Blogs

Rinsing Plastics at Events

By Arthur R. Boone, Center For Recycling Research and Total Recycling Associates
In its 12 years of operation, the First Friday Street Fair on lower Telegraph in Oakland had never had a recycling program; running from 5 to  p.m. on, guess what, the first Fridays of each month, it had escaped attention from the regulators. The sponsoring organization’s exec had used the Sierra Club tree team to plant trees in the area, so Boone asked her if she needed a little help getting started. He got referred to John Eric Henry, FF event manager, and on the first Friday of May, Boone and four other NCRA-based volunteers – Brooms, Hanscom, Krueger, and McKaughan, did their magic on assorted trash bags and some three-sort bagged materials out of Clearstreams to see what’s happening.

Most pleasing was how little EPS (Styrofoam) there was in the mix with lots of molded pulp food plates and the paucity of glass, paper and OCC. Most astounding to Boone was the high percentage of plastic cups, cutlery, and film, most of it too covered with goop of various origins to be immediately usable.

Anybody know of ways to rinse discarded plastics to make them clean enough to go in a drop-off location as in Berkeley and El Cerrito?; this stuff didn’t go to China then and doesn’t now. Resin sorters seem to have the resin of origin solved but not the goop. Any leads?  ARBoone

Boone/Stein v. Alameda County Waste Management Authority

What Happened and Why
By John D. Moore, NCRA Vice President and Legal Counsel, and Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board Environmental Organization Member

Editors note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of NCRA or the Recycling Board.

In 2011, Waste Management (WM) obtained a permit from the City of San Leandro for expanded composting and anaerobic digestion at its Davis Street Transfer Station (DSTS). For California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance in 2011, San Leandro issued a negative declaration. As part of the 2011 permitting process WM obtained an amendment to the County Integrated Waste Management Plan (CoIWMP) that describes its 2011 plans. In 2017, WM decided it wanted to perform mixed waste composting at DSTS instead of what was approved in 2011. WM needed another amendment to the CoIWMP that described its 2017 plans and needed the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA and StopWaste) to approve that amendment. In conjunction with this proposed CoIWMP amendment, the ACWMA was required to consider CEQA again and decide whether or not to require environmental review resulting from the project changes since 2011 and whether these changes posed significant potential adverse environmental impact. Stopwaste found that there had been no changes to the project since 2011 so that no further CEQA review was required. Arthur Boone and Dr. Toni Stein objected to the CEQA determination before the ACWMA, hired private counsel at their own expense and filed suit under CEQA for the ACWMA’s refusal to perform further environmental review.

First, the Court tentatively ruled in favor of Boone and Stein although its tentative ruling did not read like much of an endorsement of their suit. After oral argument the Court changed its mind and ruled in favor of the County and WM. Then, Boone/Stein asked Judge Ronni McLaren to reconsider her ruling, which she did. In Judge McLaren’s reconsidered ruling she again tentatively ruled in favor of Boone/Stein; this time in a more committed fashion. But, after oral argument, Judge McLaren changed her mind yet again and ruled in favor of the County and WM.

Why did Judge McLaren change her mind so much? There is no way to know for sure. At the start of the first hearing Judge McLaren announced that this was the first CEQA case that she had ever decided. That said, it appeared that Judge McLaren spent a lot of time and effort reviewing and considering the law. CEQA has two competing underlying policies: one is for full public transparency and disclosure of potential significant environmental impacts of proposed projects; the other is finality of public agency decisions about the project. CEQA requires the Court to give a lot of deference to public agency fact finding concerning CEQA evaluations. Stopwaste found that there had been no change in the project since 2011. I think Judge McLaren realized that this was just untrue and that the current proposed project never had a full CEQA review, but could not see what potential environmental impacts would result from the project changes that had been raised before the ACWMA. Judge McLaren had to follow the law requiring deference to Stopwaste’s determination of no project changes. The Court’s review was also limited to objections actually made at the agency hearing which focused more on air emissions than zero waste issues. .

Boone and Stein could appeal and argue that Judge McLaren applied the wrong legal standard in her decision. Courts of Appeal likewise give much deference to a trial court’s factual finding, i.e. that the administrative record before the ACWMA did not show potential significant environmental impacts from the changes in the project. Statistically, I think that the odds are very high that Boone/Stein would lose in a court of appeal.

Any other ways to challenge the WM project? WM has a 2011 permit from the City of San Leandro. The DSTS is also bound by a master plan including the site, which was approved by the City of San Leandro in 1998. If the current project violates either of these approvals, a possible challenge exists but a very quick statute of limitations is running on such a challenge.

What sort of further environmental review should have occurred? Recognizing that the project did change from 2011 and that mixed waste composting had not yet been tried in the US, potential environmental impacts of poor quality of output compost and the possible negative impact on source separation are things I think should have been studied. After the ACWMA hearing there was media coverage of the dissatisfaction of several European countries with mixed waste composting because of claimed poor quality of the output. A press release in connection with these reports coined the phrase “Compost-like output” or CLOs when discussing compost made from mixed waste.

Would that have made any difference, if known by the ACWMA? To me that seems unlikely. The ACWMA is a joint powers agency made up of all of the cities within the county plus two sanitary districts that provide for solid waste and recyclables collection. As a political body, its decisions are sometimes made for political reasons and it is possible under CEQA for a public agency to approve a project no matter how bad the disclosed environmental impacts would be. That said, one member of the ACWMA, the City of Oakland, was heavily invested in the approval of the mixed waste composting facility at DSTS because it is part of its franchise agreement with WM. Do I think that a majority of the ACWMA members would have voted to deny approval of a project so important to the largest city within the County? I think that is unlikely. The realistic best outcome would have been to impose some quality requirements in the compost output. WM told the ACWMA that its compost would meet certification requirements of one of the NGOs that certify compost. But this promise is not stated in any of the permits.

In hindsight, NCRA should have appeared at the ACWMA CoIWMP amendment hearing and raised concerns about source separation and compost quality, if only to ask the ACWMA to impose permit conditions relating to these concerns. I feel like in hindsight I should have pushed more in that direction. These concerns might ultimately have convinced Judge McLaren to insist upon more environmental review of the mixed waste processing component. But in the end I think the ACWMA would have approved the project anyway.

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Board Meeting Agenda, 6/21/18

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA RECYCLING ASSOCIATION:

Board of Directors Mtg Agenda: 6/21/18

Location: 1455 Market St, San Francisco (SF Dept. of the Environment)
Call in number, 415-554-8755
Trouble getting into building? Call 925-913-0143
Presiding Officer is Treasurer David Krueger

6:30 pm Meeting called to order

6:32 pm Consent Calendar
1) Agenda
2) Minutes from May 17, 2018 BOD meeting

6:35 pm Election of Director to replace Rebecca Jewell and possibly Steve Sherman (Terms end 11/19)

6:45 pm Treasurer’s Report
1) Financial report May 2018
2) Grant Activity: EAB grants (Addition of Gerber to project team)

6:50 pm Administrative Activity
1) Board action items – review of Google sheet
2) Update on BayROC partnership
3) New board member manual

7:15 pm Actions Requiring Discussion/Policy Decisions

1) Zero Waste Food Forum
2) WISR (Women in Solid Waste and Recycling) Survey distribution request
3) Community-based social marketing training in San Francisco in late October. Discount for NCRA members if we promote the training.
4) National Sword
5) Tire Recycling

7:30 pm Actions Requiring Expenditures

Report by Committee: (15-20 mins each)

A) Membership, Engagement & Activities (Bradley/Dewey-Mattia)
1) Update on upcoming tours, mixers, meeting locations

B) Zero Waste Advocacy (Brooms/Moore)

C) Communications Committee (Sinnott)

8:00 pm Roundtable sharing (time permitting)

8:50 pm Adjournment

Board Meeting This Thursday 6/21 at SF Department of Environment

Please attend the Thursday, June 21 meeting at the San Francisco Department of the Environment.  Dinner – possibly pizza, at 6pm followed by the meeting at 6:30pm.

The address is 1455 Market St, 3 blocks up from Civic Center BART Station. Street parking is available on 11th St.

All attendees are required to RSVP well in advance, otherwise you won’t make it through Security.

Zero Waste Week 2018 East Bay Recycling Facility Tour Report

WHAT HAPPENS TO ALL THAT STUFF WE DISCARD?
By Nik Balachandran, Co-founder and CEO, Zabble Inc.
On March 21, an unusually cold and rainy March morning, a bunch of us gathered at the Oakland BART station for the East Bay Facility Tour. We were met by NCRA Board Members and Activities Committee members Alexandra Bradley, Tim Dewey-Mattia and Hilary Near, and staff Juliana Gerber, who drove us there and back through the pouring rain and fed us bagels and other tasty Recycling Update leftovers. Highest and best use!

We visited Independent Recycling Services, DR3 Mattress Recycling and Davis Street Resource Recovery Complex and Transfer Station. Bio-Link Depot, which gives surplus lab supplies and equipment to schools, was also to be on the tour but was closed that day.

The first stop was Independent Recycling Services, a construction debris recovery facility on San Leandro St. in Oakland. We were greeted by the foreman, Billy, who was very courteous in showing us around and explaining daily operations. The facility accepts wood, metals, concrete, plastic, brick, glass, asphalt, gypsum and miscellaneous debris. They do not accept household or hazardous waste.

On a typical day a truck with construction material drives over the scales to weigh the load. The truck then dumps the contents in a common area. The truck is then weighed again on the way out. The difference is used to calculate the tipping costs. A receipt is then furnished with the tonnage disposed and percentage of diversion from landfill, if available. Multiple sorters sift through the pile to pull out valuable materials like uncontaminated concrete, wood (2×4, 2×6…), etc. to add to sorted piles. The management then finds alternative end markets for these goods. The unusable material ends up in a residual discard area. NCRA members had many questions and Billy saw to it that he answered every one of them. One of the members was even able to salvage a perfectly good looking functional piece of furniture.

The second stop was DR3 Mattress Recycling in Oakland. DR3 is a California-based mattress recycling company founded in 1999. They have 3 locations (Oakland, Stockton and Woodland) where they accept drop-offs. They also offer pickup for commercial accounts.

A mattress has 4 recyclable material types; steel, foam, cotton and wood. At DR3, employees place individual mattresses on a waist high platform and disassemble them by hand, also known as deconstruction, in order to maximize the quality of the extracted materials. With this process, DR3 claims that they can recycle 80-90% of a mattress. They then sell bales of clean material. DR3 processes around 800 – 1,000 mattresses a month.

The NCRA group enjoyed taking part in an impromptu competition for the fastest deconstruction times where members took turns completely taking apart a mattresses. Overall, we took with us a good understanding of the different components in mattress recycling.

After that we made a brief stop at the San Leandro Habitat For Humanity ReStore, the nonprofit home improvement store that sells donated new and used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances at a discounted price. We roamed around the store and explored their offerings. It was a good reminder to donate before discard if possible.

Our last stop was at the Waste Management’s Davis Street Resource Recovery Complex and Transfer Station (DTST), one of the most sophisticated material recovery facilities in the country. We met with C&D Diversion Manager, Erika-Alexandra Solis and her team who graciously gave us a tour of the 10 acre facility. (We also learned that Ms. Solis was a recipient of the 40 under 40 Award at this year’s Waste Expo.) NCRA organizers treated us to more delicious leftovers and Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches. Jay Ramos, Sr. District Manager also talked with us for a short while on the plan to sort residuals.

DSTS accepts organics, C&D, recyclables, bulky items like appliances, mattresses, tires, reusable items such as household goods – which are sent to St. Vincent De Paul and trash which is sent to Altamont Landfill in Livermore. Random audits are conducted at different stages to flag inappropriate or contaminated items in the different streams. Materials that cannot be recovered for reuse, recycling or composting are headed to the Altamont Landfill in Livermore. A Waste Management Earth Care Center is located within the premises offers compost and mulch in multiple dyes for professional and household use. It was mentioned that the MRF recycling rate at the facility is 75%.

On my way back in the BART, I reflected about the complexities of the discard management system with all the different material types, their respective handling process and end markets, only for a new cycle to begin. The rain had now abated and the sun was pushing its way through the dark clouds. Perhaps, it’s just a co-incidence that this intricate system made more sense now.

For more info here are Waste Management Davis Street Resource Recovery Complex view these YouTube videos: