What Does Brett Kavanaugh Have To Do With Zero Waste?

WHAT DOES BRETT KAVANAUGH HAVE TO DO WITH ZERO WASTE?
In case you have not read or heard enough about Brett Kavanagh
By John D. Moore, NCRA Vice President and Legal Counsel

Before being nominated to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanagh was a judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. This Court frequently is asked to decide issues involving federal agencies, like EPA. EPA has extensive rules and regulations defining what is “recycling” or “recyclable” as distinct from solid waste. Hazardous waste is simply a subset of solid waste. EPA’s definitions have been used by other Courts in a variety of circumstances. Trust me that these regulations are difficult to follow with exceptions, exceptions to the exceptions, and tables purporting to summarize all these rules that are found in at least 10 places. On the other hand, “Solid waste” has never been defined by the Supreme Court notwithstanding that the Court has long declared solid waste to be an article of commerce for purposes of applying the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to local government actions involving flow control. Since Judge Kavanagh may have opportunity to shape the definitions of recycling and solid was a member of the Supreme Court, it is worth looking at Court decisions he has participated in which EPA’s definitions were challenged. EPA’s remit under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is to regulate landfill standards and to regulate disposal of hazardous waste. When a collector wants to salvage recyclable material from a hazardous item of waste, such as a foundry sand containing lead, this intersects with EPA’s regulatory oversight. For this purpose EPA has tried to distinguish and define “sham recycling.”

A lot of EPA’s rules were challenged by Industry Groups and the Sierra Club. Judge Kavanagh concurred in the majority (2-1) opinion. It really isn’t possible to summarize this case with any brevity since there were several discreet issues in interpreting interlocking regulations with extensive legislative and regulatory history found in the Federal Register. This cannot be quickly outlined. But there were two aspects of this opinion, API v. EPA 862 F.3d 50 (DC Cir 2017), that I thought reflected on Judge Kavanagh’s suitability to serve on the Supreme Court. One, the majority was able to comprehend an enormous regulatory scheme; and 2) the opinion reflects an understanding that RCRA and EPA regulations are not aimed at “materials that otherwise would become solid waste.”

This first impression relates to “qualification” to serve on the Supreme Court. As we have seen, these “qualifications” are not defined or even commonly understood, let alone uniformly applied. It’s a little like voting for the MVP in professional sport; it’s in the eye of the beholder and reflects the values of the beholder. I have observed in law practice a similar definitional problem. In child custody disputes, the overriding concern is the “best interests of the child.” And who could argue with that? But divorcing parents often have dissimilar views of what this means and their view is often colored by their perception of the other contestant for custody. In a no-fault divorce state like California there is no forum for a divorcing spouse to say why the other spouse is so bad. So that need for emotional outlet gets transferred unfortunately onto a fight over what is best for the child; with ugly results. You could make a good case that the framers of the Constitution intended that the selection of a Supreme Court justice with the “advise and consent of the Senate” be a political process and that the political party with the majority power got to use its own interpretation of qualifications for the office. And if the Senate majority decides that a past sexual assault and lying to the Senate were not disqualifiers, the framers would say “so be it”.

If one likes Judge Kavanagh’s views about distinguishing solid waste from recyclable and that “like” satisfies the “qualification” requirement, this is using a political view to make a political decision. And just like tribal societies in Central Asia, history is a cycle of those who are in and those who are out and where those that are in take what they want without regard to the overall health of the nation. I am sure that the framers did not intend this to happen. Many writers have opined how our country got to this state but few propose a solution to return to democracy and polite discourse in favor of the best interests of the country. When our leaders behave like spoiled children they are not acting in the best interests of the country.

Politics works in different and strange ways. Most blue state voters would agree that Earl Warren was among our greatest Supreme Court justices. But his appointment, having a very California flavor, was as political as any. There were 3 prominent Republican politicians who coveted the Presidency in the early 1950s. One was Warren, a popular 3 term Governor of California (and former Alameda County District Attorney who sought the death penalty), Senator William Knowland of Oakland (and owner of the Tribune then) who was the Senate Majority leader (the Mitch McConnell position) and Vice-President Richard Nixon of Whittier. The popular version of this story is that Knowland and Nixon went to President Eisenhower and asked that Warren be made Chief Justice to get him out of California politics. Many Republicans came to regret that choice and campaigned in the 1960s to have Warren impeached. Through this terribly political process came the one Justice with the skill to insist that Brown v. Board of Education end racial segregation and that the Court so rule unanimously to preempt any question of its legitimacy. Another Justice on that Court was Hugo Black of Mississippi who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan at the same age that Judge Kavanagh was throwing down brewskis. If either Warren or Black’s confirmation hearing resulted in them yelling about Democratic party conspiracies, I am not aware of it and seems unlikely given their temperament.

It’s a scary time. Foreign countries may be influencing our elections by subterfuge, questioning what information and which news broadcaster can you trust. Or maybe they haven’t been and that is part of the subterfuge. And who has the skill to figure that out? This country has weathered many crises. It should have the resilience to withstand Donald Trump and Brett Kavanagh. But maybe Kavanagh will surprise like Earl Warren did. You may not want to see either politics or sausage being made but you can hope the output is palatable.

 

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Chou Hall – Greenbuilding It Up

By Nikhil Balachandran, Zabble Inc. and NCRA Board Member

When I signed up for the Chou Hall tour on a short notice, I wondered how many people would actually show up. I was surprised to see at least 15 people at the entrance of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. The crowd was good mix of waste industry folks, consultants, non-profits, sustainability managers from private companies and curious individuals. Kudos to NCRA’s Memberships, Events and Activities Committee (MEAC) who quickly coordinated the tour with the UC team and Juliana Gerber for sending out the sign up emails to orchestrate a successful event within a couple weeks.

It wasn’t hard to spot the right group when every attendee had either a reusable coffee mug or water bottle. We were greeted by the Green Team – Danner-Doud Martin, Assistant Director of the Berkeley-Haas International Business Development Program, Jessica Heiges, a Master’s student in the College of Natural Resources and NCRA Member Lin King, Cal Zero Waste Manager and veteran at championing university recycling programs.

After a quick round of introductions, we were made aware of Haas’ guiding principles etched on the walls in front of us.

  1. Question the Status Quo
  2. Confidence Without Attitude
  3. Student Always
  4. Beyond Yourself

So it’s no surprise that Chou Hall is aiming to be the first academic building to achieve the trifecta in Green Building certifications: LEED Platinum, WELL and TRUE Zero Waste.

A fully donor funded building, the 6 story building has received $60m in funding for the construction of the 80,000 sq ft building. It consists of 8 tiered classrooms with a total of 858 classroom seats, a 300 person event space, numerous study rooms and a cafeteria.

From the moment you enter the building, you can feel the openness in design and a freshness in architectural style. Having opened only a year back, Chou Hall has been making steady progress towards diverting more than 90% of discards from landfill every month. This is a mandatory requirement by TRUE, among others that ensure contamination is kept under 10% and mandates the upper management to adopt a Zero Waste policy.

There is around 24,000 sq ft of exterior windows that provides ambient lighting, reducing the need for interior lighting, thus reducing electricity consumption by 38% compared to similar sized buildings. Not yet functional is a solar installation on the 6th floor balcony, with sweeping views of the Bay Area, that also provides shade. A greywater recycling system that harvests rainwater was installed to reduce water consumption by 40%.

Pack-in, Pack-out. Don’t Pout! – Everything in the cafeteria is served in reusable-ware, compostable, or recyclable containers. To top it all, Chou Hall does not have any landfill bins. You heard it right! According to Danner, their pack-in, pack-out policy for trash helps students and staff be aware of the waste they generate. The students are encouraged to find the landfill bins outside the building. To facilitate that, the Green team switched to a vendor that made compostable products that are 100% plant based and BPI and ASTM D6400 certified. All the paper has 100% post-consumer recycled content. There are also no chips or candy bags available in the cafeteria and that was an uphill battle that all departments eventually came to common ground on. Jessica Heiges made an interesting analogy to the no-indoor-landfill-bins policy likening it to the smoking ban on campus. That it takes a while for people to get used to and then becomes part of their routine. She also said that very little food waste is generated. Any leftovers are usually placed out on campus and is gone within minutes.

But what about all that contamination? – Oh yes! Of course. That’s where the frequent Zero Waste audits come in that are needed for the monthly reporting. The Zero Waste audits emphasize keeping track of specifics like the source of generation, category and amount. For example, the recycle bin in floor 3 had a lot of food scraps in clamshells. The Green Team meets as often as weekly to discuss their progress and make tweaks to their program. They also meet monthly with other departments and stakeholders like custodial or cafeteria staff to discuss solutions to roadblocks. Lin says contamination is also countered by consistent signage and color coding the bins and lids throughout the building. Using pop-off lids makes it easier for custodial staff to empty the bins on a regular basis to avoid overflow. Danner added that surveys were immensely helpful as an educational tool not just to measure feedback from people but to communicate how well they are doing and why they are doing it. With the mindset is to encourage research and innovation, rather than telling the staff and students what to do, Lin says the Green Team constantly comes up with innovative ideas to battle contamination issues.

With that our tour concluded and we went back to the cafe downstairs for lunch. We sat in the patio under the mighty redwoods impressed by the determination of the Green Team who were all there on a voluntary basis. We shared the latest information on the current economic condition and how they would shape the Zero Waste future.

Who’s next –  With UC’s goal to achieve Zero Waste by 2020 and to reduce MSW per capita by 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, UC Berkeley’s Haas School has taken a strong step forward. They hope to apply their learnings from Chou Hall to other buildings on campus, share them with other campuses in the UC system and universities in the country. So, it isn’t unusual for UC Berkeley to embark on this journey, when they’ve made it a habit to ask, “Isn’t there a better way to do this?

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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:

Recycling Update 2017 was a smashing success – thank you!

Thank you to All who attended the 22nd annual recycling update conference!

We had 24 industry-leading presenters that inspired and educated, and a crowd of 350 attendees from many fields!  7 Gold Sponsors, 5 Silver Sponsors, and 10 Bronze Sponsors made scholarships and discounted tickets available to those who needed assistance.  Thank you for making the Conference such a success!

Linked here is the program for the day; we will be posting pdfs of the presentations here as well, so keep checking back.  And in mid-April, we will have videos of each presentation available on our YouTube Channel.

Thank you again to our Sponsors!

GOLD : City of Fremont, City of Vallejo, StopWaste, SF Department of the Environment, City of Napa, Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery, Napa Recycling & Waste Services

SILVER : City of Livermore, R3 Consulting Group, HF&H Consultants, Ecology Center, Gigantic Idea Studio

BRONZE : Marin Sanitary Service, City of Stockton, CRRC Northern District, Stanford Recycling Center, CRRA, City of Palo Alto, City of Sunnyvale, SCS Engineers, Amador Valley Industries, Berkeley Recycling