Request To Not Support the Boone/Stein O-MRF/MxWP Lawsuit

By David Krueger, NCRA President, 6/14/19

The views expressed in this article are solely Mr. Krueger’s and do not represent a formal NCRA position. Mr. Krueger has over 25 years of experience in the recycling industry.

Waste Management of Alameda County (WMAC) is currently constructing a mixed waste processing facility and an indoor aerobic composting facility at the Davis St. Transfer Station in San Leandro. WMAC’s franchise agreement with the City of Oakland requires them to process all mixed waste collected from multi-family dwellings in the City. Oakland also requires all multi-family dwellings to provide source separated recycling and organics services to their tenants. Multi-family dwellings in Oakland are not allowed to “opt out” of having green cart organics service. Oakland participates in Alameda County’s Mandatory Recycling Ordinance.

The new mixed waste processing facility (Organic Materials Recovery Facility, or “O-MRF”) is designed to recover compostable and recyclable materials from Oakland’s garbage that were not recovered through source separation. Oakland residents and businesses will still source separate their discards into three streams (recycle, compost, garbage) and the contents of the garbage containers will be sorted at the O-MRF to recover any organics and recyclables that were improperly placed in the garbage by the generators.

The indoor aerobic composting facility is designed to compost source separated organics from commercial businesses and multi-family dwellings in Oakland and other WMAC cities, as well as organic materials recovered from Oakland’s garbage at the O-MRF. Organics from Oakland’s single-family homes (which consist primarily of yard trimmings) will continue to be transferred through Davis St. to WMAC’s outdoor aerated static pile composting facility at the Altamont Landfill outside of Livermore.

In another article, Arthur Boone encourages NCRA members and the NCRA Board to support he and Toni Stein’s lawsuit against the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (Stopwaste) and WMAC which attempts to require a new EIR for the O-MRF project and, presumably to ultimately stop the construction of the O-MRF and adjacent indoor aerobic composting facility. I respectfully disagree. Mr. Boone lists ten concerns about the facility. I will attempt to address some of his concerns and to explain why I do not support the lawsuit.

  1. Participation Impacts Issue / Source Separation. Note that the purpose of the O-MRF is to supplement source separation, not to replace it. It is designed to be a “safety net” to catch good stuff that falls through the source separation system and keep it from landing in the landfill. That is how will be used per Oakland’s franchise agreement, and that is how WMAC has marketed the facility to other local jurisdictions. The mixed waste processing will be in addition to three stream source separation by all sectors (single-family, multi-family, commercial) not instead of source separation. Mr. Boone raises a valid concern that some customers may have less incentive to source separate if they know that their garbage will be sorted after collection. However, this participation impact will be dependent upon how the City of Oakland and WMAC educate their customers about the facility and source separation, the financial incentives for source separation in Oakland’s rate structure, and how effectively Stopwaste enforces the mandatory recycling ordinance. If done properly, there should be a minimal impact on source separation. As an example, the Sunnyvale SMaRT station has operated a mixed waste processing facility for over a decade. The cities which use the SMaRT Station (Sunnyvale, Mt. View, Palo Alto) have exemplary source separation programs.
  2. Waste Diversion. While source separation is the best diversion method, anyone involved in the recycling industry knows that we are not yet to the point where everyone source separates perfectly. There is still way too much “good stuff” going into the garbage. The O-MRF is an attempt to capture that good stuff so that it is not landfilled. I think that is commendable. It is analogous to the standard operating procedure for recycling and composting at festivals and public events:  Source separation stations are provided to the public, but a team of event recyclers still has to sort through the “source separated” material after collection to correct errors by the public. This is a low-tech version of the O-MRF and preferable to landfilling the improperly source separated materials. While we must always strive for the top of the discards management hierarchy, we should employ all the other levels of the hierarchy as well. Waste prevention is better than recycling, but we should still recycle what isn’t prevented. Source separation is better than mixed waste processing, but we should still process mixed waste to recover what wasn’t source separated. The alternative is sending more material to the landfill. The end result of any lawsuit which prevents the O-MRF from operating will be more material being sent to landfill.
  3. SB 1383 Compliance. The current draft of the SB 1383 regulations requires all generators to separate their discards into three streams. Oakland will require all generators to separate their discards into three streams, therefore Oakland will be in compliance with SB 1383. The draft SB 1383 regulations also allow jurisdictions to comply by using mixed waste processing instead of source separation (a “one-bin” “Dirty MRF” system), provided that the mixed waste processing facility meets a very high rate of recovery. However, Oakland’s system will use mixed waste processing in addition to source separation, so the O-MRF will not have to meet the stringent recovery requirement. Oakland will be in compliance by virtue of implementing three-stream collection. The additional recovery from sending the garbage stream to the O-MRF will be above and beyond SB 1383 compliance.
  4. Site GHG Issue / Aerobic vs. Anaerobic. Boone inaccurately states that the Davis St. composting facility adjacent to the O-MRF, which will compost organics from the O-MRF, will be an anaerobic digester. That is not the case. It will be an aerobic system which uses forced air and mechanical turning to provide oxygen to the materials during composting. It is not designed to create methane. The aerobic composting facility will be completely enclosed a building. Air from inside the building will be treated in a biofilter before being released outside. During the first stage of composting the material will be enclosed in rotating drums in addition to being indoors, further mitigating odors and emissions. Such a facility should produce fewer GHG emissions than the standard outdoor composting facility. The permit for Davis St. provides for three facilities: The O-MRF, the indoor aerobic composting facility, and an anaerobic digester. The O-MRF and the indoor aerobic composting facility are currently under construction and nearly complete. The anaerobic digester is permitted but is not under construction. It may never be constructed. It is not required by WMAC’s franchise agreement with Oakland. It was permitted to provide WMAC with future options for organics recovery.
  5. Impact on Stopwaste. Stopwaste and NCRA share the same mission. Stopwaste is an innovative, effective Zero Waste organization. Most Stopwaste employees are NCRA members. I don’t believe that NCRA should support a lawsuit against Stopwaste except in very extreme circumstances. I don’t believe that this situation qualifies. Stopwaste’s role in approving the O-MRF was very minor. Stopwaste does not directly permit the O-MRF. Other agencies directly issued permits related to the O-MRF, but they are not being sued. This lawsuit has cost Stopwaste staff time and money which could have been better used implementing Zero Waste programs.
  6. Impact on WMAC. Some of the things said above about Stopwaste also apply to WMAC and specifically to the Davis St. Transfer station, which provides valuable recycling and Zero Waste education services to the region. NCRA famously sued WMAC over expansion of the Altamont Landfill, and is rightfully proud of the results. However, the O-MRF project is not a landfill expansion. It is the opposite. It is a recycling and composting facility designed specifically to divert discards away from the landfill. Northern California needs more composting capacity – especially for organics from commercial businesses and multi-family dwellings – and the indoor aerobic composting facility being constructed adjacent to the O-MRF will help to provide some of that capacity. Suing WMAC over this project sends Waste Management the wrong message. It is punishing them for doing the right thing. WMAC staff literally spent decades convincing Waste Management corporate headquarters to invest millions of dollars at Davis St. to increase sorting and composting capacity to meet the local demand for waste diversion. Waste Management could have invested that capital in a landfill elsewhere, but they chose to invest in diversion in Northern California. I think that type of investment should be encouraged, not discouraged.
  7. Why Single Out This Facility for Opposition? As previously noted, the Sunnyvale SMaRT Station has been processing mixed waste for over a decade. It also sends organics recovered from mixed waste to the Z-Best composting facility in Gilroy. There are other established mixed waste processing facilities in the Bay Area, and more in the pilot or permitting stages. To me, it seems that the O-MRF project – and WMAC, Stopwaste, and the City of Oakland – are being unfairly targeted by this lawsuit. Why stridently oppose this mixed waste processing facility and not others?

I believe that NCRA should support the development of more recycling and composting facilities in Northern California and be skeptical of the NIMBY movements that oppose them. I believe that NCRA should support good faith efforts to achieve Zero Waste, and should encourage experimentation and innovation by different cities and business who are working towards our shared goal. There is more than one road to Zero Waste.

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Let’s All Commit To Plastic Free July Now

By David Krueger, NCRA President
Recyclers and Zero Wasters are perfect conduits for
Plastic Free July! Already familiar with the issues, it will be easy to use our social media platforms to pump out this important message!

So, please plan some level of action now – as individuals, businesses, agencies or whatever works for you, so that we are all prepared to blast it out starting in early June. Be sure to find out what is happening locally first!

The Plastic Free Foundation is a not-for-profit which delivers the annual challenge and works on solutions with communities around the world. They have grown from a handful of participants in Western Australia in 2011 to millions across more than 170 countries today.

Their Plastic Free July Campaign has many wonderful, editable resources including the Grocer Poster –  at right, stating “We’re now longer offering plastic shopping bags and the Action Picker – My Challenge Choices, below. Also, check out these case studies:

My Plastic-free Life Blog and Book
Occasional NCRA collaborator, Author Beth Terry is a Parade Magazine 2019 Earth Day Hero. After many years in the Bay Area, Beth recently moved back to Maryland.

In Our Hands Campaign 
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and 21+ members including the Sacramento Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium have pledged a long-term commitment to phase out plastics and provide alternatives including Plastic Free July activities.

Join Existing Local Campaigns
For example, the City of Antioch joined the Sustainable Contra Costa County Network Plastic Free July Challenge and promoted it through their channels including NextDoor.

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President’s Report, August 2017

By Laura McKaughan

Hello all and happy summer! NCRA is pleased that during what is normally a slower time for us we are staying busy with lots of activities. First of all, thanks to all those who joined us for NCRA’s networking mixer on June 22 at San Francisco’s Hotel Zetta in their hip “Salvage and Rescue”  Lounge. We had over 20 participants join us for drinks provided by NCRA and a premiere Bay Area networking opportunity. We are making plans to have our next mixer in San Jose in September so please keep an eye out for that. Thanks to all those who attended!

We’ve also been lining up a lot of great tours for our membership and greater community alike! On June 15, NCRA convened a tour of the West Contra Costa Organics Materials Processing facility in Richmond. This facility recently installed a Covered Aerated Static Pile (CASP) composting system, which utilizes forced air instead of mechanical turning to aerate the piles. And on July 13, NCRA coordinated a tour of Recology San Francisco’s Pier 96. Recology recently invested $12 million to update their sorting facility infrastructure in order to make it state-of-the-art again and help the city get to Zero Waste by 2020. This tour sold out in only 1 day so stayed tuned for future organized tours of this popular facility. Lastly, save the date for Saturday October 14, when NCRA is coordinating a recycling tour via bikes of West Oakland infrastructure and history.  More details to come on this soon. Mark your calendars and come out and join the fun!

Look for NCRA and the NCRA Players at the CRRA Conference, held at Paradise Point in San Diego, August 20-23. Join other statewide recycling professionals at CRRA’s 41st annual conference and tradeshow and look out for the NCRA Players on Tuesday night of the conference when we will present, “The Rind of Ancyent Marinere.” I’m prohibited from providing any more details at this time but rest assured that this year’s performance will be the “best show ever!”

Last but not least NCRA’s annual Member Appreciation Picnic is scheduled for Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 12-4pm at Lake Temescal Park in Oakland. Games, food, sun and fun promise to ensue and the event is free to members. As always non-members are welcome with a $5 suggested donation to cover costs. More details will be posted in the newsletter and on the website soon so please save the date!

President’s Report

By Laura McKaughan
As my first President’s Report of 2017, I want to take the time to formally welcome to the board the newly elected directors: Hilary Near, Steven Sherman and Rebecca Jewell. At our board meeting in February, I was energized by the enthusiasm and fresh ideas the newcomers brought to their very first meeting. I imagine 2017 will be a very productive and busy year for NCRA with ever more tours, mixers, events, and classes for our members to attend, to learn from, get inspired by, and to network, network, network!

The best first example of this is in the expanded offerings of NCRA’s 5th Annual Zero Waste Week. Our flagship event, the 22nd annual Recycling Update will be on Tuesday March 21 in Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage. Recycling Update will feature more than 25 industry professionals in one, action-packed day in which each presenter will be given only 10 minutes to bring attendees up to speed on topics from recyclable commodities markets, new recycling legislation, edible food recovery, innovations in compost applications, and campaigns to promote source reduction. Featured speakers include John Wick, Co-Founder of the Marin Carbon Project, Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste, Adam Lowy, Co-Founder of Move for Hunger, and Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of the California Product Stewardship Council among many others. For a glance at some of the day’s speakers, click HERE and if you haven’t yet, REGISTER HERE for Recycling Update.

As was the case last year, employers are encouraged to drop off job announcements to the NCRA booth and job seekers are encouraged to visit the booth to learn more about positions available in their industry. Please plan to pack out any leftover notices so minimize paper waste.

The evening before on Monday March 20th, NCRA joins Zero Waste Marin and Marin Sanitary Service’s (MSS) in a screening of A Plastic Ocean. The film follows two explorers traveling to remote parts of the world and documenting the plastic pollution they find. Panel discussion to follow. The event is free and light refreshments will be served. RSVP here. There is also another film screening on Friday March 24 of Dogtown Redemption, a film which follows the local impact of the closure of Alliance Recycling Center in West Oakland. A panel will follow featuring the filmmaker and the event is free. For this movie screening, please RSVP here.

Lastly the 5th annual Zero Waste Youth Convergence will be held on Sunday March 19th in San Francisco. This event brings together high school and college students as well as young professionals in a full day dedicated to learning, visioning, organizing for Zero Waste. Please check their WEBSITE for more details and to register.

These events combined with the two tours during Zero Waste Week (both are sold-out), two webinars and one workshop, there are loads of events happening all week for NCRA members to take advantage of. We look forward to seeing you during Zero Waste Week and please EMAIL US if you have questions!

President’s Report, Nov 2016

By Laura McKaughan
We made it through the election season, or as it’s otherwise known, the year of 2016! As I write this before the results are known, I think one thing we can all agree upon is a sense of relief that it’s finally over and we can go back to caring about all the multitude of programs and policies that make up our day-to-day professional lives.

One big push for NCRA during this election cycle was to get out the word about the two bag-related statewide measures on ballot this year. NCRA hosted a variety of outreach activities throughout October including tabling at local grocery stores, phone-banking, spreading the word via social media, and last but not least producing an original video promoting a Yes Vote on Prop 67, (Prop 67, Prop-Prop 67 for those of you who are familiar with it!) Special thanks go out to NCRA Board member David Krueger and members Tom Wright and Randy Russell for their tremendous efforts in promoting a Yes vote on Prop 67 and encouraging a No vote on Prop 65!

In the midst of the election madness, NCRA still found the time to organize it’s annual fall mixer in San Jose on Thursday November 3rd. Around 20 members and non-members alike joined together for drinks, networking and mentorship at San Jose’s SP2 Communal Bar & Restaurant. See photo above and more on the website. We love hosting events that help members mix and mingle with each other and industry affiliates and thank all of those who were brave enough to face the tough San Jose traffic. (photos will be posted shortly)

With the holidays nearly upon us, please keep an eye out for details about our December holiday party, the Annual January Members meeting and then Zero Waste Week and Recycling Update in March. It will be here before you know it!

Lastly, it’s November which means NCRA board elections are right around the corner. We are currently making a CALL FOR NOMINATIONS for anyone who may be interested in joining the NCRA board. Members seeking to join the board of directors (or current board members seeking re-election) need to submit a 200-word ballot statement outlining why you are interested in joining the board and how you are qualified for the position. Afterward these statements will be posted to the web site and members will have the chance to vote for NCRA’s 2017 Board of Directors. Voting will commence in early December. Please see the newsletter for more details about deadlines and consider running for the 2016 NCRA board. Please EMAIL US with questions.