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City proposes to peek at people's garbage

Original post made on Mar 10, 2010

Palo Altans who repeatedly throw recyclable items into their trash bins could soon find themselves slapped with fines and without a garbage-collection service.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 10, 2010, 9:54 AM

Comments (119)

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Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:25 am

It's about time!


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Posted by Big Brother is watching your garbage
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:33 am

Don't you mean punitive, not putative?


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Posted by South PA
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:34 am

It gives too much power to the city to harrass people. They say they will only go after egrigious violators, but what if they change their minds later. I don't want to create a police state in our city, they need to find another way to do this. How about charging allot for anything but the smallest trash can and giving out as many recycle bins as people want. This would encourage recycling without creating a police state.


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Posted by homeowner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:39 am

Please correct any misunderstanding, but today aren't homeowners supposed to put banana peels and all other compostable materials in the trash? I was told that there is NO compost pickup for residences, only businesses and apartments, and that compostables should NOT be put in the recycling bin. It sounded pretty stupid to me that a "Zero Waste" program doesn't include compost pickup for homes who aren't able/willing to compost in their yards. I would love to be corrected!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:51 am

Zero Waste is a totally ridiculous goal.

I have made a note of some of the stuff my family has thrown out over the past week and none of it can be recycled or reused.

Old shoes - holes in soles and uppers coming away from soles
Old socks and underwear - really bad condition
Old towels used as cleaning rags - not fit for anything
Plastic wrap and butcher paper - contaminated with meat and fish
Tissues galore - we have colds
Paper towels - used for handwashing and kitchen counter wiping
Food scraps not good for composting - baked goods, meat and bones
Used feminine products

This is just in an average week. On top of that I have some larger garbage waiting for dumping like an old suitcase with broken zipper which is too big for black can.

We do our best to recycle but when guests are here either for dinner or overnight it is totally impolite to go through what they may be throwing into the garbage or to refuse their help with cleanup. Guests tend to follow the recycling rules from where they live which are often very different from ours.

Elderly people also find it very difficult to get into the habit of recycling, either because they find it very confusing or because of limited mobility.

Education about recycling is fine, but as soon as recycling becomes onerous mistakes will be made and the effort becomes too much trouble.



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Posted by Enough
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:55 am

Ooooh, more babysteps to a Police State.


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Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

Zero waste is a ridiculous goal. I would have no problem with a "Lower Waste" or "Less Waste" program, but a commitment to zero waste at a future date, sets an impossible goal. And fining people for their garbage habits is a bit much.

Maybe I'm just not a real Palo Altan ;-)


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Posted by Waste of time
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

This "zero waste" plan is typical of Palo Alto and their attempt to show the world how "green" they are. This plan is probably the dream of certain current and former council members who always liked to show off their "green" credentials--how better for them to show how perfect they are by chastising the unwashed masses about their garbage disposal habits.
What about flush toilets? will those be outlawed under the "zero waste" plan?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:17 am

This is SOOOOOOO stupid. When it was raining the other night, my partner dumped a paper food package into the garbage can rather than going out in the rain to recycle it and bad, bad me, I didn't root through the kitchen trash to dig it out.

I'm so tired of the city looking for more ways to hit us up for fees and taxes. Between this and the red-light ordinance and our rip-off utility rates, I'm disgusted.

I'm also still waiting for MY raise for lugging the trash, recyclables and yard waste out to the street.


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:19 am

I was wondering...since Palo Alto is taking over my life so completely telling me how to shop and what to do with my garbage and many other small but invasive things, can they please advise me which brand of undies to wear? I'm feeling helpless without the City telling me how to make every minute decision in my life.


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Posted by Steve Tjiang
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:20 am

This just seems so complicated. Shouldn't be using price as an incentive? Let's just 10x the price of garbage disposal beyond the first 20 gallon can and make recycling pick-up really cheap or nearly free.

Yeah. I know expensive garbage disposal might mean people would take their garbage and dump it in empty lot but Palo Altans wouldn't do that, would they? :-)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:28 am

How much does a "zero waste coordinator" make, fully loaded with benefits, pension and subsidized utility rates?

Perhaps he or she could be redirected to other more worthwhile projects that reduce waste in other areas of local governments that would lower OUR costs.

If the Utility Commission is still worrying about their mission statement and what their goal in life should be, perhaps they might consider that their goal should be to reduce OUR costs.

Just a horribly radical suggestion.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:30 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Last night Palo Alto proved to have no idea about waste handling. They had no idea about whether this new scheme would increase or decrease the revenue from selling recyclables, they had no idea whether three truck trips would have a greater carbon footprint than one, and they had no idea what we would get once we achieved zero waste other than a plaque.
On the other hand, the presenters were polite and attractive - just clueless.


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Posted by cieboy
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

What a bunch of babies you all are. Yes the crying and whining does make you all true Palo Altans. We are drowning in trash people Hello! Suck it up and help with a solution rather than crying about having a few rain drops on you to go put some paper in the correct bin. Are you serious you want a cookie for putting your refuse on the curb correctly? Please please go away all of you now. I am amazed and gratified that we can mix everything together there was a time when we had to separate paper and plastic, etc. And the amount of material they are now taking to recycle is really great. Kudos for this program.


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Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:34 am

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Homeowner,

You are correct. Palo Alto currently does not pick up residents' food scraps. According to yesterday's presentation, the city is looking to begin providing that service within the next year or so.

Gennady


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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:35 am

Maybe we should require all Palo Altans to bring their garbage, recyclables, etc. to a central location, once per week, and sort it in front of licensed "zero waste" inspectors.

Those that fail to adhere to the rules, will be given a warning and be required to wear a piece of cloth identifying them as an offender. A small yellow star might work. Subsequent infractions will result in a small fine, confiscation of one's home (or jail time), and finally capital punishment.

Really, a small price to pay for living in a truly green environment.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:40 am

Cieboy, no I don't want a cookie for putting the right stuff in the right bins. I want to pay based on services provided (or NOT provided).

You might recall that it was only a few years ago that our garbage-trash-etc. was picked up FOR us from behind our gates.

We didn't have to lug it over often cracked sidewalks -- and we paid a lot less for that service than we do now.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:41 am

I want the City's Zero Waste Superintendent to tell us where we are supposed to dispose of maxi pads, condoms, baby's soiled diapers, Depends, and soiled tissues. Not to mention all the other items that contain bodily fluids that we put in our garbage on a regular basis.

Have you noticed that the City only politely refers to kitchen waste that can be included with our compostables. They refuse to address many of the above items because they are unmentionables. Hopefully their written instructions will give us the advice we are seeking.

Meanwhile our garbage is being spied on with cameras and no doubt downloaded into Green Waste's database.


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Posted by Put Peter in Charge
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

[Comment removed by Palo Alto Online staff].


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

As to the low flow toilet issue, that is a rip off too. My mom was told that she could get $150 from the City for installing a low flow toilet. So she did, it's the third, there is now one in each bathroom. When she submitted the info for the $150 she was told that Palo Alto would not reimburse her. She wouldn't have gotten the toilet now if that had been the case right from the start.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:50 am

Saying No to the Garbage Police

Given a choice between being fined by the City of Palo Alto for consuming more than the government bureaucrats and the City Council have deigned to be acceptable, I would contract with a private concern to pick up my trash--having them take it to outside the jurisdiction of the "zero wasters" at 250 Hamilton Avenue.

Of course, it's not hard to believe that the City would not react forcefully against any such independence to engage outside trash pickup by either outlawing such a service outright, or by restricting outside trash pickup companies' movements and business opportunities with numerous permits and/or unreasonable fees (like the City does with taxicabs).

"Zero Waste" is just another environmental code phrase for controlling people and their lifestyles through "zero consumption". It's not going to be easy to talk about living in the "land of the free" if these "zero waste" zealots have their way.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

San Francisco has a zero waste policy and the city can actually fine you for improper recycling, though it rarely happens. There is no where this level of whining from a city of 700,000+. It's not that hard.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

Our fine civic leaders might give some thought to how idiocy like this proposal effects voters' plans to vote on Measure A, which replaces Measure B to "fund" the school district's budgetary shortfall.

The more frustrated and dissatisfied we get with the continued ripoffs and stupid fees, the less likely we are to increase our outlays to the city.

As for me, I'm just thrilled to pay for my very own personal storm sewer. If anyone finds it, please let me know. The street at the bottom of my driveway is always flooded for days after a rain. Maybe the city can sell me another invisible storm drain for another $15 a month.

Feh on stupidity.


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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

Govt-led solutions are doomed to fail. If only a startup could come up with a way to provide a direct monetary incentive for recycling, then the market would deal with it better that our city ever will.

I've lived here most of my life, and am truly flummoxed as to how the city was taken over by the strong-arm environmental crowd. To the ordinary observer, our landfill could easily handle another 100 years of waste, so what's the big deal?


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Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm

What a wonderful idea. We have one of the largest recycling containers which is often full. Our trash, by comparison, is one kitchen bag a week. I wonder why I pay for the 30 gal container. This is for two people. Once your old suitcases are gone, you too can find that most stuff that goes through the house is actually recyclable. People who worry about this being a step to a police state are insane.


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Posted by Marco
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

The Council has shot itself in the foot (repeatedly) by advocating a Zero Waste target - unrealistic, unreasonable, and by everyone's assessment - unattainable. This is not how to make policy - it's how to make cynics.
Be that it may, and in that spirit (and in the spirit of the proposals of looking into our garbage) the City should mandate regulations about what types of packaging materials are allowed into Palo Alto, So much of (our) garbage is stuff over which we (all of us in Palo Alto) have absolutely no control. My issue today is packaging materials. Case in point: I ordered some furniture from Crate and Barrel (Stanford Shopping Center) - the items came packaged with loads and loads of sheets of styrofoam (non-recyclable) protective materials. The solution to achieve Zero Waste: the City's ordinance must include 'proper packaging' enforcers stationed at all the retail establishments in town and all the ports of entry, to insure that none of all packaging material is recyclable and none might end up as garbage.


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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

This an important step in the right direction. Of course we won't reach a zero waste goal, that's just a mind-set we all need to have. I'm certainly not complaining about having to take my trash out to the street. Many municipalities force people to take recyclables to central locations and sort them into multiple bins there.

While I'm at it, can I ask my neighbors to place the containers off the sidewalks, please? My kids have to walk in the middle of the street to get to school on trash days.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Aw, c'mon people. If you stopped whining for a few minutes and really applied yourself, you too could learn to tell the difference between a used kleenex and an aluminum can. Give it a try. I bet your neighborhood kids would be glad to help.


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Posted by Webster&Forest
a resident of University South
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm

We go out of our way to separate our waste and properly categorize recyclables. The 3 page Palo Alto recycling guide is taped above the 5 bins in our kitchen and is often used to help clarify where to put an item and it is still often unclear how to categorize many items (ie. is an item a "container" or an extruded plastic item that goes into the special clear plastic bag? Is an item unrecyclable Styrofoam or one of those Styrofoam-like materials that really is recyclable? Does this big cardboard pizza box really go in the compost bin?). It may not seem very complex to most but I can easily see why the 49% of recyclable material still ends up as "garbage". Here's a novel approach: Why not just place all waste items in one container (and have possibly another for yard waste), have it picked-up and taken to a separation facility and let them sort out everything? There you go! 100% green! This would also eliminate the need for a separate recyclable collection system, extra containers, and the increasingly tedious process of in-home garbage identification and allocation.


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Posted by Anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

As long as the new regulations apply only to the egregious violators, I guess I can go along with the City's proposal. I'm very careful about recycling, but once in a while I'll throw a particularly contaminated container into the garbage because I think it will take too much water to get it clean enough to recycle. I'm a gardener and really concerned about water issues, and I don't want to "spend" a couple of quarts of water getting a peanut butter jar clean.


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Allen, I guess you like being told how to live your life. Personally, I consider suggestions to be golden, orders to be invasive. A fine being slapped on someone for not doing what the City wants (while it's poking through our garbage) IS truly a police state action.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Midtowner says "This an important step in the right direction."

Heck no it isn't. It's another example of lofty ideals without the understanding of implementation:

1. Have you seen how our Greenwaste employees collect garbage? They're geared for efficiency - single container, throwing multiple residents' waste and then going back to the truck. Now, you're saying that these guys are going to be responsible for enforcing an ordinance. How many more employees and trucks (with associated greenhouse gases! ironic, isn't it) will need to be out there to ensure our garbage is collected weekly?

2. How is a garbage guy going to determine what is in compliance or not? Well written laws are very clear on the measurement. An example is the speed limit. Either you are at 65 or below, or you're not.

This 10% is unmeasurable by a guy looking to throw trash into a truck. It suddenly becomes arbitrary, which is even worse. If for some reason a garbage collector doesn't like to look of your house, he can make sure he spot checks your garbage every week.

3. How do you know if a garbage collector is properly trained to inspect garbage?

4. How can you control other folks throwing garbage into your can out of control? You can't.

5. The fact that they have already been inspecting or auditing garbage RIGHT NOW is a gross violation of privacy. The City of Palo Alto has opened up a potential vector for identity theft. Think about that.

Creating a law to enforce a mindset is poor public policy, unless you think all those laws against mixed marriages was a great idea. How hypocritical.


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm

May be it would be better to fine people for driving their kids in their monster SUVs everyday when it is only 5 blocks away!


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

One of the points I made was that the education campaign is unlikely to be effective if the City doesn't know what the misunderstanding are. Last night's meeting revealed several examples: The recycling instructions say that various materials have to be "clean". Turns out that the problem is that various contaminants, such as food, do not degrade the _quality_ of the recyclable, but simply dilute the _quantity_ of the material that the recycler thought they had purchased.

Another thing I found notable about the City's presentation and responses to audience questions was a near-absence of cost-benefit perspective (exception: Styrofoam is not recyclable because of transportation costs--small amounts of material take up a very large volume so almost all the fuel being used is to move the vehicle, not the contents).


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Posted by Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm

What about increasing the cost of trash pick-up. That would get people to do the other two Rs (Reduce and Reuse) and would essentially be a fine on creating too much trash by any means.

It beats a police state.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

In contrast to what is in the City's White Paper, which is heavy on enforcement, the presentation claimed that the City did not _intend_ to enforce except in egregious cases and saw the _threat_ of enforcement as a mechanism to change the psychology of residents, causing them to be more careful about sorting recyclables.

This approach _can_ be effective. Or it can be like the hands-free cell phone law which has had negligible effect on behavior (a recently published study and personal observation).


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Can we please benchmark with other cities on this issue - and I don't mean San Francisco! I remember hearing that S.F. has the most restaurants per capita or something - so maybe that explains the lack of waste at their residences, since they are eating out all the time.


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Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm

What more are we going to be forbidden to do?? No smoking, snooping in our garbage, can't build our dream homes and the list goes on and on! This is getting creepy! I'm doing my best recycling, composting, conserving energy and water, so don't bug me and, Council, or whoever -- get on with the business you are supposed to attend to and stop thinking you have to direct our lives also!


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:25 pm

@Really Fine people for driving their monster SUV's to school five blocks away? How would one monitor that? How would one JUSTIFY that? How do you know that parent doesn't proceed immediately to work from there? Right now I'd rather have a monster SUV behind me than a runaway Prius.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:28 pm

There are other options which have not been mentioned.

We could have trash collections every other week only with a reduced cost. Some families do not need trash collected every week.

We could have vacation non-collection for those families who are out of town for a couple of weeks at a time.

We could have shared cost trash collections for single occupant neighbors who do not need even the black can size or the blue can size because they do not generate enough waste. The same for green compostable cans.

Oh, I just realized, these would be savings for residents, not savings for Greenwaste and they want to increase their income not give back to residents.


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Posted by MR BBQ
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:55 pm

LA gives some of it's customers money to recycle, as much as $400.00 a year. As they say money motivates, for some of us in Palo Alto.

Web Link


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Posted by The Old Professor
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2010 at 3:26 pm

It's just too hard to enforce. The trash guys have no time to inspect trash, particularly if it is in sealed trash bags, and if they tried to the homeowner would challenge at least 50% of the time, leading to total gridlock.


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Posted by Jarred
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Palo Alto is quite the place for petty tyrants, both in city government and residents such as Paul, Midtowner, and Allen. I'm sure they have some rules they'd like to force on us about what we can eat, what we can think, how often we can flush our toilets, etc.

I hope the petty tyrants won't mind if I have my garbage delivered to their houses so they can sort it as only they are truly qualified to. I also have a suggestion for where they can put it afterwards.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Anonymous tells us to quit whining because "San Francisco has a zero waste policy and the city can actually fine you for improper recycling, though it rarely happens."

So we shouldn't mind because the city won't really enforce rules? How arbitrary is that and if the city decides it doesn't like a neighbor or neighborhood, then what? Have you been in a neighborhood dispute with the city? We have and the city encouraged the developer to sue our neighborhood and our neighborhood had to hire a lawyer and pool money to pay him to represent us in the suit (which eventually was dropped).

Zero Waste is the road to zero liberties.


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 10, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Bravo Jarred!


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Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I challenged the "zero-waste" moniker at one of the earlier community meetings on the subject. But it is so cute and so Palo Alto that there was no chance of the council dropping it.

Posters are right. When you replace straight accurate talk with euphemisms and "newspeak" it has the effect of watering the message down and leads to a loss of respect.


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Posted by mother
a resident of Nixon School
on Mar 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm

All my friends recycle, and thank you for the new union workers that the pa city has hired! who don't live in pa and can't afford to live here!!! great job pa counsel you should worry more about the education here that has gone to the dogs!!! then this great over inflated going green! Because we pa homeowners are about to go red!!!


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Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I think it is a great idea. The 3 stream waste collection: garbage, compost and recycling has been introduced in the schools and our kids are doing it. If the fine system seems too onerous (even after a year of education and warnings ) then perhaps we can encourage people through economic incentives. Raise garbage rates, composting can be a percentage of garbage (50%) and recyling can continue to be free.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

The discourse here on both sides contrasts mightily with the awareness of recycling, composting and garbage elsewhere in this country. We are so much further along compared with people who reside elsewhere in the US.

Here is a great recent anecdote that makes the point: my college buddy has a son who grew up in San Francisco, went to UCLA, and now is not so gainfully employed (at least he has a job!) as the radio voice of an AA Minor League Baseball team in northern Florida (known to be a part of the state this is more Southern than Cuban.)

Given his age and his line of work, there are many social opportunities for him. He told his dad, my friend, that one of the most surprising things he experienced was attending a party or other event, finishing his beverage, and asking where the recycling bin was for it. People looked at him like he was from "CALIFORNIA," or some other alien location. They simply don't do recycling in that part of the world.

I generally am of the opinion that positive approaches that foster more recycling and less waste are the first "line of attack," and I am not convinced we in Palo Alto have accomplished that. Tough love has its place, but must be used gingerly in a community like this, where we are debating into which bins things should be placed.

That little old Florida "burg" where my friend's son is spending some formative years doesn't even have this stuff on its radar screen, let alone the optimal approach.

That does not mean Palo Alto needs to get its approach right. But the anecdote implies to me that there are some folks who are not yet on the learning curve, while we in Palo Alto are arguing finer points, important, but different level of discussion.

I tend to be a "least waste" guy. If for no other reason than that I have a dog.


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Posted by Other midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Wait a minute. I travel a fair amount and regularly have house-sitters staying in my house for one or several weeks when I am traveling. Those house-sitters are always, or almost, from out-of-town.

What will I do when I have house-sitters in my house? Am I supposed to do a trash sorting training session with them?

Will I be expected to pay fine because of my house-sitters, even maybe stop having my trash collected?

This is a really terrible idea. I agree, do something else about the environment, ban SUVs... but don't have a garbage police.

(Note that when I am home I sort my recyclables very conscientiously, but I find it appalling that I would have to worry about it when someone else is staying in my house.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Geez get a grip everyone. The trash collectors probably can tell that a few people just throw their trash out with wanton disregard towards recycling. With the trash situation the way it is, with this city (and many other governmental bodies) spending money to address this problem, these people deserve to get their little hands slapped and be told to go stand in the corner for a bit. If they insist on not recycling then they should just have to drive their own trash to the dump and address the issue there.

This isn't about some little mistake someone might make.

But oh wait, this is the era of generating paranoia about anything and everything. I heard this agenda originated in Kenya.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Well, if it's no big deal to you ANEM, why don't you feel free to share with everyone digital photographs of your trash with everyone here as an example. Show us the way. Tell us how easy it is to measure this "10%" from your own garbage.

We're waiting.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> Posted by JerryL, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood
> I challenged the "zero-waste" moniker at one of the earlier community meetings on the subject. But it is so cute and so Palo Alto that there was no chance of the council dropping it.
> Posters are right. When you replace straight accurate talk with euphemisms and "newspeak" it has the effect of watering the message down and leads to a loss of respect.

Well before "Zero Waste" was adopted, I had this discussion with a variety of its advocates. I pointed out that it violated the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy) and they stared at me blankly, which continued when I explained that there was necessarily waste in every operation/transaction.

What I discovered was that when the topic is "Zero Waste", the only concern is solid wastes and that the advocates don't care how much energy/carbon footprint or water (cleaning) is required to divert inconsequential amounts of solid wastes from landfills. And when they advocate reducing packaging, my experience is that they routinely refuse to consider whether that will result in increase waste of the product, much less the balancing point. By any practical assessment, "Zero Waste" qualifies as a religious cult.


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Posted by scared
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Really? Isn't this a violation of my privacy. My garbage? I recycle everything possible, the city gave me the smallest blue bin with a family of four, my neighbor is an 84 single man that travels a lot and he has the biggest one. I called to get a bigger bin than the one "dropped off" they said no, you get what you get, we can't take yours back. For a fee I could have another one. WHAT? My bin is overflowing EVERY week with the lid wide open, and I still make trips to the drop off center at least once per week. Oh yeah, and since PA no longer takes stryofoam/polystyrene type items (i've called all over the bay area to find out if I can waste gas to find a place that does and no luck) and the restaurants in Palo Alto STILL package their take aways in the untouchable wrappings, THEY BETTER START LOOKING WITHIN THE STRUCTURE FIRST BEFORE THEY LOOK IN MY GARBAGE. THEY'LL FIND; DOG POO, FEMININE PRODUCTS, FOOD WASTE (NOT ALLOWED IN THE COMPOST BINS) MILK CARTONS (ALSO NOT TAKEN) MY NIECES DIRTY DIAPERS (WHEN SHE VISITS) BROKEN GLASS AND MY RIGHTS I'LL HAVE TO THROW OUT WITH IT. REALLY??????


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Scared,

That's a great post -- and a prime example of how unaccommodating our city employees are for our over-priced "services." Redo it and send it as a letter to the editor to both city papers; maybe they'll be embarrassed enough to get you the right-sized bin.


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Posted by Henry
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Zero waste is a good goal, but I don't think the city is ready to administer such a program. Palo Alto has some very good ideas but implementation often falls short. Look at the gas blower ban - I see people operating gas blowers every day. When I talk to some of them, one told me he is aware of the ban but said he is also aware that there is no consequence of his misbehavior. I think we need to make sure there is enforcement before we jump into other regulations. Let's enforce the gas blower band. Let's expand the ban to other blowers when people use them just to disperse dust into public right-of-ways. Let's strengthen the smoking ordinance like Menlo Park and San Francisco recent had done. When these things are done, then let's approach zero waste.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Jarred of Midtown put it so well: these people are indeed "petty tyrants." And here I really didn't think they could top themselves after banning plastic bags (thanks again Palo Alto). I'm sure most of us recycle as best we can. But there will always be trash, and the idea of trash police rooting through people's garbage is sick and absurd.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:19 pm

This thing is an eco fascist dream.

green waste has a clear conflict of interest as they profit from every " violation" they report.

The garbage workers will be rewarded for revenue as will management.
They could easily fake the pictures,they are the only witness.

What about dog walkers who put dog droppings in other peoples bins of all categories?

Today even the UN has admitted that the Green pyramid scam is even greater than Madoffs in its reach, they have launched an investigation of fraud.
What is the precedent for revoking Nobel Prizes ? could be a first--


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Posted by Joe Friday
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Just the facts Ma'am, just the facts.

Web Link

Sheesh people, with 58 registered comments, you'd think someone would've done a quick Google search to see the results of the "Beta" cities who have implemented similar programs.

You can put away the aluminum foil hats now, it's not the thought police coming, just Common Sense.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:52 pm


Central garbage facilities can robotize and sort easily and quickly, think of the time saved by home owners and parents with that system in place ?

Palo Alto is wasting money and time with this crazy initiative which we reject.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:55 pm

From Joe Friday's article

"[Seattle's] overall recycling rate returned to 44 percent in 2005, and the utilities department said the city is on track to reach Mayor Greg Nickels' goal of recycling 60 percent of the city's trash by 2010."

Uh, we in Palo Alto already recycle 62% - and that's without resorting what's being proposed. Maybe you should read the article that you cite.

I'll ask the same request to you Joe - maybe you'd like to share your trash with everyone here too, since you seem to be on board with having strangers take pictures of your trash?


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Posted by Joe Friday
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:48 pm

"Uh, we in Palo Alto already recycle 62% - and that's without resorting what's being proposed. Maybe you should read the article that you cite.

I'll ask the same request to you Joe - maybe you'd like to share your trash with everyone here too, since you seem to be on board with having strangers take pictures of your trash?"

---------------

Granted, the diversion rates achieved in Seattle are less than Palo Alto's notable acheivement of 62%, but you've only supported the concept, not debunked it. If Palo Alto can achieve such results without this program, then its possible more can done with it. Like many problems, multiple tools should be used, there is no cure all solution, only incremental improvements.

The other thing you failed to point out (or maybe didn't read?), is that a lot of the innuendo and hyperbole (like yours) never materialized in Seattle, just a nice 99.98% compliance rate, and that's after the 1st year of implementation.

So instead of the negative vibes, defeatism, general Scroogeness, and trying to intimidate others with your rhetoric, try proving your case, or wonders of wonders, come up with a solution of your own.

I posted a data point, which is one more than you've brought to the discussion with all your posted opinions.

"Any fool can have an opinion, and most fools do."


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Posted by Tired of Palo Alto
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 11, 2010 at 1:44 am

I don't eat meat, fish or chicken and haven't for 30 years. I buy used and donate to thrift stores. I ride my bike whenever I can. I haven't bought anything in a can since forever. No soda cans in my house. So, get off my back Palo Alto and if you are half as green as I am, you can climb back on, but until then, stop the nanny state nonsense.

Palo Alto is off its rocker sometimes. This is one of them.


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Posted by paresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:25 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:56 am

The fans of this new program can't see the problems of officials rooting around in your trash, taking photos, and fining you. The fans are focused on the goal: no waste. The point is to reach that goal the city will have to invade our privacy and police us in a new way. Certainly merits discussion, so please don't call me a fool.

This is being proposed in a city that has made huge efforts to recycle and cut down waste. Most of us do our best. Why not do a trial program and ask if any neighborhood is willing to be the guinea pig? (I'll vote no in my neighborhood!)


For you zero waste fans, you are zero clueless.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:11 am

"So instead of the negative vibes, defeatism, general Scroogeness, and trying to intimidate others with your rhetoric, try proving your case, or wonders of wonders, come up with a solution of your own."

This is a false premise. You're assuming that zero waste is a good, achievable goal. I certainly don't agree with that, and I don't think there's consensus on this.

It's being pushed by a minority to enforce behavior. It is a slippery slope to have government dictate behavior in this manner. That's what we're worried about.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:23 am

I looked outside at my 3 bins and noticed that the pizza box from our pizza delivery is resting near the bins. Evidently it didn't belong in the recycling bin so instead of stuffing it into the trash and taking it away like a good service-oriented company, they've left it on the street.

How attractive. How helpful.

I'll let you know if I'm fined for my egregious action.


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Posted by John Harrington
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:39 am

The Green Police? Here in Palo Alto?

Web Link


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Posted by Do we?
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:45 am

John--very amusing commercial, but I am sure certain people in Palo Alto wish that they could do that. There is a clearly "nanny" mentality in Palo Alto--where our "leaders" need to tell us what we should or should not due, because we , the unwashed masses, are not intelligent enough to decide for ourselves.
Do we want the likes of Yoriko Kishimoto, Peter Drekmeier, Larry Klein, Jim Burch, Emily Renzel and enid Pearson telling what we can and cannot not do? Do we want them inspecting our garbage for what they consider to be "illegal" content?
This is where we are heading with this "zero waste" craziness.


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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:22 am

"Do we want the likes of Yoriko Kishimoto, Peter Drekmeier, Larry Klein, Jim Burch, Emily Renzel and enid Pearson telling what we can and cannot not do? Do we want them inspecting our garbage for what they consider to be "illegal" content?"

While casting my vote against yet another way that our incompetent City Council and gov't can dictate our actions, I must confess, I find the above suggestion appealing.

I can think of nothing that would generate a more humbling experience than to have our City Council assigned to don jump suits and rummage through our garbage.

Let's ensure that this mandate (should it come to pass) must be executed by the Council itself on a curbside basis.

While they're at it perhaps they could recycle some of the incompetent revenue wasting employees who think their job is to wander around city hall gossiping about their colleagues. I can name a few and doubt they've all retired yet.

<--- perception of one who has efficiently recycled since long before Palo Alto city gov't or most others grasped the concept.


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Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:28 am

casey is a registered user.

If the city's Zero Waste Supervisor cannot correctly report what is recyclable and what is not, how are the people inspecting and collecting the trash going to be able to tell? Last year, I got a note after I dumped some orange peels into the compost bin. Now, if I turn around and place banana peels into the trash, is Clay going to fine me? Seems that if you really want to recycle every scrap and cannot trust our judgment, then single stream it and sort it yourself.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm

To Elizabeth - Midtown. Emily Renzel and Enid Pearson have nothing to do with the nanny -state 'ordinance'. Get your facts straight.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2010 at 12:45 pm

How about a more positive approach? 2 garbage/recycling programs (and costs). Lower fees for those who choose to recycle/sort in their homes. If you don't want to recycle/sort, then you pay a higher fee and your trash is hauled to a sorting company to do what you don't want to do.

If you're on the lower fee program and are found to consistently not able to follow guidelines, the city, after two notices/"infractions", moves you up to the pay-to-sort program. Come back a year later to try again if you want.

Green waste (yard clippings) not part of this program - still need to separate.

Why does this have to be so difficult?


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Posted by Seldon
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

"This is a false premise. You're assuming that zero waste is a good, achievable goal. I certainly don't agree with that, and I don't think there's consensus on this."

Since you've offered no data or evidence that supports increased recycling to be a bad thing, I'd say this is the false premise. I have my own misgivings about the term "zero waste", but we're a long ways from that at 62%, and with incremental progress towards that goal, there will be plenty of opportunity to reevaluate the pros and cons that arise, and adjust our sights accordingly. Currently at 62%, the pros certainly outweigh the cons.

------------------------------------

"It's being pushed by a minority to enforce behavior. It is a slippery slope to have government dictate behavior in this manner. That's what we're worried about."

I've seen this concern voiced in many of the posts, but nothing to backup these assertions, while there are places like Seattle that show positive results in using this recycling system, without the doomsday scenario's you speak of.

The problem with thinking about slippery slopes is that it forces people to consider extreme conditions, no matter how outlandish, and extrapolate to the nth degree, to somehow arrive to a relevant, realistic, balanced conclusion.

Let's clarify something else too. Unless you live in a direct democracy, which Palo Alto is not, you are ALWAYS pushed by a minority. The issue here is whether you agree with what is being pushed, not how this is being advocated in government.

Judge the movement on its merits. Judge it on its pros and cons. But if you come to this issue with only your opinion, its equivalent to wagging a hot dog in your hand at a duel.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm

This is almost ridiculously humorous!

It gives a new meaning to the term "narc." Do our trash collectors really have so much time on their hands as to look through the garbage while they are collecting it?

We are going to pay these men...who are not licensed officers of the state or county...and might not have any formal educational requirements for their job...to look through our trash and inform the authorities when they see something in it that shouldn't be there?

What happens when an angry neighbor "sets you up" by placing recyclables in your trash? How would you even prove that this garbage (cans, bottles, plastic or paper) was not your own?

Excuse me as I feel the need to hum the theme of "SECRET AGENT MAN" while I think about our local trash collectors, err, sanitation engineers.


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Posted by Put Peter in Charge
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 11, 2010 at 2:29 pm

[Comment removed by Palo Alto Online staff].


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Posted by asdfasd
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

This is bs.
How can they force people to recycle?
What if we don't believe that the extra energy required to recycle thing is less harmful than putting stuff in landfills? They should pay people to recycle rather than take away the rights of people who don't want to.
I am against recycling. Even if someone sorts the stuff for me, I would still mix it all up and put it in the black bin.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm

"Since you've offered no data or evidence that supports increased recycling to be a bad thing, I'd say this is the false premise. "

It's is a ridiculous circular argument. Heard of the law of diminishing returns? Or maybe you've heard of the 80-20 rule. It's basically the same thing - the extra effort to try to get that incremental benefit is completely outweighed by the effort to try to achieve that.

Since you are arguing for us to put this in place (it's change of the status quo), it is actually up to *you* to prove the social and financial cost of putting this burden on Palo Alto residents is less than the benefits than this so-called zero waste program in place.

By the way, where are the cost numbers here? I haven't seen anything. I bet the numbers are out there and the fact that we haven't seen them broken out tells us that they aren't pretty.

As for this statement:

"I've seen this concern voiced in many of the posts, but nothing to backup these assertions, while there are places like Seattle that show positive results in using this recycling system, without the doomsday scenario's you speak of."

So you're saying that we should do the same thing as a city that has put this in place, but has yet to meet what we can do here in Palo Alto?

Laws are laws. They are not meant to be screwed around with. It's not the same as your parents putting a curfew on you when you were a teenager. These types of laws can be used to abuse power if they are not equally applied.

The counter-arguments are, well, that's not the intention. If you have no intention of putting the wood behind the arrow of this law, why even put it in there?

WE SHOULD NEVER EVER PASS LAWS THAT WE HAVE NO INTENTION OF ACTIVELY ENFORCING.

Public Policy 101.


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Posted by garbage
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Where did this term "Zero Waste" come from? Clearly we all agree that, well, it won't be zero.

Policing of our trash invades our privacy and should not be forced on us. That is reason and logical enough of an argument against it. I don't want to have the city officials taking photos of my trash. The argument it's being done in SF or elsewhere is not proof that we should do so too. That argument is the "we know better" and it's for the "greater good". Invading people's privacy is not for the "greater good."

Frankly, the only way to get to "Zero Waste" is to eliminate people! We will never achieve that and what a boondoggle to grow more govt and more control over us poor taxpayers.

Most people in PA do recycle and do care very much about the environment. Reduce waste, yes, but zero waste, no, and an emphatic no to examining my refuse!


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Posted by Seldon
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm

"It's is a ridiculous circular argument. Heard of the law of diminishing returns? Or maybe you've heard of the 80-20 rule. It's basically the same thing - the extra effort to try to get that incremental benefit is completely outweighed by the effort to try to achieve that."

Agreed, that's why I have misgivings with 100% recycle rate. But you have yet to support your assumption that we've reached the threshold where the law of diminishing returns makes further improvement undesirable. Prove that, and you have more to stand on than your opinion. Throwing up an economic model sounds great. Proving that it applies to the situation at hand, determines whether its a strawman, or compelling argument.

-----------------------

"Since you are arguing for us to put this in place (it's change of the status quo), it is actually up to *you* to prove the social and financial cost of putting this burden on Palo Alto residents is less than the benefits than this so-called zero waste program in place.

By the way, where are the cost numbers here? I haven't seen anything. I bet the numbers are out there and the fact that we haven't seen them broken out tells us that they aren't pretty."

I have.

Web Link

The link I posted earlier supports my assertion that implementing a system of recycling enforcement similar to what has already been successfully done at several US cities can increase recycling rates, save money, and do so without the dire predictions of a police state that have been bandied around here. And that's a helluva lot more substantive data, than the unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and ethereal economic models, that you've presented so far.

It's ironic, that the posted newspaper article begins with,

"When the city of Seattle began punishing people who didn't recycle enough, critics said the city had gone too far by dictating how people should deal with their trash. A year into it, people seem to have embraced it."

Your fears are not unique. Hell, they're even understandable. But they don't appear to be justification that the recycling system advocated will bring the harm you think it will.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

San Francisco had a 72% diversion rate in April 2009. Diversion is recycling + compost. Until last fall, many apartment building didn't even have compost bins. The SF goal for 2010 is 75%. It's really not that hard. Buck up and just do it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ed
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Mar 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Communist state. Starting to sound like east germany.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Seldon,

"But you have yet to support your assumption that we've reached the threshold where the law of diminishing returns makes further improvement undesirable. Prove that, and you have more to stand on than your opinion. Throwing up an economic model sounds great. Proving that it applies to the situation at hand, determines whether its a strawman, or compelling argument."

Wait a minute.

Why am *I* (or any generic Palo Alto resident) having to prove this out? I am not the one with the cost numbers. The people proposing this program are responsible for developing the cost/benefit proposals. THAT'S THEIR JOB. THAT'S WHAT WE PAY THEM WITH OUR HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS FOR.

To say it is *our* burden as citizens to do this is, frankly, a stupid and inane request.

It's not the job of the citizens to have to do the work to justify these programs. However, it is right for us to question them and ask for the data, for which they have not yet supplied us.

By the way, your link does nothing to forward your argument that we should be doing this.
There's no substantive data that's relevant to what we're considering. Their savings may be derived from their 38% compliance to their 44% compliance they have today (and 60% goal for this year). We may already be capturing these so-called savings because we are at 62%. So the cost to go to 62% to 80-90-100% has not be seen anywhere.

The article omits very important details. But of course it does, because it's a newspaper article, not a study. Let's not confuse one with the other.


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Green Police are here in Palo Alto! Freedom is eroding in America.

Web Link


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

One wonders whether any alternative courses of action were considered, or did the staff simply simply pad the books to feed the Council egos? This was the impression I got from that meeting.
A pity that conservationists don't value the conservation of capital.


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Posted by Think of your children
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Yes, just think of our future generations. I 100% support this proposal.

Oops, I am not in Palo Alto. It's easy for me to say.



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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
We have been to " save the planet " meeting in PA where speakers saw the epidemics in Africa as a solution not a problem.
The logical approach to recycling is to dump everthing apart from yard waste into one container and have a central facility robotically sort it.
It is faster,cheaper and more efficient.

As it is now greenwaste will leave un collected any recycle containers that have a couple of pizza boxes.
green waste works for us, the tax payers----if they do not get it they need to fired and replaced--they have not been appointed the green police-- they are a garbage collection company and are performing below expectations-- time to get another vendor who has customer service in front of mind-- we are the customers


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Posted by Sally
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Zero waste is as achievable as the paperless office.

Get real, folks. How much will it cost to pay people to plow through our trash?

If someone finds a good independent garbage collector, sign me up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm

You've got to be kidding me. There are more important thing we need to figure out right now than this. What a sign that our city's residents have their priorities out of line.


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Posted by charlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I am really afraid of my lovely neighbor dumpping their stuff on my garbage can during the night before the pickup day. I suggest the city to provide a lockable garbage can before they begin peeking at it. How can I be sure!


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Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm

RE: Zero waste. Lets think about it and come up with ideas. What would remain in the garbage dump and not recycled? meat/fish bones, can you re-use that in some way? styrofoam would be outlawed, all paper and cardboard=recycled, all scrap metal=recycled, all plastic=recycled (if not recyclable plastic, should be outlawed), kitty poop - that's a hard one, baby poop and diapers ?, electronics=e-waste recycle, batteries-?? e-waste, but not recyclable? Furniture/wood/building materials should all be reused


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2010 at 4:27 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

In discussing other cities' level of compliance, recognize that it is a bureaucratic measure, not a reality-based one. It is based upon what the garbage handlers _see_ when they pick up containers.

Since the garbage handlers are not to look inside plastic bags, if you put recyclables inside a plastic bag before putting it in your garbage can, you are in compliance with the ordinance. You are only out of compliance if you don't bother to obscure those recyclables. I am not making this up--This question was asked and answered at the Tuesday March 9 meeting. And as someone at that meeting noted, the ordinance could thereby have the effect of increasing the number of plastic bags going to the landfill.

A green version of the Potemkin village.

On the flip side, if you do a really good job of minimizing your garbage, a passerby tossing a soft drink can/water bottle into your garbage container could put you out of compliance. What some households put out fits in a produce bag, and that single can/bottle becomes more than 10% of what gets picked up. The City's answer to this situation is that this would have to happen three week in a row for you to be penalized. Glad I don't live across the street from a park.


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Posted by garbage
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

In order to search your car, the police have to have probable cause. This sets a new precedent of searching your discarded waste at any time to enforce compliance. The argument that this has nothing to do with a slippery slope makes no sense to me. By extension the next steps, shouldn't more areas of our lives be searched/controlled to make sure we are in compliance with the environment -- too many empty rooms in your house? The argument that it's not punitive for the first year (or so) doesn't hold water. This is just one more set of controls on us and warming up the process to the next step.

Instead of getting praise for the good work we do already trying our best to recycle and reuse, we get more social engineering.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

No permission is required to look at trash out for pick up. Watch more cop shows. ;-)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

Will the garbage people have a quota for citations? -Otherwise, I wouldn't feel they would relish this task of looking at people's garbage and recycling closely.
I oppose this nonsense. Let's not let local city government expand (in all senses) and keep the current system and encourage people to recycle, reuse, and reduce but do not get involved with ridiculous policies, bureaucracy, and penalties. Also discourage littering.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Loop de loop
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

Perfect opportunity for the dormant and latent entrepreneurs here to invent a garbage can camera, embedded in the can - waterproff, smash proof, etc. etc. - maybe it can read mail, too, and put the results over a network. What fun! Maybe we can cost back to prominence. Who knows? That said, it's about time we did this - too many wasteful people out there. Fine them. Who knows, maybe we'll generate enough revenue to pay for a special prison for repeat offenders. Felony garbage offense, anyone?


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Posted by Seldon
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

"It's not the job of the citizens to have to do the work to justify these programs. However, it is right for us to question them and ask for the data, for which they have not yet supplied us."

---------------------------

Now you wait a minute.

I wholeheartedly agree that the burden of proof for substantiating this program is for those who support it, and that it is the right of all citizens to ask questions to make an informed decision....

But that's not what you have been doing:

"It's basically the same thing - the extra effort to try to get that incremental benefit is completely outweighed by the effort to try to achieve that. "

"Laws are laws. They are not meant to be screwed around with. It's not the same as your parents putting a curfew on you when you were a teenager. These types of laws can be used to abuse power if they are not equally applied."

These aren't questions, they are statements made with nary a supporting statement to qualify them. Your posts have been accusatory
in nature, but you've provided nothing to validate them as being real issues, as opposed to ones in your head. You may not be responsible for proving the validity of this program, but to be seen as anything but a whiner, you do need to substantiate your statements.

As I've said before, judge the program on its merits. Judge it on its pros and cons. Ask all the questions you need to to make an informed decision.

But if you come to the table with just a chip on your shoulder and a bag of "It won't work...." comments, and not EVEN a newspaper article, let alone a published study, to support your case, then you are nothing more than an armchair quarterback, screaming at the TV.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

First Seldon says

"I wholeheartedly agree that the burden of proof for substantiating this program is for those who support it, and that it is the right of all citizens to ask questions to make an informed decision...."

Fine. But then you go off and say this:

"in nature, but you've provided nothing to validate them as being real issues, as opposed to ones in your head. You may not be responsible for proving the validity of this program, but to be seen as anything but a whiner, you do need to substantiate your statements."

Really. So let's see.

I said:

"It's basically the same thing - the extra effort to try to get that incremental benefit is completely outweighed by the effort to try to achieve that. "

Are you reading this? You cut and paste, but you truly aren't ready my posts.

The people proposing this program have not provided *any* cost/benefit analysis to the public.

I'm asking for this data to make my informed decision. We have not seen any of that.

Therefore we must conclude that they are:

1) Incompetent - not thinking through all the details.

2) Trying to hide something - they have the numbers, but won't tell us because it won't justify this needless ordinance

Which is it?

As for my point about ordinances - yes, these types of things are abused daily. Let's use San Francisco Building Codes as an example, since the zero waste folks like to point to them as an example (though I think most sane and thoughtful people do think it's stupid to use San Francisco - or Berkeley - as a model of good governance).

If you have ever experienced what you need to do to get any sort of work done on your house, you understand how the system is so screwed up and how just one petty tyrant (love that phrase) can hold up projects, even though they aren't personally affected. It's the tyranny of the minority.

Furthermore, any thing to regulate "how things should be" always have unintended consequences. Let's look at San Francisco (again). All their laws on protecting renters and rent control has ironically reduced the number of units available to renters, and thus increased rents across the board when people move.

And let's not even go into the negative impacts of Prop 13 -- yet another "protect the public" effort.

We in California have a long history of dealing with the unintended consequences of "do-gooder" initiatives and laws.

Let's not continue this stupidity.


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Posted by Seldon
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 12, 2010 at 1:20 pm

"And let's not even go into the negative impacts of Prop 13 -- yet another "protect the public" effort."

Um, yeah, let's not go there....though you may be surprised to find that I'm with you on that particular issue. :)



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Posted by Senor Blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

The City just recently required us to wheel our own garbage to the curb, to make the pickup process more efficient ( and maybe raise some revenue). Now they want the "Efficient" collectors to go through the cans to ascertain what's in it.

ABSURD-THIS IS THE REAL GARBAGE HERE.


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Posted by senres
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Good point -- how much will the policing add to the costs? Or will that be covered by fining violators. The proposal says it's not supposed to be punitive -- double speak -- it will become punitive quite quickly, of course, and how punitive it will be, will be how the city officials feeeeelll about it. Yuck.

I understand that the airports have the right to go through my luggage and I don't mind that for safety's sake. But I don't have a choice of when and where to throw my garbage out and don't want cameras filming my trash. When do we citizens get to vote on this?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Recycling only works if there is a company willing to buy the recycled goods. I understand Green Waste has had problems trying to find buyers for our recycled goods. If other cities join in this recycled junket like Palo Alto there will be no market for recycled goods. End of recycling.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm

This forum is a lot of hot air about not much. Though I hope the city cites every one of you, I doubt anyone except the most egregious violators will even see a note on your waste receptacles. Do you really think the sanitation workers are going to meticulously pour through your garbage looking for banana peels or an occasional can? You're just too paranoid.


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Posted by (Not) Paranoid in Palo Alto
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

"Though I hope the city cites each one of you," eh? We are not allowed to have an opinion that conflicts with yours without punishment? I recycle more than most people I know and I won't be a target, but I find this whole scheme draconian. We don't know if the sanitation workers are really going to pore through our trash, but we do know if this is enacted, they will have the right to - and to charge us fines based on their opinion of whether we have too many recylables in our trash. We can safely assume that this new financial incentive will cause more scrutiny of what is in our trash in the future. If those of us making comments are representative of the population in Palo Alto, then the conclusion must be that this ordinance is not very popular (with good reason), and should be rethought, not that all of those who dare to question it are paranoid, and should be cited.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

How will this work if a resident feels they've been unjustly cited?

1) Anyone accused should have the right to view the evidence - will the garbage collect preserve the evidence?

2) As quite a few posters have stated, since the garbage cans are on a public street, what is the standard of proof that will be required that the resident put it in the garbage can?

3) Will the garbage workers take time off from their job to appear before the judical proceedings?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Fascism at work. What will the thought police think of next? Although the city says they will only apply the ordinance to "egregious" violators we have no control over what they choose to define as "egregious". Furthermore, once someone's garbage goes to the curb, there is no control over who else might toss stuff in there. How can they possibly prove the can owner is the violator?

Zero waste is a completely ridiculous and impractical goal. I have been using re-useable drink containers and conserving for over twenty years. I also do not always throw every scrap of recyclable in my trash. The thought that the city is going to search my garbage at their whim is really insulting.

Seems to me that "Big Brother" is alive and well in Palo Alto


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Just to clarify - my post just above - I am not the same person who hopes that the city will "cite every one of you". That is the kind of attitude that leads to these kinds of ordinances. I can't even believe they posted that. Nice that people like you are already ready to use the citations to punish people for thinking things you don't agree with. Just proves the point in my previous post. The ordinance is ridiculous and a waste of paper and wide open to allow abuse of the customers.


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Posted by pares
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

To the anon posting who wants "to cite every one of you" -- by your logic, why the new punitive ordinance since the city won't be really looking that closely. Instead of telling me I'm blowing hot air, why don't you/the city encourage the big violators to recycle more? Why make it punitive if the city has really no intention of actually citing most of us . . .

To me the "Zero Waste" moniker says it all -- it's not really achievable but will give the eco-extremists the ability to harass/fine us folks who already do recycle. It sounds so pure, no waste! Sounds religious, kind of like you are born a sinner and the only way for redemption is to follow the church leaders, only in this case follow the eco-extremists-priests.


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Posted by Hank
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2010 at 5:22 pm

NYC has been doing this for over 15 years....you guys are over-reacting!


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Posted by Overreacting in Palo Alto
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 14, 2010 at 9:25 am

Do we really want to emulate New York City, which at present has a legislator trying to ban the use of salt in the preparation of food in NYC restaurants? Just how much do we want city government directing every move we make? That is behind my objection to this scheme. Each time we decide that it's okay to give up more privacy or have government protect us from ourselves because it's for beneficial purposes, we cede more power to people who seem to have no ideas about how to handle the huge issues facing us now, but are more than happy to micromanage us to death over absurd, unreachable goals like Zero Waste. They are fiddling while Rome burns.


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Posted by pares
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 14, 2010 at 11:05 am

Overreacting, well said and its the crux of the problem. There's no end to measures that govt can enact to protect the people from themselves. Everything we do can then come under scrutiny by govt in order to "protect" the environment and our health.

Hank, we are already recycling, reusing, and reducing and Palo Alto led the way on that. So why the new punitive laws? I really dislike the term zero waste -- it sounds very much like you are born a sinner and the eco-clergy will just have to take care of you all your life to help you reach your zero waste goal. Sounds like a govt boondoggle to me.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

If our goal is zero waste, I have 2 questions:

Why can't residents compost food scraps in addition to lawn waste?

Why are we even considering eliminating the compost operation in Palo Alto?


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Posted by Ian
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I'm just back from a visit to my family in Glasgow Scotland. They too have garbage 'police." The consequence? In the dead of night, people throw their forbidden, or excess, garbage into other people's garbage cans. Of course, this is a crime that the police are eagerly monitoring--not.

The home owner has to monitor his cans to ensure he won't get the blame for that garbage in his can. Have you ever tried to prove that the stuff overflowing from your can isn't yours?

Voluntary compliance and education is the way to go.

Also, be mindful of the burden this places on elderly and infirm people. I help my elderly neighbor move her cans curbside because she is too frail to do it for herself. Adding more burdens, plus threats of fines, just makes life harder for people like her.


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Posted by Cecilia
a resident of Addison School
on Mar 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

How about the city check the garbage cans at Town and Country? I have gone to the business office 3 times asking when there will be recycling cans out and the response has always been that they are on order. There should be a requirement that shopping centers have the 3 types of cans - trash, recycling, and compost.


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Posted by pares
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 15, 2010 at 8:58 am

Cecilia good point. In fact there are a number of suggestions above that could be implemented now without the punitive measures. The Scotland experience is cautionary . . . sounds funny to hear but I don't want to fear my neighbors slipping things into my garbage. And locks on garbage cans, really, that's what it would come to. All for what?

What SF or NYC or Seattle does, doesn't follow that we must also go over the cliff. Let's put this measure to a vote. It would force the proponents to explain why it's necessary and explain costs/benefits.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

The Scottish situation is not alone, I know from friends who live in suburbia, Dublin (Ireland) that their cans are weighed as they are lifted into the trash collector and if they weight is over a certain amount they are charged more. As a result, people are dumping trash into neighbor's cans so that they don't go over the limit. Once again, people are watching for the collectors to arrive in their street before taking their trash to the curb and watching to see that no one else puts anything in the can at the last minute. Another supposedly good idea being thwarted.


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Posted by Tired of it all
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm

First off, how much is this going to cost? The City of Palo Alto certainly has to pay someone to go through garbage cans which I feel is an invasion of my privacy. And it will probably be a salary that is too high like the rest of the employees who get six figures. Secondly, when my recycling bin is picked up, the men who pick it up always drop some of the recyling. Do they stop and pick it up - oh no, I have to pick it up. It appears they don't care about it. Can the City focus on one thing and then finish it. The City has too many irons in the fire at a cost to us. Enough is enough.


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Posted by Anna
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I wonder if those who leave large holiday "tips" for the sanitation workers will be judged on a different standard of "egregiousness" than those who do not.

This entire proposal smacks of all the do-good big brotherism and authoritarianism that the environmental movement seems always to descend to.

Do we really want another class of our fellow citizens in the form of trash collectors that we have to walk on egg-shells around in fear that they might use the increasing cache of laws that micromanage our behavior to make our lives more difficult?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2010 at 10:29 am

What is it with this thinking that the best way to solve a problem is through laws and punishment. This should be the last possible solution. Yes, it would be great if we can reduce the quantity of garbage we produce. But why are people so willing to put more power in the hands of the authorities just because they think the concept is a good one? What happened to finding ways to encourage and promote recycling? If those of you who think this is a good idea really want to make an impact on the California garbage output, go down to Southern California and find a way to institute just basic recycling there. I know someone who lives in Orange County and there isn't even a recycling pick-up. Start recycling for an entire city and you will make much more of an impact than changing Palo Alto's trash by 10% or so. Let's get real. Just because something is a good idea does not mean that we should all embrace policing of it and ratting out people over it. That is a terrible attitude. Be careful what you ask for.


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