Alameda County Food Bank – Big Slices of the Food Recovery Pie

By NCRA Food Waste Reduction Committee
For our report, Commercial Food Waste Reduction in Alameda County, we documented the amount of surplus food that was rescued and distributed in Alameda County. We estimated that about 5.7 million pounds of surplus food that was generated within the county was redistributed to feed hungry people in Alameda County in 2016.

A major player is the Alameda County Community Food Bank. As we documented in our report, the Food Bank runs the grocery rescue or Food Recovery Program which matches grocery stores to agencies (like food pantries) that distribute the surplus food (like individually wrapped salads, sandwiches, produce and food staples). Over 3.6 million pounds of food from over 100 donors was redistributed through the grocery rescue program in 2016. This grew to over 4 million pounds in 2017.

Since we published our report in July 2017, we learned about other sources of surplus food obtained by the Food Bank.

The Food Bank receives donations from large manufacturers and retail distributors, some of which might otherwise have been disposed. The Local Donation Program from Distributors and Manufacturers accounts for over 25% of the food that they distribute. This compares to about 12% from the grocery rescue program.The Local Donation Program has grown by 2.2 million pounds over the last two years, with last fiscal year totaling 6.2 million pounds.  About 40% of this product is produce, and overall, it consists of a fair mix of dry goods, fresh bread/tortillas, fresh dairy, fresh juice, frozen product (meat, meals, etc.). The Food Bank works with about 20 donation partners throughout the county weekly, and averages about 630,000 pounds of surplus food redistributed per month.

About 45% of the food that the Food Bank distributes comes from the California Association of Food Banks Farm to Family Program which distributed 164 million pounds of surplus produce to 43 food banks statewide and partnered with more than 135 farmers to access 44 different crops (which might otherwise have been wasted or ploughed under). This surplus food is generated outside of Alameda County, but feeds hungry people in county and throughout the state.

Senate Bill 1383 requires local jurisdictions to up the ante on food rescue and ensure that 20% of currently disposed edible food is recovered for human consumption in 2025. As the state identifies priorities for food rescue, it will need to consider the role of the large, traditional sources of surplus food (farms, manufacturers, and distributors) compared to the smaller, more difficult-to-address sources of surplus food (such as restaurants, schools, corporate cafeterias, and caterers).

Thank you Caroline Chow, Food Resource Development Coordinator, Alameda County Community Food Bank for contributing to this piece.


ZWAC Minutes, January 2016


This meeting was held on Tuesday, January 12, 2015 at the offices of John Moore, 1970 Broadway, 9th floor, Oakland. Called for 6 p.m. Call-in number is 510/891-9800.

Present were Chair Boone and committee members   Brooms, Knapp, Moore, Russell, Van Deventer, Wright, and Yee; no call-ins. The meeting started at 6:16 p.m. Minutes of the November meeting are now available but were not discussed. The meeting scheduled for December was canceled due to Boone’s illness. Yee (assisted by Boone) served as secretary.


Item 1: Zero Waste Plans in the Northeast Bay: David Tam, presenting.
This matter was pulled in Tam’s absence (We later learned he was ill and could not come.)

Item 2: CalRecycles meeting on December 15th regarding the state’s plan to meet 75% diversion. Arthur Boone, presenting.
Boone was present at this meeting; his first with Scott Smithline as ExDir. Boone was impressed with the openness of staff to new issues and concerns and pleased that our side on questions was well represented (Nick Lapis, Gary Liss, and others); the Waste Reduction and Garbage people were on equal footing. Staff’s major concern seemed to be the shortage of funds needed to capitalize organics processing operations that is widely expected to be the major part of getting to 75%. If the state gets to 75% and CR has only $1.40 per ton in revenue, then we will have a problem. AB 1063 (Das Williams) would raise tipping fees from $1.40/ton to $4.00/ton, (which CR likes), but while Boone does not have any objection to that increase, he would like to see the state trim its staff rather than relying on the taxpayer. (There are 750 employees in all of CalRecycles (includes old Department of Conservation folks) and includes facility regulators. Knapp suggested we ask CR to tell us at RU what all those 750 workers actually do.

Discussion ensued regarding fees for recycling and the issue of declining revenues in revenues from tipping fees. Administrators at CalRecycle expressed concerns around 1) declining revenue 2) how to reach 75% 3) how would the state collect fees? 4) why do the majority of our recyclables end up offshored? In Northern CA we already have a substantial composting infrastructure so Boone thinks the building of composting’s infrastructure should be funded by Southern California as Northern California’s infrastructure has already been developed with our ratepayers’ funds, not the state’s. Staff thinks it will cost about $630 million dollars to develop sufficient organics processing facilities. Some of it may be funded with cap and trade money, but there will be a significant remainder to fund. Knapp noted that the ADC Loophole has not yet been closed yet, and will not be closed until 2020. It was also mentioned that Southern California’s role in regenerative farming is significant since there is ample rangeland and desert. Reference to Alan Savory who long preceded the Marin Carbon Project. Boone said he thought that the crunch point on organics diversion is not markets but getting food out of the trash.

Boone thinks that California, like Oregon, needs to develop capture rate data so that we can have some sense of how successful current diversion programs are. Mary Lou disagreed, thinking that if enough stuff showed up in the landfill audits, that would be data enough. Boone disagreed. Krueger recounted the original AB 939 statistical problems and the 1994 calculated generation data we live with today.

Another topic discussed at the meeting was the offshoring of most of our recyclables for reprocessing and conversion back into basic goods. Boone thinks the state is dodging the fact that California has pursued a de-industrialization program for at least a generation and that paper mills, smelters, glass plants, etc. have been closed and not replaced with in-state capacity. Boone thinks there’s a conspiracy not to talk about the lack of reprocessing infrastructure in the state although plastic reprocessors have been moving ahead here in smaller facilities.

Another topic at this meeting was how the state should collect larger fees, from the local public agencies or the landfills; Boone recounted her had asvised the CR leaders to keep the fees on the landfills.

Kruger had transcribed CalRecycle’s goals for this meeting and reported they were:1)organics out of landfills, 2)expand recycling composting infrastructure, 3) how to fund zero waste programs in the face of declining tipping revenues, 4) state procurement of PCW products, and 5)promoting EPR. Boone noted that the current level of 31 million tons disposal would be cut to 16 million tons per year if we go from 50% to 75%.

Item 3: Voluntary Producer Responsibility [VPR]. Tom Wright, presenting.
Tom was present at the VPR meeting convened by Cal Recycles on January 4 in Sacramento. All major representatives of manufacturers in packaging industries were present EPR was discussed, with comparative discussion of the approaches in the US and Sweden. The meeting showed a propensity of the packaging industry to encourage incineration, and they were certainly not supportive of EPR; nobody spoke out against incineration. [Wright had copies of the ACC’s “Circular Vision for Plastics Recovery” that included “energy recovery” as a suitable end of post-consumer plastics.]

There seems to be a serious interest in stabilizing and unifying the lists of recyclable and compostable materials on the state level. Tom thinks that the packaging industry needs to develop its own plan for sustainable (i.e., no burn, no bury) packaging. Boone thought we should write CR staff on this question but it was generally agreed that too few of us had looked at the presentations from the meeting that are now on-line. No firm action to be taken; Boone and Wright will confer to plan next steps.

Item 4: Should NCRA solicit or accept as Zero Waste Week sponsors persons or entities that own landfills and/or incinerators? John Moore, presenting.
Moore moves and Knapp seconds. Moore thinks that we should not receive sponsorships from haulers and wasters as it would compromise the judgment of NCRA, the recipient and encourages greenwashing. Russell proposes to amend with caveats that sponsors shall not receive sponsorship promotion and funds shall be restricted to activities such as transportation for youth; Moore refuses to amend motion. Van Deventer then offers that NCRA memberships are for individuals so that the organization cannot be bought; NCRA did not take organizational sponsorships for a long time. Knapp then recounted some of his experiences with the NRC in the 1990s when Dow Chemical tried to exert undue influence on the NRC and there was a subsequent decline in membership which took down the National Recycling Coalition. If NCRA permits higher level sponsorships the organization would be compromised. Motion is then voted with 5 ayes (Knapp, VanDeventer, Yee, Boone, and Moore), none voting no, with four abstentions: Brooms, Tom Wright, Kruger, and Russell. The matter will be considered at the board meeting after the annual meeting on January 21st.

Item 5: Endorse Transfer Station Rebuild in Berkeley. Mary Lou VanDeventer, presenting. Van Deventer requested that the NCRA board write to Berkeley City Council to fund the rebuilding of the transfer station. ESA in 2005 recommended a complete rebuild of the area for maximizing recovery. Urban Ore made a redesign that would allow for rebuilding while the current transfer station is in operation. Kriss Worthington wants to put in the rebuilding of the transfer station in the city’s 2016 “wish list”(the matter needs to be prioritized financially by City of Berkeley before funding issues can be explored). Knapp noted that El Cerrito is drawing people away from Berkeley with its elaborate drop-off; Berkeley needs to re-capture the market. Moore suggested that he, as a boardmember, collaborate with Van Deventer and Knapp to draft this letter and then circulate as per board policy. Mary Lou accepted this plan..
Announcements: Krueger would like us to consider a position on the single use bag ban referendum at our next ZWAC meeting. Wright also circulated a letter signed by many “green” California non-profits and LPAs (but not NCRA) calling on the legislature to fully spend the $1.7 billion sitting in the cap-and-trade fund; no discussion.

Adjourned at 8:09 p.m.

Next meeting should be on February 8th; location TBD.
Respectfully submitted,
Herman Yee (with Arthur R. Boone), Acting Secretary


Masonic Homes’ Composting Tour

Masonic Homes Photo JC1NCRA Tours Masonic Homes’ Innovative Composting and Woodlands

By Nicole Gaetjens, Sustainability Coordinator at Mills College and Ellen Hopkins, Zero Waste and Composting Consultant

NCRA members Ellen Hopkins and Nina Salvador and Tri-CED Recycling employee Raquel Archuleta led eight other NCRA members on a tour of an on-site composting system in July. Located on 250 acres in the hills of Union City, Masonic Homes is one of the largest assisted living facilities in Northern California. Masonic Homes and the neighboring facility – Acacia Creek Retirement Community, have partnered with Tri-CED Community Recycling for over three years to compost all food discards generated by 600 full-time residents and staff in an on-going effort to increase sustainability at the site. The compost produced is being used for an innovative habitat restoration project led by Math Science Nucleus (MSN) to restore native California flora to the hillside of this Mission Hills property.

The Earth Flow is made by Green Mountain Technologies. Ellen Hopkins, composting consultant, and Raquel Archuleta explained the collection flow, in-vessel compost process and operations. Raquel collects prep (pre-consumer) and dining (post-consumer) food waste daily in four to five 64-gallon containers and brings it to the compost station. The compost system has a tote-tipper that tips each container into the loading end of the machine and an electric auger mixes the material into the existing compost in the system. Food scraps (nitrogen source) are mixed with equal parts of bulking agent (carbon source) in the system to produce a C:N ratio that makes the composting process effective. Daily input of food waste is about one ton or two yards, and bulking agent is about ½ ton or 2 yards. The bulking agent(s) used in this case is horse bedding from a neighboring horse stable and chipped wood waste from landscape maintenance on the property. The NCRA group checked out the compost in the vessel and were surprised there was no noticeable odors.

The Earth Flow is a fully automated, fully contained, in-vessel composting system that provides optimum conditions for thermophilic composting. The auger, aeration and moisture addition systems are programmable for process and product objectives. The traveling auger mixes in the new feedstock at the load end. The new material is quickly inoculated with active composting microbes as it is blended in. Process air above the compost in the vessel is pulled through a biofilter next to the Earth Flow. The biofilter is composed of moistened woodchips. Microbes that normally inhabit woodchips (no inoculants needed) scrub odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with 95% efficiency. The “plug flow” matrix migrates to the discharge end over the course of 2-3 weeks. In-vessel time depends upon the amount of material loaded and system size. After processing within the vessel, the compost is unloaded and cured to completion outside of the vessel within 6-8 weeks.

Nina Salvador, who is familiar with the reforestation project, described it in more detail: Masonic Homes and partners aim to restore the native oak woodland that once inhabited this region prior to the over grazing of cattle. The woodland will provide ecosystem services and enjoyment to the community. Nearby California State University-East Bay faculty and students are also involved in the restoration effort led by Joyce Blueford of MSN. This closed-loop system demonstrates a win-win-win project and was a great tour for the NCRA group.

WHOIS… MATH SCIENCE NUCLEUS is a 33 year old national and international educational and research non-profit composed of scientists, educators and community members. Locally it is associated the Children’s Natural History Museum in Fremont. It serves as an online science resource center to assist school districts, teachers, and administrators around the world. The major goal is to develop problem solving capacity through science for the world’s children. Read more… MSN: