by Alan Pryor
At their July 28 meeting, the Davis Natural Resources Commission received a report from their Zero Waste Subcommittee on the status of implementation of the green waste containerization in Davis including their recommendations to improve on the previously considered roll-out programs. That Zero Waste Subcommittee report follows in its entirety after this introduction.
The report and recommendations were accepted unanimously by the NRC with a condensed final wording of the recommendations and the report to be submitted to Council.
On August 18th, the Davis Bicycle Advisory Commission met and also considered the Zero Waste Subcommittee report. After discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to accept and support the report and the recommendations in that report.
These recommendations generally specify that:
1) Single or multiple (if requested at no additional charge) 95-gallon green waste containers be provided to all ratepayers for all yard wastes and kitchen wastes (even including meat and dairy wastes). These green waste bins will be emptied once per week on the regularly scheduled trash-recycling pick-up day.
2) On street pickup with the claw be provided on an on-call basis with the individual ratepayer paying for that specialized service. Pickup details (available dates and charges) to be arranged with DWR and Staff.
3) Green waste is not be to placed in the street prior to 2 days before pick up and green waste piles can never block or extend into marked bike lanes.
4) Grass clippings must always be put into the green waste bins to minimize urban water runoff contamination(i.e. grass clipping are never allowed in green waste piles placed on the street for on-call pickup).
Given the nature of citizen activism in Davis, unanimity amongst the Commissioners in a single Commission on any one issue is not often seen. To see two Commissions with mostly disparate interests to unanimously agree on an issue of overlapping, common interest is quite rare and speaks to the strength and logic of the underlying proposal.
ZERO WASTE SUBCOMMITTEE REPORT ON GREEN WASTE CONTAINERIZATION presented to natural resources commission
July 28, 2014
Background and Current Status
Current State law requires changes in Davis’ multifamily, commercial, and single-family solid waste management practices to meet future minimum diversion rates. To achieve increased diversion in single family residential homes, the City’s Integrated Waste Management Plan recommended that weekly pickup of loose, in-the-street green waste with the claw be replaced by use of green waste containers into which both green yard waste and all food scrap waste can be placed.
Currently, almost all cities in California rely completely on green waste containerization. Some wealthier communities in the Bay area with extensive tree canopies (e.g. Palo Alto, Menlo Park) provide seasonal green waste pickup with the claw to accommodate leaf fall while some other local communities that have recently transitioned to green waste containerization also provide seasonal pickup or on-call pickup for a fee (e.g. Sacramento and Woodland). This practice in these cities have proved to be problematic according to their waste removal management staff. Currently, only 3 cities in California (San Jose, Modesto, and Davis) still rely completely on the claw for residential green waste collection.
The City Council considered the matter of transitioning to green waste containerization on February 26 as reported in the following article by Zero Waste subcommittee member Michelle Millet in the Davis Vanguard on March 2.
New Organic Waste Collection System Adopted – Davis Vanguard – March 2, 2014
by Michelle Millet
On Wednesday, council adopted a plan that will change the way the city collects organic material. The plan will move the city away from a strictly loose-in-the street collection method to one that combines seasonal and scheduled street pick-up with containerized collection of organic materials.
Staff presented council with the following 4 options, all of which include the distribution of a 95-gallon cart to each residence, allowing for weekly collection of food scraps and other compostable materials along with yard waste:
1) Weekly carts collection only, no loose street pick up
2a) Weekly carts collection plus seasonal street pick up & 4 free on-call pick ups other 10 months.
2b) Weekly cart collection plus seasonal street pick up & quarterly free scheduled pick ups other 10 months.
3) Weekly carts collection plus one free on call pick up (additional will have a fee).
Summary of Program Options
|Option||Seasonal Street Pick- up||On-Call Pick-Up||Weekly Street Sweeping||Food Scraps||Days of Yard Material in Street||Potential Cost (Green Waste + Street Sweep)|
After some discussion council voted to approve a motion made by Brett Lee that slightly varied Option 2(a). Lee’s proposal increased the number of scheduled loose-in-street collection pick-ups from 4 a year to 10 to allow scheduled monthly pickups.
After questioning DWR about the cost of the different options Lee put forward his proposal, arguing that a plan which offered a higher frequency of available street pick-up would better meet the varied needs of the community without significantly increasing the expense.
Under this plan residents will receive a 95-gallon green waste cart for yard waste, food scraps, and other compostable materials that will be collected weekly on a year-round basis. Loose in the street weekly collection will occur for 2 months of the year, and tentative dates for collection are Oct. 15-Dec 15. For the remaining 10 months of the year one loose-in-street collection day will scheduled. Council advocated for DWR to implement a consistent monthly pick-up schedule in order to minimize confusion.
While several council members acknowledged that increased cyclist safety was one of the benefits associated with a green waste containerization program they wanted to make it clear to the public that this was not the driving force behind this policy change.
Frerichs, Wolk, and Swanson all expressed concern that the city would not be able to renew its storm water quality permit if it continued with an exclusive loose in the street collection method.
Public Works Director Bob Clarke explained that city currently operates under a state-wide general storm water quality permit and the language of the permit requires best management practices. He stated that” there are a number of people in the regulatory world who don’t believe that loose pick-up of green waste is the best management practice.” He predicted that the regional board will soon decide that loose leaf pick-up is no longer an acceptable practice due to its negative impacts on storm water quality.
Mayor Krovoza focused on the composting benefits that a containerization program offers. He emphasized that for the city to reach its 75% waste reaction goal a food scrap collection program is necessary. He stated, ”We can’t go to composting of food scraps without exorbitantly high cost unless we go to green waste containerization”.
It is uncertain when DWR will be ready to begin implementation of this new organic waste collection system but it seems unlikely that it will occur this year.
Despite this delay, council urged staff to begin outreach efforts soon to educate the public about the changes that will come with this new policy.”
Further Considerations by the Zero Waste Subcommittee
The following issues were subsequently considered by the Zero Waste Subcommittee when evaluating the different green waste pickup options under consideration by the City:
1) Annual Costs of Continued Use of the Claw under Different Circumstance Compared to Complete Green Waste Containerization
No monthly costs estimates were given by DWR for the claw use option proposed by Brett Lee (i.e. weekly seasonal pickup during a 9-week leaf fall season and once per month scheduled pickup the other 10 months of the year. Based on the calculated cost per claw pickup with seasonal pickup and 3 additional quarterly scheduled pickups, however, one can calculate the likely estimate cost per additional scheduled claw pickup as $4.14 as shown in Appendix 1.
Based on this estimate, the following ANNUAL costs for full green and food scrap waste containerization with no claw service can be compared to the DWR estimates for the various options proposed by Staff and for the “Lee” option moved by Councilmember Brett Lee at the February 26 meeting when the matter was last considered.
|Option||Seasonal Street Pick- up||On-Call Pick-Up||Weekly Street Sweeping||Food Scraps||Days Yard Material in Street||Annual Cost (Green Waste + Street Sweep)||Additional Annual|
Cost Compared to Option 1ExistingYesNoYesNo365$162.96 $15.841NoNoNo*Yes0$147.12 02AYesYesYesYes365$222.00 $74.882BYesNoYesYes84$196.80 $49.683NoYesYesYes365$215.76 $52.80Lee OptionYesNoYesYesUncertain$225.78 **$78.66 **
** – Estimated based on DWR quoted prices for Option 2 adjusted for 7 additional scheduled pickups per year per the Lee Option – See Speadsheet Appendix 1).
2) Opposition to and/or Acceptance of Green Waste Containerization by Public
Some citizens have vocally complained to Councilmembers in the past about eliminating the use of the claw and completely replacing its use with green waste containerization for green waste and food waste pickup. These complaints were generally driven by the 1) the perceived inconvenience of handling the large green waste containers, 2) concern over additional space requirements for another large container on each property, and/or 3) insufficient container size/space during large green waste generated events such as fall leaf drop and seasonal pruning. Based on anecdotal observations, these complaints seem to be primarily generated by residents in neighborhoods with extensive, mature tree canopies and/or comparatively smaller plot sizes.
On the other hand, the long-running green waste containerization pilot program along 8th Street has worked very well for a number of years without any claw pickup whatsoever. This is despite the fact that many of the affected parcels along the route also have an extensive tree canopies and generally limited parcel sizes available to store additional green waste containers.
Further, although not within City limits, El Macero uses DWR for waste collection and has long banned green waste piles in its neighborhood. The only exceptions are if a resident puts out the green waste on the street on a Sunday and calls into DWR on the previous Friday or very early Monday morning and arranges for an “on-call” pickup at their own additional expense. According to NRC member Matt Williams, this results in only a few on-call pickups per year at his residence despite the fact that he has extensive landscaping and vegetation as evidenced by the selection of his home as a previous stop on the annual Pence Garden Tour.
Zero Waste Subcommittee member Alan Pryor recently performed a weekly visual inspection of the number of green waste piles in front of the 32 residences on his Brentwood Pl. street in South Davis. Over this 9-week period from May 5 – June 30, only 4 green waste piles were observed which would not be able to be contained in a 90-gallon green waste container. Two of these piles, however, were the result of multiple residences using the same drop spot for their green waste. It is further believed that use of two green waste containers for one affected home that routinely generates the largest volume of green waste would suffice to hold all of their green waste generated on a weekly basis.
Although not constituting a statistically sound survey, when 16 of these home owners were queried if they would prefer only a 90-gallon green/food waste bin OR the 90-gallon green/food waste bin with additional seasonal and monthly scheduled street pick-up with the claw for an additional cost of $78/year, 13 said they would prefer the cheaper option and eliminate the scheduled claw pick-up altogether, 2 said they wanted the claw pickup continued on a scheduled basis, and one said they did not want the green waste bin at all but wanted to rely totally on the street green waste disposal.
In addition to the cost savings, 6 of those favoring a no green waste pick-up with the claw said they would prefer only a green waste bin because of the street debris resulting from piling green waste in the streets and the fact that so much of that debris (primarily leaves) blows onto their yards during the leaf drop season necessitating additional work on their part. One home owner stated they objected to the use of the street in front of their house to pile wastes by other neighbors without street frontage, and 4 neighbors stated they felt it represented a biking safety hazard.
3) Fairness of Cost Allocation of Use of the Claw
As is clearly evidenced by the above table, under the Lee Option ratepayers who do not utilize the services of the claw during the year but otherwise rely solely on the use the 90-gallon green/food waste bins substantially subsidize the use of the claw by the few neighbors who indicated they intended to take advantage of and use the claw pick-up service if it is available. This subsidy would also extend to all apartment owners who similarly have their landscape crews or services deposit green waste on the street for DWR pickup.
4) Bicycle Safety Considerations and Impact on Future Diamond Certification by the League of American Bicyclists
Earlier this year representatives of Davis Bicycles! appeared before Council along with Steve Clark, Bicycling Friendly Community Specialist from the League of American Bicyclists. The representative Darell Dickey from Davis Bicycles! again claimed that the use of in-the-street green waste constituted an unacceptable risk to cyclists; particularly children even using the designated Safe Routes to School. Further, the representative from the League of American Bicyclists indicated that while he was very impressed with the widespread bike paths and well-marked bike lanes on streets throughout the City, he was aghast at the number of large piles of green trash on the street and strongly implied that this would be an insurmountable burden for the City to overcome and reach the new “Diamond-Level” certification. It seems completely incongruous that the City of Davis, which prides itself on its bicycle-friendly environment, would continue to put cyclists in harm’s way by continued allowance of green waste piles to remain in the streets for extended periods of time which is primarily for the convenience of a small minority of larger lot homeowners and apartment complexes.
5) Environmental Considerations
Because of the potential for run-off of organic material into the storm drain as described above in the Millet article, green waste piles in the streets presents environmental challenges that will likely result in prohibition of such disposal as currently practiced in Davis by the Regional Water Quality Control Board at some point in the future. The worst components of the current waste stream is lawn clippings because it provides large amounts of nitrogen and other fertilizers in addition to higher amounts of herbicides into the wetlands environment where the storm runoff is ultimately diverted.
6) Potential Adverse Implications on the Likelihood of Passage of Upcoming Parcel Taxes
The City is currently considering placing a parcel tax vote before the citizens by mid-next year. Raising the waste disposal rates by about $78 per year to accommodate continued pick up with the claw when green waste containerization is implemented would seemingly present a political pitfall especially if only a minority of the residents in the City would be taking advantage of the continued claw pickup service. That $78 may very well represent the bulk of or even greater than the parcel tax approval requested.
As recent polling suggests, the parcel tax measure is not viewed favorably in part because the citizens do not trust the City government to spend their money wisely. Implementation of the Lee option would send a further signal to the ratepayers that our government is willing to charge everyone for a convenience service used by only a minority of the residents. For obvious reasons, this would not seem to be a politically advantageous message to send to voters prior to a major parcel tax vote
Conclusions of the Zero Waste Committee
The Zero Waste subcommittee recommends that the City Council reconsider the proposed continued use of the claw under the Lee Option for the following reasons:
1. An unfair financial burden is placed on residents who extensively compost or otherwise would not use the claw services provided by the City but must still pay for increased residential collection rates. Less obvious is the cost of street maintenance and repairs resulting from the continued use of the claw service which burden is also shared by all ratepayers.
2. This represents a clear subsidy to large green waste generators (e.g. large lot home owners and apartment complexes) by smaller green waste generators (e.g. composters and small lot homeowners) which subsidy has not been adequately disclosed to the majority of residents who would not use this service. Further, no sampling or polling has been done by the Council to determine if continued use of the claw is wanted by the majority of residents given the large costs involved.
3. Implementation of the program as envisioned by the Lee option and honest disclosure of the costs to all ratepayers will likely have a negative impact on the City’s ability to pass a parcel tax because residents might otherwise perceive that the City government and leaders have not done enough to protect their financial interests.
4. As represented by Davis Bicycles!, a continued bicycle safety hazard is present in the streets when green waste piles are present. The continued use of the claw will also adversely affect the ability of the City to receive Diamond-level certification from the League of American Bicyclists, as well as endangering a segment of the vulnerable users specifically mentioned in the City’s newly adopted Transportation Plan.
Recommendations of Zero Waste Subcommittee to NRC
For the above reasons, the Zero Waste subcommittee recommends to the NRC that they advise the City Council to choose Option 1 of the aforementioned green waste collection Options as the most cost effective option for the vast majority of waste ratepayers in Davis.
Recognizing, however, that use of the claw pickup is still highly desired by some small segments of the population for the conveniences and potential cost savings it can provide, we believe DWR should still provide on-call service on a scheduled basis for a fixed fee exactly as is now provided to El Macero. This is actually still a greater degree of service than is now provided to the residents of 8th who do not have any claw service even if requested.
If such on-call claw pickup service is made available, we believe there should be restrictions placed on the practice to maximize bicycling safety, aesthetic, and environmental concerns, as follows:
1. To obviously improve bike safety, warnings leading(if unheeded) to citations should be issued if green waste extends in any part of a bike lane or too far into other streets or if green waste is placed on street more than 48 hours before a scheduled pickup. Otherwise bike safety could worsen as green waste could accumulate on streets for upwards of 30 days or more before pickup.
2. To reduce contamination of water runoff, lawn clippings must never be placed in the street.
These recommendations, if implemented, will provide the greatest degree of diversion of green and food scrap waste possible, consistent with Council’s passage of the Integrated Waste Management Plan, while still providing those residents access to the claw use, albeit now at their own unsubsidized cost
Alan Pryor is a NRC Member & Co-chair of the NRC Zero Waste Subcommittee