food prevention and recovery efforts and opportunities in Alameda County. Highlights include over 50 policies and program suggestions, food recovery ecosystem infographics,  and observations and findings based on research and stakeholder interviews. Funded by StopWaste, the report is available on the NCRA website.


Survey of CRV Redemption Operators, June 2017

Survey of CRV Redemption Operators, June 2017

Being conducted by Doug Brooms in collaboration with Dan Knapp, Ph.D., Urban Ore, Inc.

California has lost about 35% of its redemption centers in the last four years. According to CalRecycle, the State agency that oversees recycling, during the past 12 months since April 2016, another 140 collection centers have closed. Now there are only 1,692 statewide. In Alameda County 28 redemption centers remain, of which 6 are in Oakland. The erosion of businesses and jobs, the drop in resource recovery and the inconveniences to consumers of having fewer redemption centers are no longer tolerable.

Nonprofit recycling advocacy organization, Californians Against Waste, has requested a survey of Bay Area recycling centers that return Container Redemption Value (CRV) deposits to the public. They are working to understand the impacts both on businesses and on local communities. They will use the information gathered first to understand the impacts, and then to inform decision-makers in Sacramento who are working on reversing these closures. The information will also be used to inform the public. We want to make each interview into a very short informative story that people can relate to.

Here is the first interview:

Community Conservation Centers (CCC) operates a recycling buy-back and drop-off facility situated on a 98,000 square foot parcel owned by the City of Berkeley at Gilman and 2nd Street. (Map) The multifaceted recycling enterprise encompasses CRV redemption and buy-back in one quadrant, an adjacent zone for convenient drop-offs for a dozen recyclable categories, and the  Ecology Center Curbside Recycling office and yard to the north. The processing operations for container and paper sorting and baling occur in the rear of the property. Tall stacks of bales abound – compacted aluminum cans, plastic bottles, mixed paper, cardboard and large open metal boxes of glass.

Drive-in customers wait in queue to unload their CRV segregated cans and plastic bottles directly into a hopper for a short conveyor belt ride up and over into a rectangular metal basket sitting on a scale.  An adjacent buy-back weigh station is for non-CRV items including paper, cardboard and metal and glass bottles segregated into clear, green and brown. Walk-in customers empty their goods into black 55-gallon barrels. The various weights, rates and amounts are printed on a receipt which customers redeem for cash at an open window. The supply of customers has gradually increased. The mix of occasional casual redeemers to regular dependent redeemers is about 50/50.

The breakdown in plastics received is about 30% #1 PET bottles, 30% #2 HDPE bottles, 30% consumer clam shells and containers, and 10% industrial crates, tubs and buckets. There is no market for food contaminated plastics, which are disposed of at a loss. This year, China’s National Sword has replaced its Green Fence policy, demanding higher quality bales with no more than 2% contamination, which is not a problem with CCC.

CCC first noticed a downturn in scrap values in 2013. Revenues have not been sustainable, but operations remain viable using reserve account funds and support from the City of Berkeley. Challenges include increasing overhead, transportation costs, regulations and maintenance of an aging facility. Stormwater regulators have imposed compliance requirements, adding to costs. If scrap values continue their slide, the outlook would not be good, but there are no eminent thoughts of closing the recycling facility

CCC does not have any residential neighbors and has not experienced complaints. Suggestions for improving the bottle bill include adding CRV redemption for milk, liquor and wine bottles, and having supermarkets to pay for (buyback) all of the CRV plastics they sell.

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ZWAC Minutes, June 2017

May 10, 2017. 1970 Broadway, 9th floor, Oakland.

Attendees were D. Brooms, J. Moore, D. Krueger, L. McKaughan, A. Boone, M. VanDeventer, and D. Knapp, with call-in guest Heidi Sanborn. D. Brooms, Scribe

At 6:12 pm, meeting was called to order.

  1. Review, Additions, and Approval of Agenda.
  2. Lawsuit against WMAC related to Measure D.
    Boone provided an overview of the lawsuit that he and Toni Stein had filed against Waste Management of Alameda County (WMAC) and several public agencies, citing irregularities in the adoption of a CEQA-approved site development plan for the Davis Street Transfer Station.Boone gave the presentation for ZWAC to understand the court case, particularly as it relates to Measure D, 1990, which established some peculiar local laws regarding waste reduction and recycling. NCRA and ZWC were the main supporters of Measure D, 1990 and this is in some ways a follow-on of that legislation.Boone is making rounds to gain support. The ZW committee of the SF Bay chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed the lawsuit. The Measure D intent is to not invest public funds for mixed sorting. WMAC has a vested interest in the project, to get the good stuff out of the mixed. Suspect that Houston is pushing this as a model for the USA.

    This project is contrary to and a deterrent to source separation as practiced and encouraged in Alameda County, to manage discarded materials in the most cost-efficient manner, by not mixing them together in a fashion that deters their highest and best use. Efforts should continue more toward manditory recycling. Also, Stein is concerned about the Bay Area air quality, particularly West Oakland, San Leandro Northeast and Norhwest nearest I-880, and the San Francisco Marina, with ships coming to port.

  3. McKaughan commented on a Multi-family outreach survey of 15 buildings, which found that 74% was good stuff is still found in garbage.
  4. Calif Product Stewardship Council’s Position on SB 168
    Sanborn commented that nobody had prior knowledge of SB 168. We don’t want the carpet stewardship to be a model for the Bottle Bill. Susan Collins of CRI is very concerned. People to benefit are not the California public. Structure in not optimal. There is no source reduction, control of our funds, no performance standards. It must be 501c3, not 50c6. Money is to be for oversight, transparancy and accountability. They would be able to use our money to sue us.Knapp believes that Joy Ann Roy, legislative consultant, is a primary author of SB 168. Sanborn and Collins figure the best strategy is to try to see what can be done to fix infrastructure. The fix should be $50 million to save the $1 billion program. Sanborn intends to call people later to slow it down, get it right. Feelings are that nothing is worth salvaging in SB 168. It’s a distraction from CalRecycle’s inaction on the Bottle Bill.Heidi Sanborn, Exec Director joined via phone to express the views of CPSC on SB 168, the Beverage Container Recycling Act of 2017. This Bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski would create a Beverage Container Stewardship Organization (BCSO) to replace the current Bottle Bill program. The BCSO would be comprised of beverage distributors, and would be modeled after the CA mattress recycling Stewardship program.
  5. Status of Bills Supported/Opposed by NCRA
    Brooms provided a status of the Bills for which NCRA has written letters of Support:

Meeting was adjourned at 7:58 pm.

Hosting Citywide Garage Sales

Both El Cerrito and Albany hold citywide garage sales on subsequent Saturdays in May.  Hosts must register at least a month in advance and pay a fee – El Cerrito – $16 and Albany – $10, to be included in the handouts and on-line map which are distributed the week before the sale.

El Cerrito, which often holds sales in the Spring and Fall, celebrated it’s 25th anniversary sale in 2015. Albany started their sales in 2009 in collaboration with El Cerrito. They now hold separate events. It is possible the collaboration was too big of success, resulting in a very complicated list and map.

Hosting Citywide Garage Sales
By Laurenteen Brazil, City of El Cerrito, CA
Do you host citywide garage sales? If not, why not? They are an excellent opportunity to promote reuse and community pride while reducing clutter. Depending on how an organization is structured, events can be coordinated by the staff that promotes sustainability – like the Public Works Department here in El Cerrito, or by the staff that promote events like the Recreation Department.

 The major elements to a successful citywide event include:

  • Determine administrative fee(s) as necessary
  • Establish an efficient registration process – both online and hardcopy
  • Develop an informative webpage
  • Select a date that doesn’t conflict with major events or activities
  • Conduct outreach to generate hosts and shoppers
  • Circulate press releases to generate event enthusiasm  – radio and newspapers
  • Coordinate newspaper ads listings
  • Design maps for distribution – online and hardcopy
  • Create banner(s) for advertisement purposes
  • Place ads in all in-house newsletters
  • Post flyers at major community-based businesses
  • Utilize social media to build interest – Facebook, Twitter, Next Door…

Partners: It may be useful to partner with a neighboring city or organization to share advertising and to promote community support. Events can be hosted on the same day to create a huge garage sale or successive Saturdays. Allow businesses and bordering cities to participate as partners or sale hosts. Shoppers will appreciate more locations to visit to find great goods at great prices.

Maps: Decide how best to design the map. Do you have a budget to use a designer or do you need to create it in-house? If you choose to use a printer, make sure they use soy-based inks and make sure to select the highest recycled-content paper provided. Limit hosts to a maximum of 20 words for sale descriptions to insure the map is a one page duplexed document.

Food and Drink: Decide whether or not to allow hosts to use food and beverage ads as enticements. Promoting foods prepared in unlicensed kitchens could potentially be problematic for a city. Once decisions are made, make sure to be consistent in providing that information to each host.

Photos: On the day of the event, take photos of different sales to use for upcoming outreach materials.

Post Event: Provide hosts with resource information to ensure unsold items do not end up in the landfill.

Survey: Plan to survey hosts as well as participants soon after the event in order to determine where improvements need to be made. The registration form should also include space for feedback to help generate new ideas and enhancement opportunities.

A well-organized citywide garage sale is fun for those that participate, benefits the environment by promoting reuse, reducing clutter and waste, and helping to foster a more connected community. Read more… El Cerrito and Albany.

Adopt A Friendly Bill

By Doug Brooms, NCRA Boardmember and Legislative Lead, 4/2017
Have you ever given much thought to the array of mostly environmental laws which protect our food, water, air, health, safety, climate, security… in short, our well-being? What if there emerged a nationwide 4-year campaign to systematically dismantle, roll back and weaken many of the laws, regulations and safeguards that we casually take for granted? Perhaps you should consider adopting a bill or even join the NCRA committee that evaluates bills for letters of support or opposition.

Lucky for us, California is one of only six states – CA, DE, HI, OR, RI, WA, having a democratic governor and majority legislature, arguably with a greater predisposition towards environmental protection over special interests. The California Environmental Protection Agency “Cal EPA” historically has been party to landmark laws and statutes, and in leading the nation with lofty targets for resource recovery, mitigation of greenhouse gases and climate protection.

Cal EPA is comprised of an array of state agencies, one of which is the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (DRRR) or “CalRecycle”. (Click here for the CalRecycle State of Recycling in California – Updated 2016.) Of the hundreds of bills introduced during the first two months of each year, CalRecycle handpicks three dozen or so for their Priority List. NCRA in turn selects those considered worthy of our merit to support or oppose.

For 2015, there had been an initial set of 44 CalRecycle priority bills, of which 8 ultimately got signed into law, 18%. NCRA had written 12 letters of support to committee chairs, and subsequently five to Governor Brown, all of which he signed. For 2016, there had been 41 CalRecycle bills, of which NCRA had supported 9, including 8 bills of the 20 that got passed, 49%.

There was one 2016 bill that had gained fervent support among NCRA members. Prop 67 would uphold the 2014 statewide law to phase out single-use grocery bags, an ever growing environmental scourge and hazard to wild- and marine-life. Plastic bag manufacturers from NJ, SC and TX spent over $20 million in opposition. Weeks before the Nov. 2016 elections, NCRA activists led by the board conducted comprehensive voter outreach, canvasing at supermarkets and events, phone calling, posting blogs and bulletin board posts and produced a 3-minute must-see video, “Yes on Prop 67, Ban the Bags!”. NCRA is proud to have been among the hundreds of organizations which contributed to the passage of Prop 67, albeit by a modest 52-48 margin.

For 2017 there are 31 CalRecycle priority bills, of which 12 NRCA has supported or likely will support, plus another 12 having promising potential. Among the remaining crop, we particularly like those in the spirit of last year’s Prop 67 towards mitigating the bane of plastic pollution of our lands and oceans, and the deleterious effects to sea-faring birds and marine life. AB 319, initiated by a number of our members who are also leaders of the Save The Albatross Coalition, would prohibit a retailer from selling or offering for sale a single-use plastic beverage container with a cap that is not tethered to or contiguously affixed. AB 1594 aims to curb ocean plastic pollution, and SB 705 would phase out Styrofoam and other single use plastic food packaging and wares, in favor of compostable and recyclable versions.

In the spirit of Zero Food Waste, there are two bills, AB 954 “Food Packaging Date Labels” and AB 1219 the “California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”. Both are designed to lessen edible food waste. (Here is information from the USDA website regarding the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.)

The NCRA ZWAC committee has prepared 4 letters to date. You are welcome to reuse them for your own organization. Send a note to the office via our contact page to receive them in an editable document.

To see abbreviated descriptions of CalRecycle’s Priority List, and to stay abreast with NCRA’s preferences and support of bills, periodically visit our 2017 legislative page. Another valuable source for current legislation updates is Californians Against Waste (CAW).

If you have inclinations towards environmental or legislative activism, consider getting more engaged with NCRA, or whichever environmental justice organization that you prefer. Environmental and Zero Waste Advocacy in California are as important as ever, to preserve hard fought environmental victories and to create new ones. Consider advocating for those bills that are beyond the purview of NCRA, but nonetheless are worthy of pursuit. Make a phone call, sign a petition, join a discussion, or do whatever might sway or persuade a lawmaker. Thus whenever again you ponder the panoply of coveted laws that protect us, the planet and our future, be content that you made a contribution, in your own way, to your own well-being.