Account of The Third Annual North Bay Zero Waste Symposium

By Arthur R. Boone, Center for Recycling Research (CRR)
The July NCRA News told of the Zero Waste Symposium in Rohnert Park in late July and, after noting the 27 different speakers being scheduled, I resolved to attend. About 90 people were present with a generous dollop of old NCRAites; seen were Ruth Abbe, Will Bakx, myself, Jordan Figueredo, Gary Liss, “Green Mary” Munat, Judith Silver and Todd Sutton. I heard five highlights in the program:

1.     Mimi Enright of the Sonoma County Community Food Systems program, talked about how the county stayed on top of a rapidly shifting environment (100,000 meals needed the day after Camp Fire in 2017) at the same time respecting the integrity of many volunteer and non-profit efforts.
2.     Kourtnii Brown of Oakland’s Common Compost thinks that smaller organics diversion programs may bear more fruit than the 100+ big facilities expected under SB 1383 to make industrial scale compost at higher costs, less social gain, and an unclear contribution to social equity. She noted there is “the trend to make policies that favor only big solutions.“ very wise to my mind.
3.     Marv Zauderer started and runs the ExtraFood program in Marin County. Relying heavily on individual initiative and simplicity of organization, Extra Food tries to connect persons with food and people in need; not a lot of details but three million pounds moved in five years is 800 pounds per day of groceries; 2/3rds of his volunteers are seniors.
4.     Eric Jackson as leader of the Trashion Fashion Show of the Sonoma Community Center recounted its 9 year history with lots of kooky side bars: in addition to youth campy clothes, there are clothes for found Barbie dolls, costumes for pets with found stuff, etc. A real kick; the artiest of the day.

5. Green Mary (a/k/a Mary Munat) now has 45 employees and works a lot of big events in SF. Trying to talk the SF Marathon leaders into patches for each new year rather than yet another T-shirt. SF’s rule is that any event that requires a police permit also must have a recycling plan and program. Volunteers at many event disposal points may be the best pub ed available to not-at-home youngsters.

A nice program; well-paced. Good food and drink. A lot more individual initiative stories than we tend to hear at RU where it’s more about official and routinized efforts. Refreshing.

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Request To Support the Boone/Stein O-MRF/MxWP Lawsuit

REQUEST TO THE NCRA BOARD AND MEMBERSHIP TO SUPPORT THE BOONE/STEIN O-MRF/MxWP LAWSUIT AND PROVIDE AN AMICUS BRIEF

By Arthur R. Boone, Center for Recycling Research (CRR) and former NCRA President and long-term Board Member, 6/13/19, arboone3@gmail.com. Antoinette Stein, Ph.D. also contributed to this article.

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND: For over 20 years, Waste Management of Alameda County has been planning to begin composting at their Davis Street Transfer Station (DSTS) near the bay in San Leandro. In the late 1990s an outdoor project was planned but due to worries about odors and equipment noise it was scrapped. In 2010 a second plan surfaced with indoor materials reception, prep and anaerobic composting envisioned. The City of San Leandro (CSL) approved that plan in 2011 and construction was completed on the building but not the inner workings. For some time, starting in late 2011, WMAC staff explored the idea of a mixed waste processing (MxWP) facility replacing the organics material prep space in the northeast building, which firmed up into a plan submitted in December 2016 to the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) with project review hearings in February and March, 2017.

Antoinette Stein, Ph.D., then a member of the Alameda County Recycling Board – a sibling agency to the ACWMA, and Arthur , former NCRA president, spoke at all three hearings of the project’s deficiencies as they saw them. In late March the ACWMA approved the project and Stein/Boone sought court review. At the Superior Court hearings, the judge agreed that substantial change was made to the project namely that it had tripled in amount of material being processed. She gave two tentative rulings in their favor only to reverse herself after hearing from attorneys on both sides of the issue. Since the middle of 2018, the matter has been before the court of appeals for this area and each of the parties have filed opening briefs and are in their final days of telling the court why they are right.

Stein/Boone are currently seeking persons and organizations (including NCRA) to endorse their side of the conflict and to file a document with the court known as an amicus brief which would state why NCRA supports the Stein/Boone position. NCRA president David Krueger has agendized the matter for the June 20, 2019 board meeting and all NCRA members are being given this briefing via the NCRA News for full enlightenment. Both the City of Oakland and the ACWMA are aware of this document and Stein/Boone think it only fair for NCRA members and boardmembers to hear and understand both sides of the issues being contended.

At the NCRA board meeting next Thursday, the board will be asked to approve of our lawsuit and to file an amicus brief with the Court of Appeals to explain how the WMAC/City of Oakland proposal to build a mixed waste processing plant (MxWP) in San Leandro, now known as an O-MRF, with an indoor composting facility and a separate anaerobic digestion (AD) facility and the ACWMA’s decision to approve the project were in error. Because of the way the matter is framed, the ACWMA is known as the respondent and the garbage company is spoken of as “a real party in interest.”

Ten Issues

  1. Measure D Issue: In its “Findings” section, Measure D 1990, now known as the Alameda County Waste Reduction and Recycling Ordinance, calls for serious attention to source separation. Section E reads in part: “Each person discards materials and should therefore be involved in solving the problems caused by the disposal of such materials; this involvement must include changes in individual behavior resulting from each person’s awareness of her or his role in creating or finding solutions to environmental problems.” There was no consideration of these strictures by the ACWMA, the City of Oakland, or any other person involved in the matter in the record in regards to this project.
  2. Participation Impacts Issue: Mr. Peter Maass, a councilmember from Albany on the ACWMA, asked at the hearings what would be the effect be of starting a garbage sorting factory to separate organics and recyclables from regular garbage to the current collection of green and blue cart materials. We know that local governments in Alameda County spend up to $50 million a year on their green cart collections programs; how many persons will stop sorting their discards? The proposer had no answer but the agency pushed on.
  3. Compost Quality Issue: Teresa Eade has been the organics lead at the ACWMA for several years with over 20-years’ experience in promoting composting programs. She heard the WMAC representative talk about composting with organics sorted-out from mixed waste and asked him via e-mail to answer her questions about the quality of compost made from mixed waste materials. He replied in general terms but also sent along technical articles, especially one from the UK Environmental Agency, that explained in detail the difficulty and toxic contamination impacts of mixing metals and plastics with organics in anaerobic digestion that then resulted in certain heavy metals migrating into the compost and making it unsuitable for agricultural application. (A phenomenon well documented in Europe). In 2018, the European Union ruled that by 2020 all organics throughout the 26 countries should be collected using source-separated methods. The reports he sent to Ms. Eade are in the administrative record but the ACWMA appears never to have considered them.
  4. MxWP Failures Issue: Arthur Boone is a 35 year veteran of the recycling industry but with limited knowledge of mixed waste processing and anaerobic digestion, but was useful because of his extensive history in garbage/recycling interface. His first comment at the hearings asked for some third party statements about MxWP. What he learned later was that both the Recycling Industries Coalition and the National Recycling Coalition had both opposed mixed waste processing with policy statements issued six months before the hearings. There are numerous failed mixed waste projects around the US and the mistreatment of discarded papers in mixed waste which end up in the compost feedstock also creates compost quality problems; Boone’s concerns were ignored. The agency relied throughout the proceedings exclusively on what the proposers said about the project and got no third-party input.
  5. Emissions Issue: Ms. Antoinette Stein was a member of the Recycling Board when the proceedings began. An Air Pollution Research Scientist, she has an extensive background in toxics and dealing with gaseous emissions from industrial processes. Her major concern was that they substantially changed the project after the 2011 CEQA approval, and that the new impacts needed to be addressed and mitigated especially in regards to the nearby disadvantaged community. She opposed the tripling the amount of organic material processed in the same size building, and the added step of removing odorous and toxic AD digestate when such activities were not permitted in the 2011 CEQA approval.

WMAC’s lead staffer said that the large biofilter installed outside the processing buildings would capture all gasses created in the buildings and would solve any and all of these problems. What he did not suggest was careful monitoring of the perimeter of the facility before and after operations began to check for methane levels in the ambient air. Methane is an odorless gas and whether it escaped into the atmosphere or was broken down in the biofilter would only be known by careful perimeter monitoring, odors were a big concern to WMAC but not all gasses have odors.

  1. Prior Support Issue: In September, 2016, four months before the hearings began, Ms. Sommer as agency director had written a letter to CalRecycle commending the project. This letter was never discussed at the hearings but turned up in the administrative record. The WMAC’s lead staffer said at a hearing that he had spent 18 months before the hearings telling people about the project and presumably had asked Ms, Sommer for this letter. Although there was no knowledge of this letter at the hearings, as it was disclosed after the hearing, it called into question any objectivity that staff might have had and, in general, the fairness of the proceedings.
  2. Environmental Impact Review Issue: CEQA says that when a project is modified with significant environmental effects, a re-doing of the EIR is required. In the first plan for this project, approved by the CSL in early 2011, the northeast building was fitted with simple screen and grinders as are found in many commonly-constructed compost prep facilities around California that receive source-separated materials. In the 2017 plan the northeast building was now fitted with 220 moving parts that would separate recyclables and compostables from garbage “up to 61%”. This is a very different function with very different outcomes and requires a full Environmental Impact Review (EIR). See Stein above on AD with mixed waste feedstocks.
  3. European MxWP Experience Issue: Europe’s has extensive experience with MxWP and AD; WMAC’s lead staffer bragged of the many facilities in Europe whose features were copied in this plan. He either didn’t know or failed to disclose that the EU was at the point of banning all composting from mixed waste materials in agricultural applications, a matter finalized in the summer of 2017, six months after the hearings were closed but discussed for years before enactment.  It would appear that composting a “dirty” (i.e. contaminated) feedstock creates a less valued compost that would have questionable (and never considered) markets.
  4. SB 1383 Compliance Issue: State law enacted in 2016 has drastic requirements for 2020 and 2025 in getting organics out of landfill-bound materials. This issue was not raised by any of the parties at the 2017 hearings but is very important in assessing the project’s long-term viability. By allowing and encouraging buyers of disposal services in Oakland to bypass green cart collection services by relying on the OMRF facility, the City of Oakland loses its control over the ability of some accounts to contribute to the city’s overall organics diversion goal. Is this good?
  5. Traffic Issue: In his statements at the hearings, WMAC’s lead staffer was proud that composting on site would reduce outbound truck trips. Since composting reduces the volume of compostable materials by (usually) about 50%, if it takes 12 truck trips each day to haul away all of DSTS’s compostable materials, it will take only 6 truckloads to haul away the finished compost; that would clearly be a local gain. Later on, however, this same spokesperson told his audience that he expected to line up other trucks from other communities to drive in that would use the facility as a “state of the art/first of its kind” project but he never mentioned the untabulated and not discussed increase in truck traffic by these new customers. (FYI, DSTS operates at about 60% of its daily rated capacity; all recyclables now collected in Oakland and Hayward never enter DSTS.)

In conclusion, as moving parties in this process, we are not asking the appeals court to end the project, we are simply asking the court to find defects in the procedures that can be addressed by a more careful examination of the facts as they exist. We hope that NCRA will join us in asking this review and reconsideration and include such items as it chooses in its brief.

PS. I was given a copy of NCRA President David Krueger’s response to our Support Request. In the same way that he disagrees with my statements and conclusions, I disagree with his. Over the weekend I will respond with clarity and brevity, and as planned add footnotes and references to this Request. NCRA members interested in reading my reply and the longer version are welcome to request it at arboone3@gmail.com. All boardmembers will get a copy long before the Thursday meeting. I appreciate the tone of this discussion and I hope we can all keep to the matters at hand and reach good decisions; so far so good. ARB

SB 1383 Is Moving Forward

By Arthur R. Boone, Center for Recycling Research (CRR)
On Wednesday December 18th, Cal Recycle formally ended its early regulation phase and is now drafting final regulations that must be approved by the state officer in charge before becoming final in 2022.

The Legislature has put a lot in play and the department is trying to step up its enforcement work. When you consider that CA has as much garbage now as it had when AB 939 was adopted 29 years ago, the legislature may have lost patience with the “talk-big, act small” results of AB 939 implementation.

In Europe, the EU voted about a year ago that starting in 2024, all organics shall be collected as a source-separated material and not delivered to landfills but to other beneficial end uses. This ruling came after 20 years of fooling around with various kinds of programs to keep methane out of landfills and bowing to the garbage-as-usual interests in used materials management. It’s easy to think that CA will now be repeating for ourselves what Europe has learned in the last 20 years as we try to make SB 1383 work.

Maybe we need to bring Enzo Favoino to Northern California and run him around with his stories; a wise man from Italy and ZW leader in Europe.

 

Local Governments Comments To Draft AB 1383 Regulations

RESPONSES TO THE COMMENTS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO THE LAST INFORMAL DRAFT OF THE AB 1383 REGULATIONS, MAY 16, 2018
By Arthur R. Boone, Center for Recycling Research (CRR), 07/20/18

PREFACE: Our editor has asked for some prefatory remarks to my long July memo to CalRecycle on their plans enforcing for SB 1383 (short-lived climate pollutants: methane emissions: dairy and livestock: organic waste: landfills, enforcement). I think we need to go back to AB939 as the foundational document for public policy on waste reduction and recycling and acknowledge that law’s shortcomings. The state had lofty goals and fines to get local programs moving, but not really too much insight or direction for those programs. The effect of AB 939 was significant in moving curbside programs in 1990 from 30 communities to over 400 by 1995, but, in truth, the measurable impact of all these programs has been modest. California has a much garbage buried yearly now as it did 25 years ago; hardly a claim to fame. Granted, a considerable population growth in that time but if 42 million tons in 1989 was outrageous, the same amount in 2015 should be no less outrageous

So the recent state laws on WR&R have taken a different tack. No more admonitions and lofty goals, now we want measurable programs with measurable results. The public responses to the draft regs discussed below are sometimes commended, but elsewhere the locals like things the way they are and are expecting Sacramento will bend to their will. Nit-picking requirements are never fun to work under, but the emphasis on programs inputs and not on measurable success in WR&R has pushed (or at least allowed) the state to take a new approach, which is not comfortable to locals who’ve had their own way for a long time. Glad to answer questions and to defend my writings. — ARB

In the last several years the legislature has taken notice that the best intentions of its 1989 act, AB 939, have not been met by programs sponsored by local governments that have merely kept the volume of materials disposed of as solid wastes at a standstill, merely keeping pace despite the ever-growing population of our state. In 1989, 42 million tons of materials were landfilled or incinerated; in 2014, 25 years later, the state had the same amount of garbage to be buried.

939 was a very unspecific law where the state merely set goals for local governments’ program achievements but gave little specific direction, not unreasonable with the novelty of diverting materials for recovery in a time without a national war or serious materials shortages. Local governments responded to the state’s challenge with a number of voluntary (some mandatory) programs and made major attempts to redirect the flow of unwanted materials from landfills to beneficial uses in “the stream of commerce.” While somewhat successful on a program-level basis, in looking now at the big picture, (42 million tons garbage then, 42 million tons now), clearly more efforts have been needed.

I believe that the Legislature, in enacting AB 341 in 2011, AB 1828 in 2014 and AB 1383 in 2016, has new goals for the state that will create programs biting more deeply into the volumes of waste. The fact that the CalRecycle has chosen a detailed reporting system to monitor compliance with these new state directives is certainly inconvenient for those answering all the questions but must be seen as a state agency frustrated by the lack of measurable achievement by local governments and its own duty to the legislature to assist local governments to now comply with these new strictures.

In reviewing the comments of earlier commentators, mostly from local governments, I would make the following comments.

  1. LA San, page 3, Section 17409.5.6. Source Separated Organic Waste Handling, objects to the requirement in the draft regs that source separated organics and mixed waste organics be kept separate in processing and reporting.

CRR Comment: I support the regulations as they stand. Mixed waste processing (MxWP) has become a panacea for waste haulers who do not wish to disturb the disposal patterns of their customers; “leave it to us,” they say. To my knowledge there have been no peer-reviewed studies of MxWP that would look at two questions:

1) What percentage of the organic materials arriving for separation are in fact removed and accepted at a licensed compost yard?

2) What is the level of contamination in the separated organic materials? Here we have 140 million dead trees standing and falling in our state’s forests that are not suitable for paper making and we are taking all the scrap paper in a mixed load and delivering it to a compost yard; that doesn’t make sense to me. Sources known to me recount that as little as 30% of the organics presented for separation in a mixed waste processing facility in fact end up at a compost yard.

In June, 2015, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. prepared a report, THE EVOLUTION OF MIXED WASTE PROCESSING FACILITIES: 1970-TODAY for the American Chemistry Council [55 pages] which states, “legitimate questions remain regarding recovery rates, quality and contamination of recovered materials, and the commercial readiness of the technologies” p.1.

All the European studies have found that source-separated organics deliver the most and the best organics for composting and the EU has recently (November 2017) ordered that, effective 2024, all organics collected for treatment and beneficial use throughout the EU (over 500 million people) will be source-separated. No more mixed waste processing in Europe. Details available.

  1. LA San, at Loadchecking at In-Vessel Digestion Facilities, pp. 4-5, objects to the monitoring of slurried organics delivered to WWTPs for ingestion into wet process AD facilities.

CRR Comment: I disagree. I have seen loads of such materials delivered to a WWTP that are already bubbling up, decomposing before they arrive to be ingested. The major reason that landfills are no longer trusted to capture methane from deposited solid waste decaying in an anaerobic environment is because science proved in the decade ending in 2010 that much of the methane produced in landfills escaped to the air before gas capture systems were installed. If the same thing happens at a WWTP, we see no gain in this practice.

  1. Los Angeles County, page 2 of its 19-page memo, objects to the heavy burden that the state is laying upon it.

CRR Comment: The numbers cited above tell a sad story; nobody wins the race by treading water. Perhaps the legislature sees the need, after almost 30 years, to try some new techniques to reduce landfilling in the state. Anyone looking at the chart on page 10 of the August 2017 report from CalRecycles entitled STATE OF DISPOSAL AND RECYCLING IN CALIFORNIA/ 2017 UPDATE can see that the state has made no progress in increasing recycling since 2010 and certainly some new approaches need to be tried, admittedly at the expense of the county and its cities. It costs more to keep a person in a hospital for a day than to bury them but we don’t rush to do that; similarly, keeping used resources in the stream of commerce, a matter which the Chinese rush to acquire our valued discards resolved for 20 years but is no more, is more valuable than lower garbage rates or more landfilling.

  1. Los Angeles County, page 8 of its 19-page memo, that “Considering there is already a shortfall in organic waste capacity statewide,…”

CRR Comment: I think this is an inaccurate statement. The SF Bay area of nine counties has had adequate composting facilities available to its communities because the local governments there have invested in expanding green cart collections program to include food debris and soiled papers and the composting service providers have increased their facilities to accommodate the increasing volumes of materials. In the Bay area, several million tons of organic materials each year are diverted from landfill disposal (exact numbers are not available); Los Angeles County has only itself to blame for the absence of capacity there. At the last public hearing at D3R, I invited Mr. Mohajer to tour our Bay Area facilities with me; he has declined the invitation.

  1. Los Angeles County, page 10, bottom, claims that biomass conversion to create syngas as a vehicle fuel is a suitable end destination of unspecified organics.

CRR Comment: The state is currently debating the fate of 130 million dead and dying trees in its forests. I must comment that, if by biomass conversion the County means the burning of wood chips, it is now well established by science that the emissions of such burn plants varies and that a plant without adequate emissions controls is as bad as a coal-fired power plant. There are many other end markets for clean wood discards that need to be explored before adding fuel to existing power plants or modifying older plants to be less “dirty.” If the billion dollars to be spent on clean green power for vehicles is any indication, all burning of carbonaceous products is passé.

  1. City of San Jose, Page 2, middle “CalRecycle should add mulch to the list of allowable recovered organic waste products.”

CRR Comment: This is an excellent suggestion; currently there is no tracking of mulch products and they are much cheaper to produce than compost and are very attractive materials for a wide range of agricultural users. Mulch can be made and screened from mixed organics loads and the haulers can make this a DIY project and avoid compost facility fees.

  1. City of San Jose, page 2, bottom. Item #2. “Do landscape companies fall under self-haul generators who must self-haul to be a composting facility?

CRR Comment: As long as anyone can say, landscape companies have been hauling vegetative materials from diverse generators’ properties for conversion to beneficial uses like mulch and compost. As a small businessman for the last 30 years, I strongly oppose any attempt of state or local governments to see this work as requiring solid waste management controls. I would also suggest that if the local ensconced hauler fails or refuses to offer source-separated organics [SSO] collections at a reasonable price, it should do as Oakland did about the year 2000 when it allowed others than its franchised hauler to collect SSOs.

  1. City of Sunnyvale, pages 3 and 4, “We will gain the highest levels of diversion by combining source-separation PLUS post-collection sorting from the black carts… We ask that CalRecycle revise the regulations to allow diversion measurement of the entire system, not just individual cart streams or facilities.

CRR Comment: Generally, the same concerns as with #1. Looking at all of the public agencies with opinions on mixed waste processing as the best method to recover organics, the City of Sunnyvale would be one of the best informed because for many years that was its prime method to gather organics from residential materials for composting. It has recently implemented a program to collect SSOs as a feedstock for an animal feed operation located in Santa Clara.

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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