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Palo Alto Zero Waste Operation Plan Discussion

Original post made by Bob Wenzlau on Mar 12, 2007

The Policy and Services Committee will be evaluating Palo Alto's Zero Waste "Operations Plan". This will be Tuesday at 7:30 PM at City Hall. This is the implementation element of a strategy set in 2005.

Zero waste is the next paradigm in approaching our solid waste management efforts -- it seeks to avoid land disposal (land fills) through a coordinated effort to cause reduction of generation, reusables, and recovery. The plan addresses the industrial, commercial and residential sectors.

While the tenants of Zero Waste are strong (as embodied in the policy), when the action gets defined in the "Operations Plan", my view is that the commitment has been watered down.

I wanted to re-introduce the topic to the community, and remind us of some of the questions at hand?

- What is the future of the drop-off recycling center? The plan seeks proposes a significant expansion -- I personally think "driving" to recycle is "dead", and should be replaced by curbside. This ties to new paradigms of global warming.

- How aggressive should the city be in "mandating" recycling? The plan invites a commitment to mandatory recycling, but postpones the commitment for 3 to 4 years. I believe that we should entertain this commitment now. I do not believe the "mandatory" forces folks to go to jail, but would be similar to consequences of excess irrigation during the drought.

- What can the city do to encourage waste reduction? This is a curious venue for government where it may wander into folks personal space: can government tell me what to buy? Yet many cities are now considering whether to ban certain plastics, and reduce excess packaging.

I wanted to introduce this because I have worried that the City is not fully reconciling the commitment to Zero Waste they have made. Some recent decisions have been made not to increase diversion of our waste at the regional processing center (SMART), that made me question the understanding. I do not believe this is an easy program to implement, but if we have made the commitment, we should follow through. We can be comforted that most of the expenditure for waste (resource) management come through an enterprise fund (meaning your refuse bill), and will not dilute resources from our city's general fund.

The City's Zero Waste efforts are seen on this web link: Web Link

Comments (8)

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Like so many of these brilliant ideas, zero waste assumes that the time and convenience of the individual is of no value. Government tends to be as cavalier with our time as it is with our money. Let's make a deal - If the government can find a buyer for sorted recyclables, and if the government will then agree to apply that revenue directly to reducing the garbage bill, o.k. - otherwise, put it in a box at the curb.


Posted by Bob Wenzlau, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

The economics (your billing rate) have always been key in my view to waste management. Palo Alto's landfill closes it doors in 2011, and other landfills are recognizing how they can gain top dollar selling disposal space to Palo Alto. The hauling cost rise and the toll gate charges rise. As such, efforts to reduce the waste will lead to putting money in your wallet, and that can't be lost on the process. Your refuse bill would be higher if you just haul the bin out, because it forces the city to pay the exorbitant fees. Our inspirations may be different, but we both like keeping the money in our wallets.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2007 at 8:08 pm

It is time to institute the excess express and haul out garbage by rail up to the Black Rock Desert. I believe several Northwest cities are hauling their garbage to the desert. This current practice of cosseting garbage like the crown jewels is nuts and is based on the ludicrous idea we are running out of dump space.
Some day we might even recognize that garbage and sewage is best macerated and dumped offshore, to restore the organics our dams have robbed the ocean of. You may believe that garbage sorting is an appropriate use of the people's time, I do not. In Great Britain they have garbage cops writing heavy tickets if you miss=sort. That will follow here unless we tell them no more.


Posted by cooper, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Government intervention-
People that live and do business in PA need not fear garbage cops if they just use the programs and services available. Just like traffic cops don't issue tickets to every offender, neither would garbage cops if mandatory recycling were instituted.

The waste study shows a lot of recycling is still being put in the garbage. Some highly educated, advanced-degreed person in the community is guilty of something- not caring? too "busy"? too ____(fill in the blank). When IS the appropriate time for government to step in?

waste reduction-
The government only has to tell people what to do (i.e., buy or not buy)if they can't figure it out for themselves. For example, if people would drink the water out of their tap instead of buying bottled water, the City would not have to:
- pay PASCO to haul water bottles to the other side of the Bay
- pay again to have them sorted when they get to the other side of the Bay
- buy trucks to do this job and drive through your neighborhood. If there is less to haul, then there is a reduced need for services or their frequency.

It all translates to less money needed to provide services that are not really needed. There's a lot of $ savings that could be realized by not making recycling OR garbage that then needs to be collected and moved, sorted, sent to China, sent to Sunnyvale then San Jose etc. But maybe people don't really need to save money if they can pay $1.50 for a bottle of water. Why not pay to have stuff shipped all over in order to recycle it,too.

The same goes for plastic bags. Why do people want to pay to have them recycled (collected at the curb) when they have reusable cloth bags from every trade show and conference they have ever been to sitting in their closet? People defend their right to the convenience (i.e. inabilty to remember to bring bags to the store with them)of their doubly-plastic-bagged shopping booty but they scream about the price of fuel and the high profits that oil companies reap.

Connect the dots people- petrolum-based anything costs money and lots of what you buy is plastic. Once you drill for oil and create the demand, you get just what you asked for- more plastic stuff that you then complain about, pay for and then can't recycle because no one is making anything from your plastic crap you no longer want.

If the community would just stop and think for a moment, and do a little bit more to reduce their waste in the first place, we would all be better off. One does not have to be deprived in order to be less wasteful.

Regionial Cooperation
Sending PA's waste or recycling to another community is the not-in-my-back yard (NIMBY) syndrome. Isn't the "regional solution" some other cities Bay front or rolling hills? The SMaRT Station is at the end of Moffett Channel, which diverts from the Guadalupe Slough that feeds SF Bay. It is not o.k. for PA to deal with its own waste at its Bay front, but it is o.k. for PA to take it down to
Sunnyvale's Bay front?



Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2007 at 6:41 am

The value of recyclables other than aluminum is seldom enough to defray the cost of their recovery. Dumping in unused areas until we get over this virgin earth silliness would save an awful lot of trouble. If the current government folk are not up to taking out the garbage they should get out of the way for someone who is willing.


Posted by RealityCheck, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2007 at 10:13 am

Walt,

Did you ever stop to consider how much it would cost to haul all our trash to the desert or, better yet, haul and then put it on a trash barge and pull it out to the ocean to dump - both of your "innovative" suggestions? No, i didn't think so. Please stick to arging about Iraq.


Posted by Silver Bullet, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2007 at 10:16 am

I've always wondered if the processing involved in recycling things like plastics, metals, etc. produces toxic byproducts. This isn't a rhetorical question - does anyone know? If so, is it more or less than the harm of dumping in a landfill?


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Yes, reality, I have. I do know that Iron Mountain could hold 50 years of LA garbage, and that Northwest cities are doing exactly as I propose with their garbage. With containers and little if any preprocessing It would beat all hollow any local processing. People are always telling me that engineers need to consider externalities - and yet the externality of individual time and comfort is not considered.


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