Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto takes 11 percent step toward 0 waste

Original post made on Jun 24, 2008

Beginning next year, Palo Alto will send 22,329 fewer tons of trash to the landfill — an environmentally friendly move that will cost most residents an extra $4.57 per month starting in July 2009 — the City Council decided unanimously Monday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 7:37 AM

Comments (26)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2008 at 11:33 am

Zero Waste will not and cannot happen.

Unless we start living in grass huts and wearing grass skirts, every item in our home will someday have to be disposed of. Many things can't be recycled or are impratical to do so. Yes, I know people use old rags to weave into rugs or make into paper, but that is not for me. So the old clothes that are too worn for goodwill have to go in the trash. The old coach which is falling apart at the seems will have to be taken to the landfill and the roof that leaks will be replaced and the contractor will haul away the old roof for dumping wherever.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2008 at 11:38 am

If this is TRUE? Nice job. That is something to be proud of. FOR REAL.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2008 at 12:19 pm

As with so many of Palo Alto's marvelous ideas, this zero waste program treats the time and convenience of the public as next to worthless. Penn & Teller have an excellent video on this. Next, will we emulate the English cities where your garbage must be in a transparent plastic sack so inspectors can cite and fine you for sorting mistakes? Then can we expect an examination of our garbage to warn us against unhealthy diet choices or xxxx?
Mussolini, your spirit lives on at Hamilton Avenue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Mr Wallis.. Clean air, The kind that does not bring a taer to your eye. Clear water, Where a gold fish does not have to wear a level 3 haz mat suit in, is nice also.

So different and so much the same. :)

Do there really do that in the UK? I was there last in the mid 80's

One problem if you try and go to the dumps. If you can get in. Brig large amounts of CASH.. So people can not afford to go to the dump. It then hits the streets or anywhere they can get rid of it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Yes, they really do that in England. There are ways to keep clean air and water that do not require the destruction of the economy that made it possible for people to care about clean air and water.
A modern incinerator, excuse me, biofuel to electricity plant produces fewer "greenhouse" gases than does a landfill. My first engineereing job, in 1953, was testing and validating air pllution control measures in a chemical plant so my approach to and understanding of air and water pollution is more than academic.
As for the cost of the dumps, a large part of that is the way they try to do so much more than just get rid of garbage and trash.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Now if we can just keep cutting back on that gasoline use, we will be golden!

Web Link

"U.S. gasoline demand fell 2.7 percent last week"

It was interesting to find out last week that the average American uses around 180,000 kcal of energy everyday. The average human outside the US uses around 30,000 kcal. Our prehistoric brethren survived on around 3500 kcal a day. Something to think about.

Web Link

qq


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 24, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Good job city council. I had always felt concerned about whether the restaurants I ate at and the businesses I chose to shop at recycled. Now I can be assured with this new law that these businesses will have to recycle.

I already recycle and compost my food. This law just ensures everyone else does the same. Good!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2008 at 4:51 pm

I thought I could put orange peels into the compost cart, but PASCO flagged me. So now I dump them into the garbage bin. Makes no sense to me, but they run the show and I follow their instructions.

As for the so-called "minimal charge," that's $4.57 per month x 26,000 households x 12 months = $1.43 million per year!! And that number is low since I think we have somewhere between 26,000 to 27,000 households.

Headline should have been "Palo Alto City Council Passes New Million Dollar Garbage Tax."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Congrats to the City Council for expanding the recycling contract. Uncomfortable as it may be at times, we all have to start coming to terms with the "social" costs of our consumption and waste. Waste is economic loss, as well as environmental cost. A once-through, consume and dispose economy is obviously not sustainable on a planet of more than 6 billion people, even at a fraction of US consumption standards. The answer is as old as life: a re-cyclic economy in which one system's waste is another system's raw materials. There are more bacterial cells in your gut than there are human cells in your entire body: they digest your food first, and you live off their waste. So what could be nicer than to return the favor, and direct our food waste to the bacteria in a compost pile rather than into a nearly lifeless landfill? The first comment suggested zero-waste is impossible: but life has been practicing zero waste habits for four billion years. Our discovery of fossil fuels and rapid population growth based on that energy supply created a consumption binge that has thrown ecosystem recycling all out of whack. The good news is that it also created an explosion of knowledge, which we now can apply to "re-engineering" from a linear to a recyclic economy. Doing so is the ONLY way we can protect our prosperity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Amazing what you can sell to ignorant folk. qq, no law prevents you reducing your energy use to prehistoric levels, but you wouldn't like it. Without available energy we ae worse than the animals because we lack their abillity to survive unaided. The less energy, the less civilization.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fireman
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Never look at it like that Mr Wallis?.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Numerologist
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2008 at 9:00 pm

The headline emphasized the 11% increase in recycling, from 62% to 73%. Another way to look at it is the amount of material NOT recycled will drop from 58% to 27%. That is a reduction of more than half, which is very impressive to accomplish in such a short time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by charles
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2008 at 9:41 pm

So we get an 17% increase in charges when our waste goes down by 11%. That means, when we arrive at the zero waste target, we will be paying $42.50 for having the waste haulers dump our empty trash cans into their empty trucks. Methinks the Council will find a way to increase the rates beyond that!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walt Is My Kusin
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 24, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Walter:
"The less energy, the less civilization."

So if we all drove Hummers instead of Priuses, we'd be more "civilized"?

Walt, did u git ur edukation bak in West Virgina or wat???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Walter, although technically we are animals too, your point is absoulutely correct: other species have degrees of tool-use and language, but human civilization began when we did what no other species has done, tame fire. We built civilization around the hearth, and after wood came coal, and oil, and natural gas. All of economics depends on energy flow; but also on efficiency of energy use. Fossil fuels allowed explosive growth in civilization -- in the technologies and knowledge and institutions of our culture. Now, fortunately, we are able to turn that knowledge and technology to the other variable in the equation: we can boost the efficiency of energy use. One of the ways we can do this is by reducing our waste streams by recycling. Thermodynamically, we are compelled to dissipate the energy provided to us by the Sun (and Earth). But by applying intelligence we can do that with minimal waste of material resources, and with maximum productivity. The shift from a wasteful, once-through economy to a recyclic economy is not just necessary, it is a good thing for the economy. We CAN have MORE civilization with LESS energy. Or we can just ignore the physics and plow ahead into chaotic collapse, like yeast in a bottle that have used up the sugar and poisoned themselves with their wastes. Have a beer and try to be a little less acerbic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:24 am

Bryan, when you calculate the benefit of recycling, factor in the time of the sorter and factor out the "benefit" of complying with an arbitrary directive. Remember the Recyclingz' during WWII when we turned in or aluminum pots and pans to make airplanes, but they discovered that recycled aluminum was good only for pots and pans?
If there is a net benefit to recycling there is no need to compel it, more likely there will be a law against it.
If you need an SUV capability only 10% of the time, is it better to buy another car for every day or to have one car that fills all your needs? The market is the only valid measurement of efficiency.
And, Kusin, California thought enough of my "edikatiun" to confer on me Professional Engineer registration in Electrical and Mechanical engineering.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Good job Walter
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:35 am

I have no respect for anyone anonymous who disses another NON-anonymous poster. If you are going to diss, use your name. Those who use their real names deserve our respect. They have the most courage on these forums to really OWN their words.

Walter, as usual, you make great sense. I have been criticised roundly with those d*&^ placards placed on the windshield of my SUV when I park somewhere....these folks have no clue that carrying 6 people in my truck is a lot better than 2 of us each driving 3 of us around in 2 cars. People are quite narrow in their view point. I suspect that your point about buying one car for use 2 times per month when you need it and another car for use at other times was lost on those who think ONLY Of gasoline use. They forget all the energy that went into making the second car, and all the waste the second car will bring about when it is dumped.

The same problem happened years ago in the debate between landfill throw-away diapers and cloth diapers being cleaned and delivered. All the "holy" cloth diaper moms held it over us "pampers" moms until the day came when it was finally public enough knowledge that they were equal in environmental impact.

geez


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GEEZ
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:40 am

Or, another great example of trying to regulate our way out of problems and dealing with the unintended consequences instead of letting individual American ingenuity work its usual magic..the rush to REGULATE us into those new lightbulbs.

All the Democrats were patting themselves on the back for regulating us into compliance..SO good for the ENVIRONMENT.

OOPS!! They have mercury in them and you have to have a HAZMAT team clean up the broken bulbs..after airing the room for 15 minutes so you don't breathe it in.

GEEZ! Stop telling us how to live!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SetQ
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2008 at 7:33 am

Walter & GEEZ -

While many have abandoned traditional religions, they have not abandoned religion entirely.

They have made religions out of environmentalism, political correctness, global warming, and even Amway dealership.

Beware the do gooders. A more reasonable approach would be to go slowly and persuasively rather than quickly and coercively.

If your driving motivation is to "feel good about yourself", the unintended consequences can be severe.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 7:54 am

The diaper hastle was the cruelest blow. A new mother has too much to do to have to give up the convenience and avoidance of cross infection that disposables gave. There is no better indication of the flexible ruler of the environmental fascists that their attitude about mercury. A mercury switch in your thermostat is an environmentsl hazard but the mercury in the fluorescent bulb is no big thing. The South Bay hills are alive with - Hg? So the natural runoff will have a mercury content.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Walter, for untold years new Moms have survived without disposable diapers, and in many other countries they still do. And CFLs can be recycled safely, drop them off at Home Depot or any number of other places that take them that you run an errand near when they burn out after 10 years. Meanwhile enjoy the drop in your electric bill. Replacing all the regular bulbs with CFLs in my house dropped my bill by 2/3s, with the obvious energy savings.

Numerologist, alas, your math is wrong, it's a drop from 38% to 27%.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Trudy, do you know how little water per diaper the commercial laundries allot? As a dad who laundered my kids' diapers before there was an option and as an engineer I don't think that was enough. Do you re-use your "feminine products"?
On the cfl's, typical bafflegab. If we cannot be trusted to safely dispose of mercury thermometers or mercury switches what makes us capable of safely handling cfl's? I say this as an early adopter of fluorescents both compact and regular, and an experimenter with LEDs for illumination when they are ready. Do you know what is in an LED?Don't ask.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2008 at 1:06 am

Walter, I respect you as an engineer, and as a veteran, and as a citizen, but not, I think, as an economist -- and I think you could stand to brush up on adaptive systems theory, too. Markets, like all adaptive systems processes, operate most efficiently when balanced between unregulated and over-regulated. As a stock market investor, I'm glad the SEC requires regular, standardized and audited reporting; but I don't want it to get so onerous that the company has to spend all its profits on accountants! I'm glad our governments stepped in to limit industrial discharge of heavy metals into our waterways; if their is no cost or limit to public discharge of waste, competitive private companies will simply dump into our communities and environment. Of course, there are costs to factor in. Costs of recycling, and costs of not recycling. Costs of switching to renewable energy, and costs of not switching. Costs of requiring more fuel efficient cars, and costs of not requiring more fuel efficient cars. Now, we may disagree on how those costs balance out, but it is disingenuous to simply decry "arbitrary directives" just because YOU don't agree with them. You are justifiably proud of your engineering credentials, but there are many other smart, educated, and civic-minded individuals who have reached different conclusions than you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2008 at 10:21 am

I for one hate the new bulbs. They are ugly, their light is bad, and there is a delay after switching them as well as the obvious problem of what to do with them when they do run out. However, we have them all over our house and are willing to put up with the cons as well as the pros.

But my main worry is what is going to happen in 10 years time. Yes, I know the majority of us will dispose of them properly at the right place, but what about the minority who won't? Will there be light bulb police going through the trash looking for these things and making sure that they don't get into the landfills and fining those who do throw them in the trash? I don't think so. Likewise kids' sneakers that have flashing lights. I believe that those have mercury in them and shouldn't be put in the trash, but do we see special disposal centers for them. Does the average low income parent know that they shouldn't be put in the trash and where to put them? So don't expect them to know what to do with light bulbs either.

Until we come up with better methods of making these products safer, I don't think they should be in general use or there should not be legislation to make us use them. We can't control how people will dispose of them and for the very tiny minority who will act irresponsibly, the environment as a whole is at a bigger risk.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kl
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 7, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Wouldn't recycling start at a products conception? My waste stream is 99% non-recyclable materials such as plastic packaging. It seems that changing this type of packaging is the answer to 0 waste, such as compost-able coated paper. The city should have banned the incoming waste stream not tax the denizens to dispose or sort anything. Simplify packaging material to basically one or two types period! How stupid are we to allow any product, or food producer to make trash through its packaging? This is where our city's energy should be focused. Do not allow irresponsible manufacturing practices nor their products into your our cities or counties or states nor countries.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm

My prediction

Goodwill will get an enormous increase in donations, most of which will have to be trashed by them. If we can't clear out a closet and throw the items in the trash, then we will take them to Goodwill in the hopes that they might like outdated clothes, broken toys, cracked dinnerware, etc. etc. etc. We can't make less waste, just dispose of it differently.

And where are the new residents going to put their trash? If we are talking about tons of trash, then obviously all the new housing being built can't produce any. If we are increasing the number of homes, then we are increasing the tons of trash. Q E D


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

WUE makes out-of-state tuition more affordable
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 2,497 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 13 comments | 2,085 views

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,073 views

In Defense of "Incivility"
By Douglas Moran | 16 comments | 1,570 views

Taking the Trick out of the Treat
By Max Greenberg | 16 comments | 986 views