Mandatory Recycling Now Enforced in Alameda County; Businesses and Multi-Family Properties Making Strides in Reducing Waste
In July 2012, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) Mandatory Recycling Ordinance 2012-01 took effect in Alameda County, requiring businesses generating four or more cubic yards of garbage per week and multi-family properties with five or more units to provide adequate recycling collection service for the amount of recyclable material they produce. Since then, hundreds of businesses and property managers have increased recycling activities, thereby helping to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Alameda County and collectively saving more than $350,000 in reduced garbage bills.
The ordinance is now being actively enforced through on-site inspections of covered accounts, and accounts that fail to comply with requirements could face a penalty. Upon the first observation of a violation an Official Notification will be issued, a second violation will result in a warning letter and a third will result in a citation. At that point, a fine may be issued. Since enforcement began in January of 2013, more than 11,000 inspections have taken place resulting in over 1,400 Official Notifications for Ordinance violations. Violations observed have been for failure to provide recycling collection service, disposal of “Covered Materials” in the garbage (cardboard, newspaper, white paper, mixed recyclable paper, recyclable glass food and beverage containers, aluminum and metal food and beverage containers, PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastic bottles), insufficient recycling collection service and refuse found in recycling containers. The most common violation observed has been failure to provide recycling collection service.
Fortunately, it is easy to avoid violation through compliance, and free assistance is available to ensure that affected business and property managers know what recyclable materials are covered under the ordinance and what actions they need to take. Since the ordinance took effect, the ACWMA Mandatory Recycling Business Assistance team has helped over 350 businesses and property managers start or increase their recycling service, resulting in significant savings and an overall GHG emissions reduction of 38,785 mtCO2e, which is roughly equivalent to reducing emissions from more than 8,000 passenger vehicles or more than 4 million gallons of gasoline consumed.
Garbage and recycling service providers and city recycling staff throughout the County have also assisted hundreds of businesses and property managers to start or improve their recycling programs to be in compliance with the ordinance.
Many businesses in Alameda County are proving how easy it is to recycle and going above and beyond in their efforts to improve their systems.
Twenty-four McDonald’s restaurants in Alameda County, including three in Livermore and one in Oakland, have recently been recognized as leaders in waste reduction. McDonald’s Pacific Sierra Region took a restaurant-by-restaurant approach to ensure every property had the resources needed to comply with city-specific guidelines for implementing proper sorting practices. Employees at these model restaurants now collect recyclable and compostable materials from kitchens while customers sort materials for recycling and composting with the guidance of custom signage. The Business Assistance team provided bilingual staff trainings to help launch the new programs.
South Shore Center in Alameda, a 594,000 square-foot open-air shopping destination, enlisted the Business Assistance team to set up or increase recycling systems for its 62 tenants. Business tenants received customized implementation toolkits and were equipped with the proper bins, signage and training resources. The property also repurposed a garbage compactor to collect food scraps/organics, and was able to increase its overall recycling rate from 11 percent to 62 percent in the year following the ordinance taking effect.
C.U.R.A. Inc. in Fremont, a non-profit residential therapeutic community for the treatment of chemical dependency, only had a garbage program before working with the Business Assistance Team to implement a recycling program. The Team organized a recycling training for C.U.R.A.’s 50 residents and 15 employees and set up proper recycling containers with signage in offices and common spaces. With their new recycling program, C.U.R.A. now saves over $3,000 annually on disposal costs and recycles and composts 75 percent of their waste.
Phase 2 of the Mandatory Recycling Ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2014, expanding coverage to all businesses (including smaller ones with less than 4 cubic yards of weekly garbage service) and adding discarded food and compostable paper to the list of Covered Materials in jurisdictions that elect to participate. Covered accounts will have six months to comply before Phase 2 enforcement action begins on January 1, 2015.
The Mandatory Recycling Ordinance was adopted as a key strategy to help Alameda County Waste Management Authority reach its long-term waste reduction goals — specifically to ensure that less than 10 percent of the waste sent to landfills by 2020 is recyclable or compostable material.
For additional information about the Ordinance, including details about who is affected, how to comply, or to request free assistance, please review the RecyclingRulesAC.org or call (510) 891-6575.