City Zero Waste Goals Challenged by 50% Jump in Average Daily Waste Per Resident, Recycling Plant Closures

Published : Sunday, July 21, 2019 | 4:08 PM

Chart courtesy of City of Pasadena

Pasadenans are throwing out more trash than ever before, and the City is finding it more difficult to recycle.

These are a couple of the roadblocks Pasadena faces as it strives to achieve its zero-waste goals, a report by the City’s Department of Public Works said.

In the report due to be delivered to the City Council’s Municipal Services Committee on Tuesday, July 23, Public Works Director Ara Maloyan said the amount of waste that each Pasadena resident throws away every day had increased by 50 percent last year over 2012, the first year the City started monitoring its per capita disposal rate.

Maloyan’s Zero Waste Update for July 2019 showed each resident was throwing an average of 5.6 pounds of waste per day in 2012. By 2018, this had gone up to 8.4 pounds per day, according to the report.

The City gleans these figures from the amount of waste that the City’s waste contractors have been collecting throughout the City and delivering to the City’s landfill on a per capita basis.

To put that number in perspective, Maloyan’s report pointed out that during that six-year timeframe the internet has actually reduced many types of paper waste, as significantly fewer direct mail pieces, catalogs, magazines and newspapers, directories and phone books are printed and discarded each year.

Maloyan’s report will be presented Tuesday along with his recommendation for the City Council to accept the bid submitted by American Reclamation Inc. to handle the City’s residential and commercial recycling contract. American Reclamation was one of four bidders that submitted proposals after a request for bids was published in April.

After the City adopted its Zero Waste Strategic Plan in 2014, the Public Works Department committed to provide an update of the plan every three years, with the last update in 2017.

Maloyan’s report shows that since 2017, the Department has seen many changes within the recycling industry due to strong economic growth, advancements in technology, changes in packaging materials, state mandates and changes in international policy. These changes are now impacting Pasadena’s solid waste collection and recycling effort.

Maloyan also said the amount of high-value content in the recycling stream – examples of these are newspaper, magazines, catalogs, and junk mail – has been drastically reduced with the increased use of new technology, such as computers, smartphones and tablets, resulting in less attractive recyclable content and thereby increasing processing costs for municipalities.

The report also noted changes in China’s import policies on recyclable materials, especially its recent strict contamination limits and import bans, have been complicating waste collection in California, since the state has traditionally exported most its recycle material – particularly paper and plastic – to that country. These changes have led to stockpiling of materials at the state’s solid waste and recycling facilities and resulted in declining markets for recyclables.

In another portion of the report, Maloyan said all five beverage container redemption centers in Pasadena have closed shop due to business difficulties, and the City is now facing challenges with recycling beverage containers.

With a new recycling processor, the City hopes to be able to better manage costs and set recycle process standards for its residential curbside recycling stream. American Reclamation offered a bid of $42.24 per ton, down from the current $67.60 per ton that the City is spending with the current contractor. The City also anticipates reduced transportation costs, since American Reclamation’s facility is located about eight miles from Pasadena’s City Yards.

American Reclamation’s contract is recommended to be effective for three years for $975,744, with the option to extend for up to two additional one-year terms in the annual amount of $325,248.

After Tuesday’s deliberations at the Municipal Services Committee, the Public Works Department hopes to bring the recommendation to contract with American Reclamation to the full City Council around mid-August, with the contract anticipated to begin in September.

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