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[greenyes] Portola Valley's new program
Richard Gertman, who authored the article found at
sent the following comments to expound on the article.  I don't think they 
got through to the Greenyes listserve, so here they are:

Hi all,

I'm not on the GreenYes list serve (yet), but this was forwarded to me, so 
Alex - Yes, all of the collected wastes are taken to a MRF first and 
processed to remove some contaminants which must be properly disposed, but 
virtually all of the collected materials are hauled to the Z-Best site. 
Plastic garbage bags are opened only at the compost site, not at the MRF. 
So, their entire contents are transferred. The 81% is of the 78% 
transferred to the Z-Best Facility, or about 63% of the total. In most of 
California, paper, plant trimmings and food wastes comprise well over 75% 
of the total.
The loads are "processed to remove contaminants, coarse shredded, and 
composted. Following composting and curing, the materials are screened to 
3/8" minus, to remove the non-compostables and compostable materials that 
have not broken down, and this is the 19% residue that is landfilled.
More precisely [beyond the number of words allowed for in a standard 
publication] the process is that the transfer trailers unload on a tipping 
floor. Large/oversized items are removed manually. The pile is then loaded 
onto a conveyor, passes through a "bag breaker" - actually a high-torque, 
low-RPM shredder with a very coarse grind. The material passes along a 
picking belt where employees can remove aluminum and glass (that is 
back-hauled for recycling) and other contaminants (that become part of the 
total facility residue). The material passes under a magnet to remove 
metals (also recycled). The remaining materials pass on to the compost 
bags. After composting, the bags are opened, adjacent piles are combined, 
and the pile is allowed to cure. The cured materials are screened and 
stockpiled for shipment.
Unlike at a paper mill, the screened compost does not have a residue to be 
disposed. The compost is clean enough and of sufficient quality that it is 
sold for use as is.
Eric - YES, the two approaches are not at all exclusive. An ordinance 
requiring that no clean paper, glass, scrap metal, etc. be placed in the 
garbage would provide a cleaner stream for composting and divert more 
higher value materials into better use.
I believe that the ultimate is that we don't allow the disposal to land of 
any untreated wastes (just like the clean water act doesn't allow the 
release of untreated sewage into our waterways). If all of our putrescible 
garbage had to be processed (composted) first, not much of it would be 
When we started there were a bunch of fun discussions about the specifics 
of the new program. My favorite was what to do with a full bottle of 
pickles that someone wants to discard -ask them to: 1. pour the liquid down 
the drain, 2. put the pickles in the garbage and 3. recycle the bottle - 
unless they have a backyard compost bin and then they can skip steps 1 and 
2)? And of course, the same dilemma is true for liquid household cleansers. 
Also, we recover all of the household dry cell batteries, old tennis balls, 
broken toys, small appliances, textiles, etc. Then there is always the 
question of what else can/should we do with these things.
As for preserve the ability to charge the homeowner a "unit" rate for 
garbage, the other way solve this dilemma is not to have a truck with three 
compartments instead of just two, because there no gains in processing, but 
to change the way we charge for services. To get people to recycle, we 
(recycling zealots) encourage communities to charge for garbage and offer 
recycling services at no extra charge. Obviously this doesn't work if there 
is no garbage. I think the answer is to charge the resident based on the 
amount of service they receive, whether it is recyclable or compostable. 
What better way could there be to get people to reduce consumption of 
single use, quickly discarded items, and compost their food wastes at home! 
Many years back the good folks in Guelph, Ontario found that more 
divertable material was landfilled in a three sort (recyclables, 
compostables and garbage), than from a two sort + residue (recyclables and 
One other note in the sense of full disclosure, the small rural community 
of Portola Valley probably could not have done this on their own.  The fact 
that GreenWaste Recovery serves a larger area allowed them to have a 
facility with this capability, and the owners and operators of GWR had to 
have a commitment to new and innovative approaches to waste management for 
us to have had this offer!
Anyone that has further questions is more than welcome to e-mail me, or 
call to talk about how you can do the same thing.

Richard Gertman
Environmental Planning Consultants
1885 The Alameda, Suite 120
San Jose, CA 95126-1732

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