The AD Lawsuit You May Not Know About

Editors Note: Have you heard about the pending lawsuit challenging City of San Leandro and Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s CEQA approval of the proposed Waste Management of Alameda County Mixed Waste Anaerobic Digestion facility? If built, the facility will have a huge impact on how discards are handled in Alameda County – and this region, for decades to come. Is the digestion of mixed waste the highest and best use of these discards? Does this approach qualify as Zero Waste? Could that money be better spent on outreach and public education? Why hasn’t this been covered by the press? This is an issue that NCRA members should be discussing and debating

By Arthur R. Boone, Center For Recycling Research and Total Recycling Associates
Petitioners Stein and Boone filed a lawsuit in late April challenging the CEQA duties of the parties. After finding counsel in early May, the petition  was rewritten and filed in early August. There is no pre-trial discovery but simply analysis of the administrative record to find (or oppose those findings) in the petitioners’ complaint. The moving parties filed their briefs at the end of October, citing many shortcoming in the proceedings. (Due to the high cost of pre-paid counsel, Boone withdrew from the Stein-led lawsuit in late October and filed his own brief.)  Defendants briefs are due December 10th (although not released at press time, saying no doubt that they followed CEQA exactly) with the petitioners having a chance to rebut any arguments by January 10th before the show-down before the judge on January 30th.

The most interesting arguments against the proceedings are that:
1) City of San Leandro and Alameda County Waste Management Authority voted on two different proposals.
2) Defendant Waste Management of Alameda County changed its plans with inadequate documentation.
3) The various approving agencies failed to consider a “no project” alternative before starting their approval processes.
4) Alameda County’s ban on incineration includes gas produced from waste materials that is burned for energy, even though the facility is located within the City of San Leandro and not on county land, and
5) The changed status of the project’s area (a piece of the Davis Street Transfer Station) by adding a definition of non-attainment to the air in that space between the projects first light (2011) and its final approval (2017) is a “changed circumstance” which under CEQA would require more staff work.

Recycle Bicycle – West Oakland Tour

By Tim Dewey-Mattia, NCRA Co-Chair – Membership, Engagement and Activities Committee, 12/5/17

Postponed a month due to the smoke from the North Bay fires, the new date for the West Oakland Recycle Bicycle tour brought sunny skies and a dozen NCRA bicyclists out to Frank Ogawa Plaza. The group set out up San Pablo Avenue and over to the now-shuttered site of Alliance Recycling, a buyback center – the focus of the movie Dogtown Redemption – that recently closed due to neighborhood opposition. We discussed the compounding pressures on buyback centers – unsustainably low state processing payments, skyrocketing rents and rapid gentrification of neighborhoods like West Oakland.

Down Peralta Street at the West Oakland Farm Park, it was a much more uplifting scene. Here City Slickers Farm has a community farm, kitchen and playground that provides food and a gathering space to the community. We enjoyed some bites of fresh veggies before cruising just around the block to marvel at the massive metal piles at CASS Inc, aka Custom Alloy, which processes both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Next was a quick peek in the gates of Oakland’s single-stream recycling MRF, California Waste Solutions (not open on the weekend). With China’s dramatic announcements to cut back on imports and the proliferation of random plastic packaging, curbside collectors are feeling the squeeze. Investment in recycling infrastructure and domestic markets would certainly be appreciated.

Down Mandela Parkway and over to Magnolia St, we came to the highlight of the tour – the O2 Artisans Aggregate Eco-Industrial Park. Such an impressive and cool spot – with tons of cool reuse and recycling industry going on. Aitan Mizrahi gave us an hour tour, as we poked our heads in on a sake factory, a soldier fly larvae to animal feed operation, salvaged woodworking, aquaponics…and of course, the Don Bugito “pre-hispanic snackeria”, where they grow edible insects inside a tidy old shipping container.

We hopped back on our bikes and passed the only open buyback center left in West Oakland, National Recycling, then headed past the EBMUD digesters and out to the Port of Oakland. The Middle Harbor Shoreline Park is an under-the-radar and amazing park with panoramic views of the bay, the bridge, the San Francisco Skyline and the port around you. The Port of Oakland is the 5th biggest container port in the US, and recyclables make up about a quarter of total exports – that comes to approximately 2 million tons of recyclables shipped out in 2016 alone. We had a discussion of the impending moves by China and the impacts on markets.… and a quick snack of tasty chocolate covered crickets and spicy mealworms that we picked up from Don Bugito.

The Sutta Company and Schnitzer Steel are both visible from the Adeline overpass, as we headed back from the port and over to our final destination – Old Kan Beer & Co, for beer and food. The fish & chips are highly recommended.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and interesting few hours exploring the Zero Waste landscape of West Oakland – where the scope and range of different recycling businesses is quite remarkable and always changing.

Thanks again to board member Hilary Near for planning out the route and for being a superb tour guide – and if you missed it, keep posted for another West Oakland Recycle Bicycle tour coming up in 2018!

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Board Of Directors Candidate Statements, 2018

Ten NCRA members have submitted ballot statements to serve on the 2018 NCRA Board of Directors. There are five positions to fill. Voting opens December 7 and closes December 21 at 11:59 pm.  The election results will be presented to the Board of Directors on December 22 and to the membership soon afterward.

Custom voting links will be emailed to members on December 7. If you do not receive our email but believe you should (i.e. your membership is current as of December 6, 2017), please email the office and we will email the link again.

CANDIDATES 2018: Shova Ale Magar, Nik Balachandran, Alina Bekkerman, Susan Blachman, Tim Dewey-Mattia, Janette E. Drew, Alex Hoffman, David Krueger, John Moore and Laura Zamora

Shova Ale Magar
I spent the summer after high school teaching workshops at the district–level wastewater treatment plant in Kathmandu, Nepal. During a workshop one weekend, I was inspired by the enthusiasm and curiosity of the 50 community members who had given up their weekend to learn about the project. That weekend taught me that environmental stewardship begins at the individual level. Everyone has a role to play.

I feel this every day in my work as a municipal recycling coordinator at Waste Management Inc. The actions we take individually grow into collaborative communities, from policies to enforcement, to education and out to individuals doing their part.

My career has included managing Green Citizen’s electronics recycling center in Mountain View where I assisted about 50 people a day who came in to recycle light bulbs, MacBooks, and even the occasional talking teddy bear. As a volunteer co-organizer of Zero Waste Youth USA’s 2016 and 2017 Convergences, I negotiated and managed the venue for the day-long event with 170 attendees including students, speakers, and vendors in the field. Collaboration including individuals and communities moves us toward a zero-waste world.

I humbly offer my experience to serve on the NCRA board.

Nik Balachandran
I would like to submit my candidacy for a position on the NCRA board. An avid environmental advocate, I regularly participate in beach cleanups and successfully led a campaign to end prepared food displays at corporate cafeterias that are discarded at the end of the shift. For years I have been reducing, reusing more, thereby, decreasing the need to even recycle. Along the way, I have educated people on how and why this is important.

Recently, I decided to make Zero Waste part of my career. I have years of experience as a data scientist in tech startups analyzing vast amounts of sensor data for actionable insights. I saw a great potential to marry innovation, technology, and waste. So I founded Zabble to help businesses track and reduce waste, save money and protect the environment. Since then I have been able to really understand industry trends and legislation, meet and learn from numerous inspiring people. In August, I earned a certification from USGBC as a Zero Waste advisor.

I believe that I bring a fresh perspective to the industry and could really aid NCRA in continuing their Zero Waste initiatives. I am very committed to my work. Your vote would be greatly appreciated.

Alina Bekkerman
As a Zero Waste advocate, I believe the next two years are critical and require a significant paradigm shift from a consumer mindset to a low-energy lifestyle

I humbly submit my candidacy to join the NCRA 2018 board, in service to our broader community and NCRA members.

In 2014 I first had an epiphany about the importance of waste stream management and recycling education while abroad in Ecuador, where I started a small program call Proyecto Puerto López Limpio. Upon my return home, I was first introduced to Bay Area initiatives as a volunteer for RU in 2015. In 2016, I joined the Zero Waste Youth Convergence planning committee, helping with fundraising, communications, and logistics. I co-directed the 2017 ZWYC, and continue to serve on the planning team for the 2018 event in a supporting role.

I would like to join the NCRA board to help collaborate on event production and education initiatives for RU and throughout the year. I believe that together we are a stronger movement, and would like to help connect individuals, organizations, and communities, promoting programs that inspire and educate the Bay Area and beyond.

Susan Blachman
A long-time NCRA member and a great fan of RU, I attended the 2014 Zero Food Waste Forum and got hooked. Ruth Abbe, John Moore and I launched NCRA’s Zero Food Waste Committee and with help from Susan Miller-Davis wrote Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County, the first-ever study of wasted food prevention and recovery efforts and opportunities in Alameda County. I presented our findings at RU2017, BIOCYCLE REFOR17 and NCRA’s Introduction to Recycling.

I plan to support NCRA’s efforts to further prevent food and other organics from being landfilled. This would include organizing another Zero Waste Food Forum and sharing local jurisdictions’  SB1838 compliance strategies (SB1383 requires California to meet organic waste reduction goals, including edible food recovery).

I was a City of Berkeley’s Zero Waste Commissioner for 8 years, co-chaired the Golden Gate Pollution Prevention Committee, was on the Western Regional Pollution Prevention Network Steering Committee and helped found the Women’s Environmental Network. I’ve been a member of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, and the California Product Stewardship Council.

Tim Dewey-Mattia, Incumbent
I w
as elected to the NCRA Board 2 years ago, and I kindly ask the membership for a chance to serve another term.  I’m the Recycling & Public Education Manager for Napa Recycling & Waste Services – the local franchise hauler and operator of Napa’s Recycling & Composting Facility

I got my start in Zero Waste over 20 years ago – first with the Middlebury College recycling program, and then for non-profit recycling organizations in San Francisco.  I’ve been at Napa Recycling for 12 years and work on program development, implementation and outreach…plus I talk about chickens & earthquakes at Recycling Update.

As NCRA board member and co-chair of the Outreach & Activities Committee, I’ve helped coordinate events, organize facility tours, & fundraise for Recycling Update.  I believe NCRA can and should be a leader on the hot topics of the day, including increasing organics diversion through more infrastructure and program participation and finding solutions to the current recycling market woes.

NCRA and our members are Zero Waste pioneers, and I am honored to help carry that forward.  We are a collaborative, exciting, and down-to-earth bunch, and I’d be pleased to continue to serve on the Board.

Janette E. Drew
I welcome the opportunity to be of service to NCRA. I believe that recycling, stewardship, and excellent governance are perfect partners for our community.  I am passionate about our environment and the preservation of our beautiful area for future generations to enjoy.

I am grateful to live in an area that takes its waste management seriously and constantly seeks to implement best practices on an ongoing basis. NCRA’s efforts ensure that there is a voice and a platform for recycling concerns to be heard and in particular, actions be taken.

My contributions:

  • Trustee of a national nonprofit managing billions of member assets
  • Member, Socially Responsible Investing
  • Trustee of a local nonprofit providing care & support to at risk families
  • Member, Finance committee
  • Commercial Finance and banking background
  • Various leadership roles: President, Chairperson, Secretary, Executive
  • Participant, Clean the Bay
  • Master Recycler graduate, RecycleSmart’s inaugural program, 2016

I am a 19 year resident of Contra Costa County and have held various local and national community relations roles. I have successfully built and maintained good relationships between the organization and interested parties including governing bodies, community organizations, clients, and other stakeholders.

Alexandra Hoffmann-Bradley, Incumbent
My Zero Waste career began a decade ago as a Recycling Coordinator for Waste Management. I later worked in electronics recycling, now I’m focused on climate change and textiles. I’m proud to have written two SFE Zero Waste grants totaling $100,000. I’m currently developing textile recycling programs and outreach for local schools. My passion for recycling ignited when I won a school contest for the beverage recycling program in the 80’s and I want to ignite that same passion in everyone I meet!

I’ve loved serving on the board these past 2 ½ years. I worked on the ZW Advocacy Committee’s plastic bag ban campaign.  Next year I’m interested in getting a grassroots lobbying team together to send to the Capital.

I’m Co-Chair of the Activities Committee playing a large role in organizing mixers, mentorships, tours, and RU. I ensure everyone is fed and happy at our events. I’m pumped up about RU 2018 and Zero Waste Week, as it’s NCRA’s 40th anniversary we have some phenomenal ideas to celebrate Zero Waste. I hope that you will put your faith in me to continue to see those through as I still have much to contribute. Humbly asking for your vote.

David Krueger, Incumbent
I have served on the NCRA Board of Directors since May 2015.  I’ve been the Treasurer for the past year and participate in NCRA’s Zero Waste Advocacy Committee.  Recent accomplishments include working on NCRA’s campaign to ban single-use plastic shopping bags, organizing a tour of the West Contra Costa composting facility, and writing support letters for the Altamont composting facility and for increased processing payments to Buyback centers.  I have over 25 years of professional experience in the recycling industry, having worked for cities, haulers, consulting firms, and a college recycling program.  If re-elected I will work to increase networking and educational opportunities for NCRA members and to update our administrative systems and procedures.  I respectfully ask for your vote.

John Moore, Incumbent
I have served on the Board for the past 10 years and consider it an honor to do so. When I first joined the Board I realized that NCRA needed to develop younger leadership and membership and I am gratified to see that this is happening. With the urgency of climate change and its focus on greenhouse gas emissions, the NCRA Zero Waste mission is more relevant than ever. While the battle to stop counting ADC as diversion was won, methane-producing organic material keeps being landfilled despite the beneficial alternative of compost and the drive to recover surplus and edible food.

NCRA has a special place in the fabric of California advocacy of the 3 Rs. I would like to see NCRA continue to be in the forefront on climate change issues arising from disposal of post-consumer materials, recovery of edible surplus food to be delivered to the food insecure, and to stem the tide of plastic pollution. I request your vote so that I may continue to be part of the leadership towards these goals.

Laura Zamora
I want to be a candidate for the opening board member position.  I am a High School Environmental Science Teacher in Alameda.  I work tirelessly to engage my students in environmental science topics and citizen scientist projects.  On campus, I am working to make the campus more sustainable by building a sustainable garden and I am currently working with the Environmental Awareness Club to start adopting a Zero Waste campaign.

I am also a leader in the educator community- I am a lead teacher with the California International Studies Project.  I teach other educators about Environmental Justice and how they can implement action projects designed around Environmental Justice in their community.

It would be an honor and a privilege to be considered for this board member position.  I believe it is imperative to include the educator community because we have the ability to shape and influence our youth to live more sustainably.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Reusable Plastic – Who Says So?

By Arthur R. Boone, Center For Recycling Research and Total Recycling Associates

Several years ago I started collecting so-called reusable plastic bags from the streets of Oakland and Berkeley. I eventually turned them into a string for a hula-type skirt with 100+ bags on the string. I have worn this bag-ban item on several occasions and if any NCRA member would like to use it for their own educational efforts; let me know. ARB”

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Should This Genie Be Let Out Of The Bottle?

Should electronic signatures be allowed to count to place initiatives on the statwide ballot?

By John Douglas Moore, co-chair NCRA Zero Waste Advocacy Committee

Feedback invited: jmoore@recyclelaw.com

California has a citizen form of government. Its citizens may pass laws (initiatives), strike down laws that have been passed (referenda), and remove from office those lawmakers passing offensive laws. (recall). California also has a recycling-friendly electorate- witness the defeat of the plastic bag business on the two referenda against bag bans in 2016. Closer to home, Alameda County Measure D with its 75% diversion mandate, landfill surcharge, and agency creation (Stopwaste) passed with over 60 % of the vote in 1990.

There is big catch to the idea of placing a statewide initiative on the ballot: To place a statewide initiative on the ballot one must collect 365,880 (5% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) signatures “personally affixed” by registered voters and witnessed by a “circulator” of the petition collecting the signatures.

Big business can place initiatives and referenda on the ballot because they can pay signature gatherers the market rate per signature, a cost in millions of dollars. Plastic bag makers, waste haulers and landfill owners, and beverage manufacturers and distributors all have the resources to put laws before the voters. In many situations it is all the opponents can do to fight against initiative and referenda, leaving those opponents so tapped of energy and resources that they cannot fight to pass laws they support. Last year’s Proposition 67 battle is a good example. Outspent by many millions of dollars, the recycling community including NCRA and CAW mounted an effective campaign to keep California’s plastic bag ban. But proposing a statewide law itself- say banning disposal of organic material at landfill, or constructing a new bottle bill that works- is too much to contemplate, mainly the required 365,880 signatures. (585,045 signatures to pass a Constitutional amendment).

But what if the signature gathering process was made easier? In the Twitter age is it too arcane to require “wet” signatures witnessed by a circulator. Can’t the internet be used to equalize the strength of opponents as it does it many ways already?

In 2011 a California Court of Appeals held in Ni v. Slocum that an e-signature drawn on a smartphone could not be counted towards the requisite number of votes in a county-wide (San Mateo County) initiative campaign to legalize marijuana. No California appellate court has taken up the issue since. One Utah court decision before Ni and one West Virginia court decision following Ni have held electronic signatures to be adequate for electoral purposes. Each Court examined the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act that was adopted by both states and California that gives e-signatures the same binding effect as wet signatures.

The Court in Ni found that the UETA did not supplant a more specific provision of the state Elections Code that does not provide for e-signatures. The Court also held that the state statutory requirement of a circulator to witness the signature of the registered voter negated the validity of e-signatures obtained on the internet and not through circulators. The Court further pointed out that a law to permit e-signatures to be used on electoral documents was passed by the state Legislature in 1997-98 only to be vetoed by then Governor Pete Wilson. Perhaps it will be technically possible in the future to satisfy the need for a “circulator” of petitions collecting signatures. Since the Ni decision is hostile to the very idea of sanctioning judicially the collection of signatures on the internet, it seems doubtful that a technology change rather than a law change would change the result in Ni. A non-profit, Electronic Signature Records Association and a for-profit technology vendor, Verafirma, are active in this field.

So Zero Waste advocates frustrated with the mills of the Legislature grinding slowly (if ever they grind at all)[1] could focus on legalizing the use of e-signatures to place statewide initiatives. The Legislature could again be convinced to pass such a law with the idea that Governor Brown would not veto it. The issue of permitting e-signatures itself could be made the subject of a statewide initiative. These pathways would require massive energy and time.

Which leads to the question- would this even be a good idea? Making the process to pass new laws easier for positions that one likes also makes it easier for positions one does not like. Look how many votes our current President received. Would letting this genie out of the bottle make for not a citizen government but for a CocaCola Government or a Waste Management government?

The political commentator, Kathleen Moore, says that “Our technology is moving faster than our morality”

I solicit your views.

[1] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow