GreenYes Digest V96 #29

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GreenYes Digest Fri, 22 Nov 96 Volume 96 : Issue 29

Today's Topics:
City punts on curbside recycling

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Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 22:38:16 -0700
From: (Carolyn Chase)
Subject: City punts on curbside recycling

Here's my quick report on the City's hearing on curbside recycling expansion.

Also available are:
1. Article entitled "The True Costs of Recycling" by Stuart Watson which
will be published in the Dec SD Earth Times and
2. My testimony, at the hearing.
Both these items were passed out to the Committee today.

If you want either or both of these, let me know.

Thursday, Nov 21, 1996
The City Natural Resources and Culture Committee heard testimony this
morning on the latest City Manager's recommendations related to expanding
curbside recycling in the City of San Diego.

When I say _related_ to expanding curbside, I mean to say that the report
was not really about recycling, it was about money. The action taken by the
Committee - to order staff to continue discussions with industry and the
public and to come back with something else, demonstrated a lack of
political commitment combined with a less than thorough understanding of
the complicated equations of waste and resource management in the City - as
well as what works and hasn't worked - elsewhere.

The City currently provides "free" curbside recycling to about 82,000 homes
with another 120,000 going without. But the Council is evidently loath to
come up with the money to fund any expansion ($8-10 million dollars in
estimated program start-up costs in the first year - though with a program
redesign, some think it could be reasonably expanded for only $5
million...and some say less).

The Department claims that increasing funding from the current funding
source, the Refuse Disposal Enterprise Fund (tipping fees from Miramar),
"would be a substantial impact on the Refuse Disposal Enterprise Fund's
$36.8 million operating budget and could jeopardize the Fund's ability to
finance the acquisition of a new landfill site." They go on to list the
most useful and popular programs that would stand to be cut if curbside
recycling were made a priority.

For a number of sensible reasons the City is addicted to making money off
of waste and is incredibly efficient at it. And while they are to be
applauded in a variety of creative recycling and waste reduction efforts,
the transition from this landfill-based regime to a resource-based regime
is what's at stake in this ongoing process. But making this transition will
not be easy in the City where trash generates significant revenue for items
that would otherwise have to be picked up by the General Fund.

The public testimony was pretty much all in favor of finding a way to
expand recycling via using some kind of mandatory requirement, most feeling
that the simplest way would be to move ahead with banning designated
recyclables from disposal at Miramar, and leaving the choice of how folks
then took care of those recyclables up to the individual.

But the Committee seemed loath to consider anything that smacked of being
"mandatory." Given that the only economically-sustainable programs have at
least some kind of mandatory element, this shuts out any realistic options
for curbside implementation. It was deemed premature to recommend
eliminating the current inefficient system either. And they can't come up
with any new money because of California's recently passed Prop 218 which
requires a vote for any new taxes. The City is saying Prop 218 prohibits
them from charging a fee for recycling.

Some of us wonder about the finances supporting an effort for any "new
landfill site." Maybe this could be the source for recycling expansion as
many see no need for a new landfill site. But the City would like to make a
deal to control all or part of Sycamore Canyon landfill which has anywhere
from 20-40 years of capacity. Though Sycamore is within city limits, it's
controlled by the County and since the County took back control of their
waste-assets a few weeks ago, it seems that Sycamore is not on the sales

I don't believe that there will ever be another landfill sited in the City,
so if acquisition is not an option, I should think the Department should
adjust its financing to eliminate consideration of a new a landfill
goldmine for the City - though I understand its appeal given the current

Channel 8 sent a camera down and a good piece made it on the air.

Some sound bites from:
Carolyn Chase (that's me) - representing Californians for Quality of Life
"This City makes things happen for quite a bit more money than this all the
time, I can tell you." "It's a lack of political will" "I don't see why the
Council doesn't just show some leadership and make it happen."

Scott Harvey, representing the San Diego Disposal Association was quoted as
saying the private haulers could do it for $2-$5 per month.

Bob Epler, Deputy Director, Env Services Dept. was quoted explaining how
the People's Ordinance prohibits the City from charging for trash pick-up.

Testimony was 10 to 1 against the proposal before the Committee, with even
the one person testifying in favor of plan, commenting he and his group
were in favor of banning recyclables from the landfill. People addressing
the Committee included representatives from haulers, voluntary recycling
groups, some institutional recycling programs and the general public.

The report had recommended that the City solicit bids for franchise
agreements between private haulers to service curbside in a voluntary,
fee-for-service program. This approach has not been successful in any known
jurisdiction, since the costs of collection is highly dependent on the
number of participants and the routes.

All of the committee members proclaimed their support for recycling and
frustration with the lack of viable alternatives.

Ironically, the first item on the agenda that day had been a report on a
$100 million+ program to recycle and repurify water.

Too bad no one made the connection that recycling of other resources is as
important and valuable as recycling of water. But no one seems to be able
to find $5 million in a City with a multi-billion dollar budget....

Judy McCarty laid it at the feet of the "environmental community" which
"I've been telling them for ten years" they have to do something to help
solve this problem. Some of mistakenly thought it was up to the City
Council to do something.

But even though they'd really, really like to, they just can't....

more to come

"Every American citizen is involved in politics; it's just that some people
do politics, some have it done to them.

Carolyn Chase,
Please visit ;-)
San Diego Earth Times,
Earth Talk radio on AM1000 KCEO, Wednesdays 7:07pm - 8pm
Earth Day Network

Tel: (619)272-7423 (SDET)
FAX: (619)272-2933
P.O. Box 9827 / San Diego CA 92169

'You've got to conserve what you can't replace'


End of GreenYes Digest V96 #29