Bay Area Shelter-In-Place Orders Amended To Include Recycling and Composting


Doug Brooms, ZWAC Co-Chair, 5/14/20

In the revised S-I-P Order, issued on April 29 by Alameda County and Contra Costa County, and likely others, the definition of “Essential Infrastructure” has been amended as follows:

  • Essential Infrastructure means airports, utilities (including water, sewer, gas, and electrical), oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste facilities (including collection, removal, disposal, recycling, and processing facilities)…
  • All recycling facilities may operate, including but not limited to those providing for recycling of beverage containers, scrap metal, used oil, construction and demolition debris, and any other materials that can be, or are required to be, recycled by the State of California.
  • Composting facilities may operate and composting activities may take place.

This was welcome news for recycling businesses. On the first day following the revised Order, Cash for Cans in East Oakland reopened for business, with over 100 pleased customers, after being closed for six weeks.

There is speculation that the change might have been precipitated by letters that had been emailed individually to each Public Health Department Director serving five of the participating Bay Area Counties. At a NCRA Zero Waste Advocacy Committee (ZWAC) meeting via Zoom teleconference on 4/14, attendees had commented on the impact of Covid-19 on waste collection services, mostly the curtailment or suspension of businesses handling recyclable materials.

To address concerns raised by members, ZWAC Co-Chair John Moore volunteered to draft a letter to send to County Public Health Directors. Paragraph #1 included several compelling arguments for the inclusion of recycling within the solid waste category of Essential Infrastructure. Paragraph #2 presented a strong case for allowing CRV buy back businesses to operate. Paragraph #3 had requested accommodation to allow grocery store customers to bring in their reusable bags.

The 4/29 Order had acceded to the first two counts, with composting appearing as an added bonus. It is not known if the Public Health Directors had heard from any other grassroots organizations or recycling businesses. There may be no way of knowing for sure whether the NCRA letters had been persuasive or pivotal, but there is gratification in suspecting that they were. Letters in fact can make a difference.