News

Palo Alto to roll out curbside pickup for food scraps

City Council unanimously approves latest effort to divert waste from landfills

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.

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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."

Related content:

In its war on waste, city takes aim at residents' food scraps

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Palo Alto to roll out curbside pickup for food scraps

City Council unanimously approves latest effort to divert waste from landfills

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 24, 2015, 10:18 am

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."

Related content:

In its war on waste, city takes aim at residents' food scraps

Comments

PAmoderate
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2015 at 11:35 am
PAmoderate, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2015 at 11:35 am

"which will translate to a 6.1 percent increase in the refuse rate."

This is a tax increase, pure and simple.


Mr.Recycle
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm
Mr.Recycle, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Will the kitchen pail fit in the recycle bin? That's where mine is going.


Anonymous
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm
Anonymous, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

This program is not going to make a measurable difference to my waste stream and I don't see the point to it other than to increase rates.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2015 at 1:10 pm

For my last trash pickup I took out a half full kitchen/household waste bag which consisted of some bathroom waste, banana skins and similar, napkins, tea bags, some of the liners from cereal boxes and a few small miscellaneous items. This was the only item in my black can. My blue can was quite full.

My green can goes out about once a month with garden trimmings.

I have done all I can to reduce, reuse and recycle. For that I get a tax increase.

Scan the Cans and give those of us who want it, a mini mini can.

Otherwise, what is the incentive to do anything?


Craig Laughton
College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:35 pm
Craig Laughton, College Terrace
on Mar 24, 2015 at 2:35 pm

[Portion removed.]

Yes, our taxes are going up, and we get less useful service. Instead of using smart technology to deal with our wastes (e.g. plasma arc thermal destruction and syngas production to produce electricity), we get these luddite systems...with lots of more smelly effort on our own part.

Our city council has drunk the zero-waste kool-aid, but it is the rest of us who are forced into the tent to take it. Will PA leadership ever decide to actually LEAD our city into the future, as well as being an example for other cities to follow?


Resident
Community Center
on Mar 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm
Resident, Community Center
on Mar 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm

I am thrilled about this. It will make a big impact on our waste stream. And I am especially glad that the city is not requiring that we bag this waste. The compostable bags in my experience are problematic, leaking if wet, and generally not stretching well. Thank you Palo Alto!


Shirley
Southgate
on Mar 24, 2015 at 4:12 pm
Shirley, Southgate
on Mar 24, 2015 at 4:12 pm

"Will PA leadership ever decide to actually LEAD our city into the future, as well as being an example for other cities to follow?"

I agree with Craig Laughton. He seems to look at the future. Our City Council appears to be locked into the past.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Community Center Resident

I am pleased it will make a difference to your waste stream, but it will make very little difference to mine as I have been doing my best to reduce, reuse and recycle for some time. Now I am just going to be charged extra for having to put out three cans each week instead of two.


musical
Palo Verde
on Mar 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Mar 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Where do empty milk cartons and juice cartons go?
And while nice that we did away with styrofoam drinking cups, where do the plasticized paper ones go?
Not recyclable I've been told.
In the good old days we just burned them, and I suspect many campers still do.


No thanks
Greenmeadow
on Mar 24, 2015 at 6:48 pm
No thanks, Greenmeadow
on Mar 24, 2015 at 6:48 pm

My mini-can is three quarters empty each week. I recycle most of my stuff.
I don't want another bucket to clutter up my kitchen -or anyplace. I can us an empty milk carton or any empty box.
Someone is going to make a bucket full of money selling these cans to people who don't want them.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 24, 2015 at 6:59 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 24, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Maybe our data-driven city can start driving our streets and see how few houses actually put out all 3 cans each week,

I'm SO tired of getting charged for what I don't use AND getting hit with never-ending rate increases for that privilege. Most weeks I have only one partially empty can that I lug to the curb for the benefit of potential burglars casing houses for inactivity.

If the city thinks I'm ever going to approve any kind of spending bill, they can forget it.


JQPublic
Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 8:17 am
JQPublic, Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 8:17 am

"...[C]ouncil quickly approved the major new proposal with virtually no discussion."

PA needs a movement to run this city for residents, not a wide range of so-called stakeholders such as government worker unions, inbound commuters, developers, etc., etc., etc.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 9:37 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 9:37 am

Still very annoyed about this.

Still worried about vermin.

Still not sure what a "pail" may be, how big, will it go in a dishwasher, do we put the whole pail out or just a small bag of tea bags and banana peels inside the huge green can?

Still even more upset about the huge increase I have to pay.

Still upset that the Council passed this without any discussion about what people who have to deal with this on a weekly basis feel about it.

How many emails did they get?

How many people waited for hours and then gave up before getting a chance to speak on the topic?

How come this got passed?


rats and fruit flies
Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:00 am
rats and fruit flies, Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

I love this idea, but if I keep this can i my kitchen it's just going to bring fruit flies all summer, if I keep it on the back or front porch it'll just bring more rats to my yard. When is Palo Alto going to tackle the rat issue? My kids are sometimes afraid to play in our yard due to the rat problem


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:17 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:17 am

I think all of us objecting to this should just drop the pail off at City Hall since we know they won't be tracking its appearance in any of our over-priced waste cans.


Beth
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:20 am
Beth, Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:20 am

Why do we need special pails to do this? I agree with the person who said we can just use a recyled plastic container or a milk carton. And why is this costing more? I'm all for recycling as much as possible but this seems to be a ridiculous expense. Keep your pails City of Palo Alto.


casey
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:28 am
casey, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:28 am

How funny. I remember once when I dumped a lot of orange peels into the green cart and ended up with a note from the waste disposal engineer. Evidently not all byproducts from the garden are welcome.


Lucinda Abbott
University South
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:32 am
Lucinda Abbott , University South
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:32 am

This is the best news I've heard from the city in a long time!! The cost is less than $36 a year, for reducing greenhouse gases--a pretty cheap way to save the environment and feel good, too. What's with the constant naysayers on these forums? Quit whining and do something constructive!


Mr.Recycle
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm
Mr.Recycle, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm

@Lucinda Abbott - What's the opportunity cost of the $36? Do you really know that this is cheap, or is it more important to just feel good about yourself.


Mama
Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm
Mama, Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I have one small black can, and it only goes to the curb once a month max. Almost all food waste goes in garbage disposal. I will never use the compost can. What a waste!


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I don't think people would be so negative about the $36 if A) this was the first utilities increase we'd ever seen or B) if we hadn't been scammed repeatedly with pleas to conserve, conserve, conserve only to see our rates rise just about every year because we've been conserving too much and hence the city owes more on their contracts. And don't forget C) the fact that we're forced to pay for 3 cans when we only use 1 or maybe 2 each week and D) the constantly rising utilities rates supplement the general fund to make up for the lost sales tax revenues from the evisceration of our retail base.

Also, the constant "are you using more than your neighbor" mailings which waste paper and postage.

Please reread the recent Diana Diamond about how much we pay for utilities even when we use NOTHING because we're on vacation.


Mary
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:10 pm
Mary, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Meat bones?? Yuck! Since when are they compostable? This plan will embolden the already bold vermin in our neighborhoods. CAN WE OPT OUT? Some of us are composting on our own and doing just fine. This new plan will lead to health and sanitation issues.


jane
Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm
jane, Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm

This money will be siphoned off to the general fund and then we'll be told the program isn't paying for itself and the rate is going up. This is what our Utilities Department, presumably under the direction of our City Manager who needs more and more money to build his empire, and the council just acquiesce to his demands.


Greenmeadow Resident
Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:03 pm
Greenmeadow Resident, Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I was one of those who (unfortunately) had the pilot program thrust upon them unceremoniously last year. What a waste (no pun intended). I put as much as I can in the garbage disposal and the rest goes in with the regular trash. I did not use my compost bin once... not once! So, we all get stuck paying a higher rate for trash because our elected officials think this program might work. It wasn't overly successful during the pilot if I remember correctly. Why should things change now with the entire city being forced to go through a program that didn't work as a trial?


Good idea but...
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:14 pm
Good idea but..., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Does anyone know if this applies to townhome and condo communities too? None of the articles on this topic spoke about how this applies to townhomes/condos.


Mr.Recycle
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:51 pm
Mr.Recycle, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:51 pm

I'm in for a "drop off your bucket at city hall" day..


member
Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm
member, Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm

I am all for this - putting food waste down the disposal not the best route - it require water and wastewater treatment - and of those of us who have chronic sewage backup due to old root invaded pipes on the city side (which the city pays to have rooted an unplugged) it problem no matter how much water we send do the pipe to flush the food waste it is not good option. It maybe a tax, but it is a worthwhile one - so bring it on!


Maria
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm
Maria, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm

My garbage grinder takes care of practically all my food waste except bones, of which there are very few, and many weeks my black garbage can is empty.I agree with Mama and Beth that paying for a special service that is not used is is a waste of my money.


end user
Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm
end user, Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm

I put out 1/3 of a mini a week, if that. I'm taxed to pay for this? It's absurd. There is no savings of any sort here. The transportation costs to the landfill remain the same, it's just in a different bin. The sorting cost on the poor humans who have to do it is huge. Hello dog poop. Are you ready for that? Compostables compost, so they aren't problematic in a landfill as plastic. This whole thing is about some city department, or likely staffer, who wants it on their resume.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 9:55 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Do we REALLY need how-to-videos and "outreach" materials???

At least we know to whom to return the pails! I was just going to leave it at the desk for our Chief Sustainability Office but now that we know that Ron Arp is our "solid waste manager" he'll be the beneficiary.


Web Link

Residents, however, will see their monthly garbage bills increase by about 6.1 percent, or $2.63, to foot the additional $532,000 annual cost to turn the food scraps and yard trimmings into either renewable energy or compost, according to Ron Arp, the city's solid waste manager.

The council also approved a one-time expenditure of $387,000 for the small pails, which can hold several days worth of food scraps, and "outreach materials," including brochures and a how-to video.


Kate
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:12 pm
Kate, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Give us the names - or at least the home-city of the Palo Alto staff who thought up this ridiculous penance. Maybe their ages too. Our city council should cancel this right now because the residents' collective blood pressure is rising. ( It's supposed to be unusually warm this coming week.) I guess there has to be some concealed way to pay all the high salaries in the Utilities and Waste Management Departments. I hope ALL the Palo Alto Weekly readers will weigh in on this one. If we don't collectively raise *hXXX" over this, there will be no stopping these rules and regulations. Enough already!!!


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:06 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:06 am

>> 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.

And what is the benefit to offset this cost ... or is this just another boondoggle to rip the customer off for more money?

Do not do it if it does not pay for itself ... stop putting these idiotic costs on me and my neighbors.

Does the garbage company save on this, AND we are still being charged?


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:13 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 12:13 am

OR ... If I can be even more clear ....

I DO NOT WANT THIS!
I DO NOT WANT TO PAY FOR THIS!

WHERE CAN WE VOTE AGAINST THIS?


SteveU
Registered user
Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:15 am
SteveU, Barron Park
Registered user
on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:15 am

I need a McMansion kitchen. Is the city 'Feel good' program going to overhaul my <100sqft kitchen?

I already have a 'garden compost container' for peelings, egg shells, coffee., A CRV redemption bin and a Recycle bin in addition to the 'Trash' bin under the sink which is used for 'contaminated or mixed (coated) material and bones.

ENOUGH, I do not have room. With rents over $3/ft, neither do many Seniors or low income renters.
Bones or large cooked scraps do NOT go into my disposal.

Hauling these scraps long distances to a 'Processing center' is energy efficient and great for the environment?

No more 'feel good' programs


Pipe Dreamer
Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 2:48 pm
Pipe Dreamer, Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 2:48 pm

"My garbage grinder takes care of practically all my food waste except bones, of which there are very few, and many weeks my black garbage can is empty.I agree with Mama and Beth that paying for a special service that is not used is is a waste of my money."

Use the city's service, get something for your money, and save your pipes. That greasy grunge from the disposer builds up and it takes a $100 roto rooter visit to dislodge it.


Sandy
Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 3:50 pm
Sandy, Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 3:50 pm

This is absolutely ridiculous. Another error by the City of Palo Alto. The City raised our street sweeping rates and then we got less service. Just another way to make money which they will waste down the road anyway. And why do we need another bike bridge? We already have one. The City moves too quickly and we should be able to vote on this.


John94306
Registered user
Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm
John94306, Barron Park
Registered user
on Mar 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Excellent. We might be able to downgrade to a mini-can now, saving about $18/month.
So, the additional $2.63/mo could be worth it.
Not to mention that this approach should be better for the environment.


Long time resideny
Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm
Long time resideny, Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 4:18 pm

I am watching this joke from overseas. My neighbors and I have been doing this for years. And yes, the vermin can chew right through the green cans. Deduct a few of us from your supposed savings.


Garbage
East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2015 at 7:45 pm
Garbage, East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2015 at 7:45 pm

@ Kate

"Give us the names - or at least the home-city of the Palo Alto staff who thought up this ridiculous penance."

That would be City Staff Matt Krupp I am sure he will be happy to answer all your questions. Here is his number -650-496-5958.


Joseph
Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:14 pm
Joseph, Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2015 at 9:14 pm

I have been putting kitchen scraps in the green bin with garden leaves for months
Easily halved the garbage in my black bin

And now the city wants to spend $1/2million on buckets for each house?

Its easy to spend other people's money


PAmember
Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 7:35 am
PAmember, Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 7:35 am

Hello! Any purported "good for the planet" benefit of this is likely an illusion.

Everyone feeling good in their heart about this program should engage their mind and realize that the program requires tens of thousands of plastic (hydrocarbon) pails; requires more and different places to convey the scraps (burning gas/diesel to CO2 all the way); and takes away from a landfill's inherent corrosion/decay to a more natural state.

For what? Food scraps decay by substantially the same chemical processes whether the scraps are with other trash in a landfill or above ground in a compost heap. The decay may be faster in a compost heap, that's all. There is no real benefit here.

And diverting food scraps away from landfill comes at a detriment to the landfill: as landfill, the scrap's moisture, etc. would aide corrosion and decay of other landfill components. In other words, fewer/no scraps leaves a more sterile landfill that will persist as such even longer. Or soil has to be moved about and inserted to take the scrap's place (also burning gas/diesel to CO2 all the way).

There's certainly less material to send to landfill under this program, which should save landfill fees. But, as we know, there are no overall cost savings. To the contrary, as with most feel-good programs, this program costs more.


Mike
Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm
Mike, Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Will not, I repeat will not use new container, or rather vermin and stink collector.
I live part time here and part time in Colorado. It is refreshing upon returning to Colorado some sense of common sense is practiced by the City Council in Fort Collins.
I guess the next step will be to outlaw stores like Home Depot or plumbing supply shops to sell garbage disposers to Palo Alto residents. Or perhaps additionally the building permit process will mandate no new garbage disposer.
Again I repeat in no way will use the container and agree with a previous comment asking whether this new container will fit into the recycle container.


musical
Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm

@Mike, regarding the next step... You've no doubt heard that traditional fireplaces are illegal now in new construction. Soon will need to be removed from existing properties before any resale. And I'm hearing noises about doing away with Natural Gas service altogether. But we'll probably still be charged for the meter, whether we have one or not. Makes as much sense to me as anything else.


resident 1
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2015 at 8:25 pm
resident 1, Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 28, 2015 at 8:25 pm

The whole subject of waste has become so time consuming - it is like the residents are doing the work of the people we pay to do this.

And the street cleaners - have you read their instructions? They expect the street clean and picked up before they come. We have street trees dropping leaves and we are expected to pick it all up so the street cleaner does not have to deal with it.

And the bugs that are in the green bin - I have to wash and clean it after pick up so it is not a breeding ground for flying insects.

Managing waste is a big job and the residents are the people doing the job. And we are expected to pay more for this.


resident 1
Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm
resident 1, Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Idea for fireplace - saw this at a Christmas Party - looked great and have copied it. Put in a center piece candle holder - spreads out so there are 6 positions for candles. Use large 6 inch in back and shorter 4 inch in front. When lit this is very festive and does not produce big smoke.

I personally do not burn anything else in the fireplace since the odor comes back into the house from outside.


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