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Adrian Martinez’s Blog

Landfills were so 2012: LA Bureau of Sanitation proposes progressive vision for LA's waste

Adrian Martinez

Posted February 15, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Green Enterprise, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably

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Today, the LA Bureau of Sanitation released its initial draft implementation plan for moving to an exclusive franchise for businesses and large apartment buildings in the City of Los Angeles.  As you recall, at the November vote, the LA City Council asked the Bureau to return in 90 days to provide an update on how to implement an exclusive franchise.  The product released today demonstrates that the Bureau has taken to heart the resounding message from LA City Council that it wants an environmentally forward-thinking plan that protects workers and communities, in addition to stabilizing chaotic waste rates.  Even though I have only had a little bit of time to review it, I am very impressed with the initial draft implementation plan.

The stakes are high as outlined in the report.  A little under 70% of the waste LA sends to landfills comes from businesses and large apartment buildings.  The initial implementation plan goes a far way in developing the vision for how the City will get to its ambitious environmental goals for zero waste.  For example, the implementation plan suggests important requirements in regards to food waste, which is responsible for 27% of the multifamily waste and 29% of commercial waste according to the plan released today.  The draft plan also has good discussion about initial thoughts on how to promote workplace health and safety.

After a heated 2012 debate between the Don’t Waste LA coalition - which includes the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, NRDC, Sierra Club, Coalition for Clean Air, Sustain LA , Communities for a Better Environment, Pacoima Beautiful, the LA County Federation of Labor, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and many others - and business lobbyists from Angelenos for a Clean Environment, it is nice to finally talk about the specifics of how we create the model system for cities to deal with waste.

These are the discussions that make the grueling battle from last year worthwhile.  We’re finally seeing a progressive vision for how to tame the wild west system that currently exists for waste collection at businesses and large apartment buildings.  And even though the plan is progressive from an environmental and workforce standpoint, it also proposes to promote responsible business practices.  Under the plan, we’ll see a very competitive system where haulers will be fighting with each other to demonstrate who is the most economically and ecologically responsible.  It even appears to carve out a piece for medium-sized haulers.  This type of incubation for medium-sized haulers that are responsible should be applauded. 

Overall, I am proud of the work of the City on this, and they proved the skeptics wrong.  LA is well on its way to being a first class city in dealing with our serious waste issues.  With that said, there is still a lot of work to do, and Don’t Waste LA will continue to monitor this important issue.  We need to push for strong provisions on public education for recycling and composting, strong standards to protect communities from impacts, and strong provisions for the workers on the front lines of making LA a zero waste city.  The stakes are too high for us to lighten up on our vision of a waste collection system that protects the environment, communities and workers. 

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Comments

Peter CrownfieldFeb 20 2013 08:32 AM

Based on your post, the plan seems to have many very positive features, but any flat-rate plan creates a situation where those who produce little waste subsidize those who generate lots of trash. Volume-based rates should be developed for ALL waste collection, including residential.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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