Palo Alto's compost debate could go to voters | July 30, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - July 30, 2010

Palo Alto's compost debate could go to voters

Proponents of new waste-to-energy plant prepare for a political battle to keep composting local

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's sprawling landfill in Byxbee Park wasn't always the most divisive stretch of city land.

This story contains 920 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at


Posted by Bryan Long, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm

A thank you to Gennady Sheyner for running this article, which provides a good overview except for one significant oversimplification: this is NOT a choice between having a park or having an organics recycling facility. Rather, it is a choice between having a 126 acre park with no organics facility, or a 116 acre park AND a organics facility! Readers are encouraged to visit to learn more about how an organics recycling facility could transform our organic wastes into clean energy and compost, while avoiding 20,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Why should pay others to dispose of our organic wastes when we can transform that "waste" into revenues? An organics facility is a logical step towards closing the City's budget deficit, as well as an important action to fight human-caused climate change.

Posted by Another alternative, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I was in support of creating a composting center at Byxbee Park because it seemed environmentally wrong to transport all our compost to Gilroy and then transport it back to PA when we needed it.

Then, towards the end of the debate at Council it was revealed that Greenwaste is planning to build a similar anaerobic digestion plant in San Mateo to which we could sell our compost. These plants are hugely expensive, and to plan to build two in fairly close proximity seems uneconomic.

No mention of this is made in the present article because I don't think certain people in Palo Alto want you to know about it. There may, however, be a good alternative for our compost close by in San Mateo.

This would not require an initiative for a ballot measure and Byxbee Park could become open space as planned.

Posted by Anoma Lee, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm

This looks like yet another needless city boondoggle. We are asked to commit to spend who knows how many millions of non-existent funds for a poorly-thought-out notion that we don't even know is feasible, and for which there will be a viable alternative in San Mateo.

Posted by Stop this NONSENSE, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 5, 2010 at 4:57 am

I am fascinated by the JUNK arguments given by proponents of the Composting facility.

How come most other cities in the Bay Area DO NOT RUN a composting facility??? They MUST be sending their garbage to Z-BestFacility or elsewhere !!!

Why do Palo Altans want to be a sucker to this ?

Posted by Bob Wenzlau, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2010 at 7:41 am

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

Our Palo Alto Green Energy Initiative team has been working to build our local initiative on this effort. Our group enjoys some of the best sustainability leaders in town. The draft initiative is can be reviewed, and soon the petition gathering will begin. The design of the initiative has been considerate to be responsive to the parallel efforts of the city to study the feasibility of the various conversion technologies. By having the initiative, we speed the process and save money because one, not two, environmental impact reports would be conducted. These reviews are lengthy and are best consolidated. The draft initiative is in the following link.

Web Link

The project seems in good company as San Jose is pursuing a similar strategy. They have just been award state funding from the California Energy Commission, funding that our project could reasonably anticipate. While San Jose makes progress, driving our 60,000 tons of organics down the congested 237 corridor is backwards. A third of these organics are sludges that are at our own sewage plant at the end of Embarcadero - so they are here. Also, the San Jose plant is estimated to have capacity for a mere 15% of the regional capacity, so our own "regional" water pollution plant can offer us a local solution.

Aside from all the science, I hope the emerging campaign is education and artistic. We are already finding enthusiasm from local artists to enliven the campaign. Yes, and the shirt that got coverage in the Weekly was a first for me. I will have it on at this Saturday's farmers market.

Web Link

Posted by Follow the Money, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

Walgreens sells nice tshirts 4 for $10. I know, not as "green" as yours, but not a ripoff.

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Bob Wenzlau says the San Jose plant's capacity would be only 15% of regional capacity without defining the geographical boundaries of the region and without defining the capacity or need in tons, which is the unit of measurement used in discussions of these plants.

I believe San Jose's plant is designed for 150,000 tons and would be built in three increments of 50,000 tons each.

How do those numbers compare to San Jose's need?

What about the San Carlos plant? How big would it be in tons and what is the requirement in tons for that city's regional solid waste authority?

For example, Palo Alto's need is implied to be 60,000 tons.

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