Redirecting 75% of waste materials away from the landfill by 2020 will require major efforts on many fronts. Some of these need to come from the state level, such as support for large-scale recycling facilities to create more recycling-based jobs in California. Policies implemented at the state level, such as Assembly Bills 341 and AB 1826 that mandate commercial recycling and composting, will need to be successfully implemented and enforced. Most importantly, it will call for even greater participation in recycling by the general public.
Changes to the way the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (known as CalRecycle) calculates local government diversion from disposal has allowed the Culver City Public Works Refuse and Recycling Division to think outside of the bin. Our Environmental Programs and Operations (EPO) team has been able to think of new ways to reduce waste and pursue creative methods to manage waste.
Out of this think tank, EPO has created programs that focus on education and building better systems of disposal at the ground level.
Some of the milestones include:
• Creating a Food Waste and Organics Recycling Program – Although this program has taken time to develop, we anticipate that it will become one of the Division’s premier programs. This program began in 2008 with Sony Pictures Entertainment as the only customer. With lessons learned about purchasing in the cafeteria and consumer disposal at the waste bins, EPO was able to adapt the program and roll it out citywide in 2013. The City Unified School District was the first customer for the expanded program. The lessons learned in initiating food waste recycling at the individual schools prepared us to assist new customers throughout the city.
• Creating More Opportunities for Our Drivers – Our refuse and recycling drivers are the eyes and ears of the Division when they are out on their routes. They can provide daily feedback to management that can
improve routing, dispatch, and customer service. Many times, the route crew identifies businesses needing new, improved, or additional services for recycling.
• Enhancing Recycling Programs for Businesses – The Division now has a representative available to go to business sites and work with companies in Culver City to start or enhance diversion programs. The
representative can provide an onsite waste assessment and provide a recycling proposal that includes cost analysis and recommendations to comply with the current law, as well as proposing education and training for the kitchen and janitorial staff, if needed. The representative acts as a liaison with Customer Service as businesses add new services, such as Food Waste and Organics Recycling. This is an important tool as many business managers are pleased to find that they can better manage their disposal costs through enhanced diversion.
• Maintaining Electronic Waste and Household Hazardous Waste Events for Residents and Commercial Businesses – Hazardous waste regulations characterize certain materials as “universal waste,” including
fluorescent lamps, batteries, mercury-containing items, and electronics. In the past, some of these items could be disposed with household or business trash. Now, all universal wastes are banned from the trash. The Division works with county agencies to provide programs for proper recycling of these materials.
• Developing and Implementing a Zero Waste Plan for the Annual Fiesta – Culver City’s Annual Fiesta is a citywide, three-day party in the park, which occurs in late August and attracts more than 50,000
people. This year, EPO was able to divert upwards of 90% of event waste from the landfill. We look forward to continuing the effort and sharing our lessons learned. We will also be encouraging promoters of other events in the city to strive for Zero Waste.
With more requirements on the horizon, 75% diversion by 2020, and new technological developments in the waste world.
–Catherine Vargas is Culver City’s Environmental Coordinator