Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:12:54 -0500


You're correct. The CA law does not give absolute flow control authority to
local governments. Local governments weren't supposed to be the only ones
implementing the law, only to oversee to make sure that things happened. The
intent was to recognize that local governments controlled a lot of what made
things "economic" for the private sector to do, and AB939 was intended to
change that. Local governments were supposed to look at their contracts,
permits, rate structures, zoning, taxes, and policies and determine how they
could change those to encourage reuse, recycling and composting, instead of
just landfilling. Unfortunately, a lot of locals did not understand that
intent, and just opted to have their local waste hauler implement programs.
This put local waste haulers directly in competition with traditional
recyclers, resulting in endless litigation in CA over the defintions of waste
and recyclables, and related terms. Also, it took us 3-4 years since 1989 to
adopt changes in the measurement system of AB939 to make it workable - now
it's based on measuring what was disposed in landfill in 1990 and what's
disposed now, which is the way I'd recommend designing the system (or a per
capita approach).

I still believe the idea of AB939 was correct - but some of the finer points
that it missed were:

- clearly authorizing fee for service recycling so that private recyclers
could continue to serve customers in bad markets as well as good
- sharing the responsibility for implementation between the public and
private sector; putting the burden solely on local governments was a tragic
mistake that has led to many problems. Hopefully, in the future, we'll
correct those by broadening the goals to apply to businesses as well as state
and local governments.
- funding mechanism for local government programs. It authorized locals to
enact fees to fund their programs, but locals didn't have the vision or
understanding to justify those fee increases.
- strong market development programs linked to AB939. Although the RMDZ
program has been great in many respects, the financing system it provides for
new project development is mediocre at best.
- clearer understanding of waste prevention, reuse and repair and program
emphasis on this. Although it's at the top of the hierarchy, there has been
little done by anyone on this. This is where major savings will occur, but
requires major redesign of manufacturing processes to realize.

Good luck with yours.

Gary Liss