Adrian Martinez, Staff Attorney, Environmental Justice, Santa Monica, California
Earlier this week, the Ad Hoc Committee on Waste Reduction & Recycling for the Los Angeles City Council met to examine how to shift the way Los Angeles picks up its waste for businesses and large apartment buildings. The hearing was quite eventful with many arguments made in favor and opposed to moving towards an exclusive franchise system.
As I have articulated in prior posts, NRDC supports moving to an exclusive franchise approach, which was the position approved by the Board of Public Works after it considered all the evidence in favor of this type of system from the Bureau of Sanitation and its consultants at HF&H. After weighing all the testimony, the Ad Hoc Committee made some important amendments and voted to pass along the recommendation that the Bureau of Sanitation finalize its report on implementing an exclusive franchise system.
All members of the committee were present (Alarcón, Koretz, Huizar, and Krekorian). The format of the hearing included several panels on many facets of the conversion to a more efficient, accountable system for managing waste from businesses and large apartment buildings. I participated on an environmental impacts panel with my colleague Hillary Gordon from Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter Zero Waste Committee and Lauren Ahkiam from Pacoima Beautiful, an environmental justice advocacy group in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
A representative from Angelenos for a Clean Environment (ACE), which was formed in October of last year to oppose an exclusive franchise system, also participated on our panel. Sean Rossall, an employee of Cerrell Associates, a public affairs firm, was the representative for ACE. A very articulate speaker, Sean conveyed ACE’s position against an exclusive franchise. With that said, even the most effective speaker could not mask the fallacy of the arguments made by ACE and other opponents of comprehensive reform of the way Los Angeles handles its waste from businesses and large apartment buildings.
Notably, despite claims from ACE and its members that they agree with all the goals articulated by the Board of Public Works, they fail to explain that a nonexclusive system will not be able to minimize unnecessary, overlapping truck routes as Los Angeles seeks to divert more and more waste from landfills.
ACE also fails to explain how we can meet our zero waste goals under a nonexclusive system. ACE effectively misreads the Bureau of Sanitation’s conclusions based on its expert report. The Bureau determined that “An exclusive franchise system allows for the most aggressive diversion goal to effectively meet the State mandates and City Zero Waste diversion goals.” While some may argue that a nonexclusive system is better than the open permit system Los Angeles currently has, many experts have determined that this type of system does not have as great a potential to maximize diversion as an exclusive system. Even San Jose came to this conclusion when it recently transitioned from a nonexclusive system to an exclusive system.
Overall, the arguments from the Don’t Waste LA Coalition and other supporters of this smart reform for the City won the day. The Ad Hoc Committee approved moving forward with the item and made some significant amendments, including requesting the Bureau of Sanitation to examine putting standards on material recovery facilities and provisions to protect small haulers through small business zones. As this strong proposal makes its way through City Hall, the vote of this Ad Hoc Committee provides great momentum. I look forward to further discussions in the Energy and Environment Committee in the coming weeks.
Here is the testimony I prepared for the hearing:
Testimony Before the City of Los Angeles Ad Hoc Committee on Waste and Recycling
Adrian Martinez, Natural Resources Defense Council
April 10, 2012
Good Afternoon Chairman Alarcón and Members of the Committee. My name is Adrian Martinez, and I am presenting on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council and our more than 16,000 members in Los Angeles County. I am here today to support this Committee approving the staff report, and encourage the City to move forward as expeditiously as possible with an exclusive franchise system for Los Angeles.
Disposal of waste is perhaps one of the most pressing environmental issues the City of Los Angeles faces. The City has already promised to become a zero waste City by 2030. This entails interim goals of achieving 70% diversion from landfills by 2013 and 90% by 2025. These are ambitious goals, and without the correct structures in place, the City will not meet its promise. The most pressing change that needs to happen is transforming how we collect waste in the multifamily and commercial sectors, which account for approximately 70% of the waste the City sends to landfills. According to the City’s analysis, only 19% of waste from the commercial sector goes to diversion facilities. And, this number appears larger than it should be because a significant portion of that material is Construction and Demolition waste. Simply stated, this is unacceptable.
Reforming waste collection for the commercial and multi-family sectors in the City of Los Angeles will help reduce the impacts of waste on the global, regional and local level. On the global scale, our waste results in harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In 2006, California adopted AB 32, which requires the State establish mandatory recycling for multi-family and commercial sectors. As result, several laws have been passed requiring recycling, including AB 341. These standards are on the books now, and the City must have the correct structure to meet these requirements.
On the regional scale, trash trucks currently criss-cross our City, wasting precious fuel, emitting air pollution and contributing to already unacceptable congestion in the nation’s most congested City.
On the local level, my colleagues in the Don’t Waste LA coalition like Pacoima Beautiful and Communities for a Better Environment have identified the regional and community impacts from the waste industry ranging from noise to odors to long lines of trucks quieing in neighborhoods.
With whatever system the City undertakes, standards and a moral imperative exist that requires the City of Los Angeles to do better to address these global, regional and local impacts. As the HF&H Report and the Bureau of Sanitation have determined, an exclusive system provides the best benefits to mitigate these impacts from the waste system. After carefully reviewing this and other reports, NRDC agrees with this assessment.
Notably, an exclusive system will allow for the greatest accountability. The nature of this industry requires strong oversight. This oversight must ensure companies meet aggressive diversion standards. This accountability means requiring these companies to innovate in how they create the waste infrastructure for the future. And most importantly, it must also ensure companies not engage in practices that unduly impact communities, which includes making sure they are minimizing their truck miles traveled as we increase our recycling rates.
Moreover, to meet our zero waste goals, we need investment. We currently don’t have the infrastructure to achieve this lofty goal. As we seek to achieve a higher and higher percentage of diversion, it becomes tougher and tougher to make sure we are diverting our waste. We aren’t just talking about bottles and cans, but rather materials that are more difficult to address and require comprehensive planning and investment. In an exclusive franchise system, companies will have the incentives to invest in this infrastructure and other programs because they will not constantly be worried about other companies poaching accounts. Their focus will be ensuring they meet the conditions imposed by the City and are in a good position when their term expires to renew their franchise.
Finally, beyond the significant environmental benefits of increased diversion, there are economic benefits. Just last year, the Blue Green Alliance, in conjunction with several groups, published a report that discussed the job creation potential of a national effort to enhance recycling. One key finding from the report dealt with the job creation potential of various ways to handle waste. The report determined that waste disposal activities like landfilling and incineration create only .1 jobs per 1,000 tons of waste. In sharp contrast, activities like processing of recyclables creates 2 jobs per 1,000 tons of waste and manufacturing using recycled materials creates a relatively high number of jobs per 1,000 tons, varying by material/sector (e.g., about 4 jobs per 1,000 tons for paper manufacturing and iron and steel manufacturing, and about 10 jobs per 1,000 tons for plastics manufacturing).
To end, I reiterate NRDC’s support for the conclusion of the Bureau of Sanitation that the best way for Los Angeles to meet zero waste goals and minimize impacts from the waste industry is through an exclusive franchise with strong standards.
I appreciate the invitation to speak today.
 Los Angeles, Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan, Zero Waste Plan Fact Sheet, available at http://www.zerowaste.lacity.org/files/info/fact_sheet/2009Feb2SWIRPFactSheet.pdf, Feb. 2009.
 Los Angeles, Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan, Fact Sheet: Waste Generation and Disposal Projections, available at http://www.zerowaste.lacity.org/files/info/fact_sheet/SWIRPGenDisposalFactSheet_032009.pdf, March 2009.
 See HF&H, City of Los Angeles: Solid Waste Franchise Assessment, p. 7 available at http://www.lacitysan.org/solid_resources/pdfs/2012/CITY-OF-LA-SW-FRAN-ASSMT-Final-Report.pdf, Jan. 23, 2012.
 Id. (Exhibit 6 notes that 10.4% of this material is mixed construction and demolition).
 Tellus Institute, More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy of the U.S., available at http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/news/publications/document/MoreJobsLessPollution.pdf, November 2011.
 Id. at 5.
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