Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Big Turnout At Sanitary District Town Hall

Tuesday night more than five dozen of your friends and neighbors, including 80% of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board members, turned out to hear the presentation on the proposed changes the board will consider sometime early next year.  There were several familiar faces, but most of the attendees were not regulars at other city meetings.  I'm not going to attempt a verbatim dissection of the presentations, but will give you some highlights.
District General Manager Scott Carroll led off with a presentation about why we were there.  In fact, several slides in his presentation were titled "Why are we here?"  Several of those slides gave different quotes about "Zero Waste" - theoretically the goal of managing trash.  Perhaps the most relevant was the first one, from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, which stated, "Zero waste efforts, just like recycling efforts before, will change the face of solid waste management in the future.  Instead of managing wastes, we will manage resources and strive to eliminate waste."  Then, later on, he had another slide that said, "Zero waste is NOT about getting to zero.  It is about being on the path to zero."  Got that?  Further we saw one that said, "Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them."
We learned that the State has mandated that 75% of all waste be diverted from landfills by 2020.  The Sanitary District Board, at a meeting in April, established a goal of achieving 75% diversion by 2015 and 90% by 2020.

In a nutshell, the Sanitary District will provide us with new "carts" - those cans on wheels that we presently load all our trash into for weekly pickup - for the "organics" and will hope we do some self-sorting those new cans to separate "Organics" from the rest of our trash.  We will have two types of cans - Organics and Other Trash, including recyclables.

Green Waste
Grass clippings,tree branches, twigs, stumps, leaves, weeds, bushes and shrubs

Food Waste
Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, eggshells, rice, beans, cheese, bones, frozen/refrigerated food, tea bags, coffee grounds, pasta, FOG (fats, oil, grease)

Some of the details about precisely how this system will work still need to be ironed out, but here are  the basics as it stands today.
Households will receive one 64 or 32 gallon organic cart.

Standard service: 2-64 gallon mixed waste carts and 1-64 gallon organic cart. 
Households can request one additional organic cart with no additional monthly fee.  

Households may have 2 mixed waste arts and 2 organic carts with no additional monthly fee.  

A 3rd mixed waste and/or 3rd organic cart will cost $8.00 a month per additional container.

Households that generate no green waste
   A. Replace organic cart with 32 gallon food waste cart or
   B. Opt out of Organics Recycling Program and keep both existing mixed waste carts.  

Household that generates neither food scraps OR green waste.
  A. Opt out of Organics Recycling Program and keep both existing mixed waste carts.  

Households with limited storage space can also opt out.

Keep in mind that the goal here is to have EVERYONE participate in this program to maximize its effectiveness.  However, it was clear that if you choose to opt out, whether you meet any of those criteria above or not, there would be no "trash police" in your neighborhoods nor would there be fines imposed.

There will be small kitchen pails made available in which participants can collect food waste, which would be dumped into the Organics cart.  Several members of the audience expressed concern about odors, both in the house and outside, as the food waste is mixed - unbagged - with the green waste.  Carroll and the other speakers expressed the opinion that it should not be a problem.  Many observers were skeptical.

Carroll also talked about the costs of this program.  He told us that it currently costs $2,297,593 @ $8.9054 per property owner.  By adding the organic carts those numbers change to $2,527.213 @$9.7954 per property owner for an increase of $229,620.

Under the CRT Recycling/Disposal Plan:
Currently we spend $2,137,266 @ $51.97 per ton for 41,125 tons.  Approximately 33% of that trash would be "organic" under the new program, so the numbers would work out as follows:
$1,431,981 @ $51.97 per ton for 27,554 tons (67%)
$   970,344 @ $71.50 per ton for 13,571 organic tons (33%)
-2,137,266 Current Cost
$  265,059

Hauler Rate                               $229,620
CRT Recycling/Disposal Rate: $265,059
Kitchen pails                                   8,000
Community Outreach                     2,000
                                   TOTAL: $504,679


Carroll went into lengthy explanation of possible payment methods, including using reserves to pay the difference or spreading the increase cost over several years.  The Board will address those choices following more community input.

Then representatives from CR&R Environmental Services, our trash hauler, told us about the technology that will be used for this Anaerobic Digestion Project, using German technology at a facility they are building in Perris, California.  Basically, solid and liquid organic waste is placed in something called a Main Digester, which separates solids and gas.  Through proven, patented processes the gas is turned into the cleanest CNG fuel available and the other materials become liquid and solid fertilizer.  You can learn more about how this process works HERE and HERE.

According to Mike Silva, CR&R Project Manager for this new facility, the site will be ready to accept delivery of waste for processing in roughly a year.  And, we were told, that CR&R chose the Costa Mesa Sanitary District to team-up with on this project because of their great history with us - we were the first to go with the all-in-one-cart program many years ago.  And, they guarantee us low rates because we will be in this game early.
Although the hauler says it will only have to add one truck to it's Costa Mesa fleet, if this program is implemented our neighborhoods will have two trucks driving our streets each week instead of one, as is the case now.  Some residents expressed concern about doubling the negative impact of those huge trash trucks on our streets, both from a traffic and damage standpoint.  We understand the City may have misgivings about those impacts, too.

I came away from the meeting feeling a little more comfortable with this process, although there seems to be a little bit of a rush right now.  According to CMSD Board members and staff, this evaluation process has been ongoing for many years, but this is really the first public outreach, but will not be the last.  The second of these meetings will be held at the same venue, the Downtown Neighborhood Community Center at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 11, 2014.  I encourage you to attend that meeting if at all possible and to hear the details of the presentation for yourselves.

Board members Arlene Schafer, Jim Ferryman, Art Perry and Mike Scheafer sat quietly near the back of the room, hearing the presentation and measuring the community responses.  Only member Bob Ooten was absent.
 (Ferryman, Scheafer and Schafer)
After all is said and done, based on what we're told about the State mandates, this train is coming down the track with no way to stop it.  It seems prudent for us to carefully consider this proposal and, perhaps, jump aboard early in the process, before it gains much more momentum.  The Board will make a decision sometime in January, so express your opinion soon.  You can send an email to General Manager Scott Carroll HERE.

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Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Thanks for a very thorough recap.

The biggest thing that will happen is change. We will have to take a few minutes to think things through. I do hope they deal with the odor (the one thing they were underestimating). Some of us have to store the cans in our garages and that is where the forced air unit is. Older homes use a system that suck "fresh" air in from there. We already have an issue with odors. I discussed this with Mr Carrol and he said that was one thing they hadn't considered, but would.

Liek you Geoff, I came away much more at ease with this.

12/18/2013 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger orangemath said...

Excellent work. Thank you.
BTW We have no odors with our kitchen bucket. We dump it into a composter.

12/18/2013 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Thanks, Dennis. That was a big concern for some of the attendees last night. Composting got some discussion last night, too. The San. District has composting tubs available at a nominal cost. Many people don't have the space, time nor inclination to compost, but kudos to those of you who do.

12/18/2013 09:17:00 AM  

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