Nearly a year after it rejected recommendations from a previous committee for curtailing garbage in Del Norte’s recycling stream, local solid waste representatives created another committee last week to review the collections franchise agreement with Recology Del Norte.
Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore, chairman of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority Board, appointed commissioners Jason Greenough, a Crescent City councilor, and Del Norte County Supervisor Chris Howard to the new committee Thursday. The committee would be tasked with reviewing the current collections system, including rules of how items are collected and separated and what recycling programs are available in Del Norte County, according to SWMA Director Tedd Ward.
Recommendations could also include developing service standards for a new collections franchise, Ward said. He noted the authority’s current agreement with Recology Del Norte expires in June 2023 and said the ad-hoc committee should bring its findings to the full board no later than June 2018.
“There are a lot of different ways that we need to look at the whole picture of transforming our current collections system and what incentives are there,” Ward said.
Ward’s recommendation to form a second ad-hoc committee to address recycling issues came after Recology Del Norte General Manager Jeremy Herber read a letter addressing stricter standards China is imposing on recyclers in the U.S.
China has been the single largest consumer of recycled material generated in the U.S. for years, Herber said, consuming more than 50 percent of the world’s recycled paper and plastics in 2016.
In July 2017, the Chinese government banned 24 different types of recyclable materials, including certain plastics and papers, according to Herber’s letter to the DNSWMA dated March 26.
Known as the National Sword Policy, China also requires contamination for recycled materials not to exceed .5 percent, according to Herber’s letter. China had previously accepted baled recycled materials with an impurity level of 4-5 percent, he said.
China’s Ministry of the Environment reduced the number of import licenses in fall 2017, Herber continues. The Chinese government began enforcing the new standards on March 1, Herber said.
China’s new standards have impacted recyclers across the U.S., including Recology, whose processed material still falls within the 4-5 percent contamination range, Herber said. Some processors in Oregon and Washington have begun sending their recycled material to the landfill, but Recology isn’t going to do that, he said.
“We’re still processing recyclables ‘cause it’s the right thing to do,” Herber said. “There’s still a need for it.”
Herber said Recology has been investing into the further development of its processing plants to curtail the level of impurities in its bailed material. Recology has also been processing the recycled material it collects twice, he said.
Herber noted that the 10 percent level of contamination, an industry standard that DNSWMA has been striving to meet for the better part of a year, applies to recycled material collected from local residents.
Commissioner Lori Cowan, who served on the recycling ad-hoc committee with Inscore last year, said she was concerned that after discussing the issue for nearly 18 months, significant progress hasn’t been made. The contamination rate in Del Norte’s recycling stream is still at 18-25 percent, she said.
Cowan said she doesn’t know how Del Norte will be able to meet the 10 percent industry standard for curbside contamination of the recycling stream without the authority taking “drastic measures.”
“It’s been a year and a half for me and we haven’t gone anywhere except to clear bags,” she said. “That’s not progress.”
Ward, who included a timeline of actions the authority has taken since December 2016 to address local recycling, begged to differ with Cowan. He noted that in addition to banning plastic and opaque bags from recycling bins, the SWMA board eliminated milk cartons, styrofoam and hard plastics from the recycling stream.
The authority board also moved the recycling drop off bins from the Del Norte County Fairgrounds to the Del Norte County Transfer Station and held a town hall meeting.
The previous ad-hoc recycling committee as well as Recology Del Norte brought a handful of proposals to the Solid Waste Authority board seeking to curtail the level of garbage in the recycling stream. These included removing the community recycling bins and offering a 96-gallon trash cart as Recology’s standard service.
Although they agreed to move the bin at the fairgrounds, the Solid Waste Authority balked at removing similar community recycling bins at the north end of the county and rejected establishing a 96-gallon trash cart.
On Thursday Ward acknowledged Cowan’s frustration, noting the previous ad-hoc committee’s recommendations had been rejected by the full board. He said he hoped the committee process would be improved by it coming back to the board with “very specific findings and recommendations to move forward.”
While he was willing to serve on the new ad-hoc committee, Greenough said the authority board needs to look at more than just recycling because “the way we’re doing things in California isn’t working.”
Ward noted California has a goal of recycling, composting or source-reduction of solid waste by 2020 and a current mandate to divert 50 percent of recycling away from the waste stream. He suggested Greenough address his concerns with CalRecycle.
Greenough said the solid waste management authority should be lobbying to change that requirement.
“I don’t believe we should be vilifying our constituents and I don’t believe we should be passing all the costs to our constituents for what is, I believe, a misguided and a flawed system in California,” he said.
Inscore noted while there are multiple issues at play, the authority board’s top priority is reducing contamination in the local recycling stream. Inscore said he was concerned how Recology’s potential redevelopment of its processing centers would affect the community.
“As a disadvantaged community here, as a community whose median income is far lower than the state average, we’re not going to be able to raise prices to help Recology retool without it dramatically impacting our community financially,” Inscore said. “That’s my big concern right now in the interim. Not that Recology and other providers can’t reinvent themselves and retool and come up with ways to be more efficient and maybe prepare themselves for the long-term future of a new market. My concern is who’s going to pay for that and, frankly, I just don’t see our community being able to significantly see increases in rates for disposal for this uncertain future.”
In other matters the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority Board gave out Green Ribbon Awards to the following individuals and organizations:
• Walter Mackelburg and the Surfrider Foundation for multiple beach cleanups in 2017;
• The Inter Faith Fellowship Council for community cleanups in 2017;
• Roger Gitlin and his Take a Bite out of Blight program for community cleanups;
• Gerry Hemmingsen, Helen Ferguson and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for removing 200 tons of debris from Pacific Shores;
• Louis McCovey and the Yurok Tribal Council for hosting the Klamath River Cleanup;
• Richard Knutson and West Park Properties for improving recycling behaviors at their properties;
• David Slagle, Randy Scott and Hambro WSG for opening the buy back center at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds;
• Grant Werschkull and the Smith River Alliance for hosting river and community cleanups in 2017;
• Walmart for donating materials to support community cleanups in 2017;
• Home Depot for donating materials to support community cleanups in 2017
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .