New Horizons In Food Rescue Around California

By Food Waste Reduction Committee Members, Susan Miller Davis, Infinite Table and Susan Blachman, Blachman Consulting
In 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1383 which, among other things, requires 20 percent of edible food that is currently disposed in landfills and incinerators to be recovered for human consumption by 2025. CalRecycle is holding workshops on May 7 and 8 to share draft regulatory language with which local jurisdictions will have to comply, to discuss the implementation process and solicit feedback. Although the regulations will not take effect until 2022, they will be adopted in 2019 to allow regulated entities approximately three years to plan and implement necessary budgetary, contractual, and other programmatic changes.

Local jurisdictions are beginning to mobilize resources – here are a few examples of local efforts underway:

Los Angeles: The City of Los Angeles has incorporated food recovery into its new franchise agreement. Under the agreement, the haulers are required to partner with local non-profit organizations to set up Food Rescue and Materials Reuse Programs. In exchange for recovery services and estimates of tonnage recovered, each hauler is obligated to donate to their subcontracted reuse organizations at least $1,000 per 100 customers in their service zones.  The exact amount given to each organization and the tonnages recovered or services provided in exchange is negotiated between each hauler and nonprofit individually. The program began January 2018.

Alameda County: ALL IN Alameda County is an innovation incubator within county government, a multi-stakeholder collaborative, working together to end poverty. One goal of All In is to establish a professionalized, paid food recovery sector, including job training. Towards that end, All In will be rolling out a 3 month food rescue pilot using two refrigerated vehicles purchased by the county.  Drivers will be recruited and hired from Peralta Service Corporation (PSC), the Unity Council’s social enterprise, and trained by the County Environmental Health Department on safe food handling. The program will recover food (fresh produce) from local farmers’ markets and deliver it to two recipient organizations: the Unity Council and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates. The plan is to continue the program once the three months is up, and including evaluating how the project can be sustained.

Silicon Valley: Silicon Valley Food Rescue (SVFR), a joint venture initiative of Santa Clara County and Joint Venture Silicon Valley, is working to supplement existing food recovery and hunger relief efforts with its planned “A La Carte” pilot, which will recover prepared food from currently untapped sources and also deliver food to insecure residents in new, more convenient ways.   According to SVFR, A La Carte, which will pilot in the summer of 2018, is “a trendy looking food truck that will rescue surplus pre-packaged food from corporate and university campuses and deliver the food directly into neighborhoods where people in need have limited access to food.”  SVFR hopes to expand the pilot to cover the entire county.  The trucks do not contain cooking and washing facilities, so are designed to distribute pre-packaged food only.  According to SVFR, “the program is designed to offer a normal, dignified experience to those struggling to feed themselves and their families, always free of cost.”

City of San Diego: In order to help achieve the City of San Diego’s goal of achieving “Zero Waste” by 2040, the City has established a Food Waste Diversion Program which has diverted approximately 8,000 tons of food waste from the City’s landfill to date. Under this program, the 34 largest food providers donate food to local food banks; donors include the San Diego Convention Center, Airport, Zoo and Safari Park, and SeaWorld, along with several schools and universities. Many other sites also donate their surplus food. Donations represent approximately 8,000 meals per week. City staff’s experience indicated that the best way to overcome barriers to source reduction and food donation is to show businesses how much and what types of food they were sending to organics diversion via composting.

And…Food for Free provides out-of-state inspiration
Food for Free is a food rescue and redistribution non-profit operating in the Boston area since 1981.  Recently, in response to growing demand from local businesses seeking to donate prepared foods to comply with the 2014 statewide commercial food material disposal ban (similar to SB 1383), Food for Free introduced a prepared meals program.

The Food for Free kitchen processes about 900 lbs of donated, bulk frozen food per week, mostly from local university campus kitchens.  The team has developed a process for breaking down the frozen food into individual meals, similar to tv dinners, which are packaged, sealed and labeled, and then distributed to a number of recipient hunger relief agencies.  The meals have the advantage of being convenient for families and other food insecure residents – those living in SROs, hotels or couch surfing; the elderly; students – who have limited kitchen access or other barriers to cooking, as they can be easily heated in a microwave.

Program manager Fiona Crimmins describes the challenges of working with frozen product – the team has developed methods of breaking down the food that involves chisels, and can only work with food that separates in a manageable and appetizing way – but also the benefits in terms of extending the timeline for distributing the food.  Similar programs on the Tufts and Harvard campuses, fueled by student volunteers, are processing surplus campus cafeteria food into individual, refrigerated meals for easy distribution.

Zero Food Waste Forum – Coming Fall 2018
To learn more about model food recovery programs and prepare for compliance with Senate Bill 1383, consider attending the NCRA 2018 Zero Food Waste Forum this fall in the Bay Area.

If you are interested in serving on the steering committee or becoming a sponsor, contact Ruth Abbe at Ruth.Abbe@gmail.com.

California Carpet Update, 2/2018

By Joanne Brasch, PhD, Special Project Manager, California Product Stewardship Council
On October 14, 2017, Governor Brown signed AB 1158, legislation sponsored by the National Stewardship Action Council, an affiliate of the California Product Stewardship Council, which made significant changes to the Carpet Stewardship program goals and structure. The new legislation required CalRecycle to appoint a Carpet Stewardship Program Advisory Committee to provide recommendations on carpet stewardship plans, plan amendments, and annual reports. All documents, including meeting agendas and minutes, are available on the official Advisory Committee web page. After several long and productive meetings, the Committee sent a letter on February 12, to CalRecycle and the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) outlining their comments and recommendations on the draft carpet stewardship plan proposed submitted on January 8, 2018. In the letter, the committee provided 21 recommended changes to the draft plan, listed in priority order.

The committee followed protocols to comply with the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act as they discussed and voted on each recommendation, ensuring transparency and giving the public opportunity to comment. These recommendations aim to expand the carpet recycling program in California to provide adequate program funding, improve recycling infrastructure and subsidies, and drive markets for carpet materials. The committee requested the author of AB 1158, Assemblymember Kansen Chu, to provide clarification regarding his intent for the definition of recyclability. The author’s definition was incorporated into a new, more comprehensive metric of recyclability, which includes measurements of carpet deconstruction and material separation, ease of collection, cost-effectiveness, post-recycling material performance, and toxic components. Assemblymember Chu’s letter of intent for the definition of “recyclability” will in turn affect the grant and subsidy program, which by law prioritizes products that have the highest recyclability to ensure the carpet stewardship program incentivizes greener design.

CARE has until March 16 to resubmit an amended stewardship plan to CalRecycle, which will then review and develop staff recommendations on whether the plan should be approved at the May 15th public hearing. If anyone would like to get involved, there will be more opportunities for the public to provide comments and questions. The public can email carpet@calrecycle.ca.gov to get on the committee’s listserv and CPSC funders can email info@calpsc.org to be added to the carpet listserv.

Help us hold the carpet industry to a much higher recycling standard for California!

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Official Retraction of Editor’s AD Article Note

In the December 2017 NCRA Newsletter (Dec 7), there appeared a Members Showcase article entitled, “The AD Lawsuit you may not know about” by Arthur Boone, that discussed a lawsuit challenging the appropriateness of the CEQA approval of Waste Management of Alameda County’s anaerobic digestion facility to be sited in San Leandro and involving StopWaste and the City of San Leandro. The Editor’s Note suggests that “This is an issue that NCRA members should be discussing, debating and perhaps joining in the lawsuit.”

The phrasing of the Editor’s Note seems to suggest NCRA is encouraging others get involved in or support the lawsuit. This simply is not the case. The lawsuit and the arguments therein have been brought before the board several times during Board Meetings and Zero Waste Advocacy Committee meetings. Due to lack of consensus, the Board very specifically has NOT taken any position on this lawsuit. For our newsletter to suggest otherwise is misleading, harmful and simply not correct. We deeply apologize for any confusion the Editor’s Note may have caused and are seeking to set the record straight through this formal correction that NCRA has not taken a position on the lawsuit and is not encouraging others to join the lawsuit or get involved in any way at this time.

 

StopWaste Response to NCRA eNews “Member Showcase” AD Article

By Wendy Sommer, Executive Director, Alameda County Waste Management Authority (AKA StopWaste)
I was surprised to see the “Showcase” article in your December eNews about a lawsuit that names our organization. It certainly makes sense for NCRA members to discuss and debate critical issues, but a suggested call to consider joining the lawsuit from the editor seems out of place when NCRA’s Board has not taken a position on it. Dialogue is important, but it does requires more than one voice, so we now feel the need to weigh in on the article and clarify/correct some of the statements made.

The lawsuit pertains to the Organics Recovery Project, which is a part of the Davis Street Transfer Station Master Plan. Much of the project is necessary for Waste Management to comply with requirements set forth in their franchise with the City of Oakland, ensuring that Oakland material placed in landfill does not contain organics. The project is not designed, nor is it adequately scaled, to replace Oakland’s universal and mandatory source separation services. Unlike the existing structure at the transfer station that is only partially enclosed, the new state-of-the-art facility will be fully enclosed with rapid roll-down doors, negative air pressure and biofilters.

The City of San Leandro as the lead agency under CEQA adopted an Initial Study/Negative Declaration and approved the project in 2011, without receiving any objections. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s (ACWMA) discrete role as a responsible agency under CEQA was to amend the Countywide Integrated Waste Management Plan to include the project location and description. ACWMA required Waste Management to comply with all conditions imposed by the City of San Leandro and other regulatory agencies, including the Local Enforcement Agency and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. ACWMA reviewed the facts and followed the process as required by law. We do not have control over the project’s design, nor influence over city franchise agreement requirements.

The lawsuit alleges that the ACWMA did not comply with CEQA because it did not perform or require additional environmental review. Petitioners Boone and Stein refused to understand that CEQA requires additional environmental review ONLY IF 1. A project will have new and significant adverse environmental impact, AND 2. Those impacts result from new information, changed circumstances, or substantial changes to the project that occurred after completion of the prior environmental review. ACWMA staff independently evaluated Waste Management’s proposal, requested additional documentation and clarification, and concluded that there is no evidence showing that there will be new significant impacts requiring additional environmental review. There are no substantial changes to the project, no new information, and no changed circumstances since San Leandro’s 2011 approval.

The next steps on this issue will be played out in court. For those who are interested, all the documents filed with the court, including ACWMA’s detailed response to the plaintiffs’ brief are available at the Alameda County Superior Court website: https://publicrecords.alameda.courts.ca.gov/PRS/Case/SearchByCaseNumber. The Case Number is RG17858423. We feel that the lawsuit is unnecessary, and a waste of time and resources to defend, so we hope it is resolved soon.