Palo Alto wasted no time Monday in approving a new trash-hauling program aimed at diverting local food scraps from landfills.
After the briefest of discussions, the City Council voted unanimously to introduce a curbside pickup service for food waste to all residential customers. Once the program launches in July, residents will be able to mix in their meat bones, banana peels and other food scraps into their green bins. The food scraps could either be mixed in with yard trimmings or placed into the bin in compostable bags. The organic waste would them be shipped for commercial composting.
To help residents isolate their food waste for the new program, the city will provide kitchen pails for residents. The goal is to re-energize the city's ongoing effort to divert more waste from landfills and to get closer to the idealistic "zero waste" goal.
After climbing from 62 percent in 2008 to about 78 percent in 2013, the effort has largely stalled. With food scraps making up about half of the residential garbage, Public Works officials see this as the most promising route toward raising the diversion rate further.
The effort will also raise the city's trash rates. Staff estimates the curbside pickup of food scraps to cost about $532,000 annually in additional spending, which will translate to a 6.1 percent increase in the refuse rate. For a 32-gallon garbage service, this means an extra $2.63 on a monthly bill, according to staff.
The council agreed that this is a price worth paying. After spending more than four hours wrestling with the deeply contentious topic of office growth, the council quickly approved the major new proposal with virtually no discussion. Most council members didn't say a word before casting their votes. The council's Finance Committee had previously vetted the proposal and had tacitly approved it, also with no dissent.
"I'm glad were moving forward on this," said Greg Scharff, who sits on the Finance Committee and who noted that the program has been on his "bucket list." "Many people have asked me why we don't have residential composting."