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Commission tries to protect private haulers in approving Zero Waste Plan

Thursday, January 15, 2009 by Mark Richardson

Despite several months of work on the city’s Zero Waste plan, which goes before the City Council today, members of the Solid Waste Advisory Commission and Solid Waste Services Department staff were still at odds last night over how the plan will be implemented.


Council’s approval of the plan — which aims to cut the amount of trash headed to area landfills through a variety of means – would start the ball rolling to get the city to reduce the material going to landfills by 20 percent in 2012, and to near zero by 2040.


Consultant Gary Liss and Co. wrote the basic Zero Waste plan for the city in 2008, but there remain major differences on how to get there, particularly between private sector waste handlers and recyclers, and the city staff.


Evidence of that arose last night when the SWAC prepared to pass a resolution endorsing the plan to the Council, but with an amendment directing staff to leave current free-market elements in waste and recycling in place. SWAC member J.D. Porter introduced the amendment, which he said was in response to a large number of private companies who were expressing concerns to him.


“A number of people involved in waste handling and recycling expressed concerns that city staff would take advantage of the opportunity to bring more of these functions under their control,” he said. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”


However, Jessica King, who handles Zero Waste for SWS, said she was concerned that the amendment would tie staff’s hands in developing rules and ordinances. And SWS Director Willie Rhodes put it more succinctly; “We are just going to disagree on this.”


Recalling several instances where staff had not followed their wishes, SWAC Chair Gerard Acuña said that there had been problems and disagreement in the past.  


Commission Member Mandela Faso asked staff if there was a way to rewrite the amendment that they could accept. King suggested language that appeared to instruct staff to maintain the status quo, but that was unacceptable to Porter, who asked for an immediate vote


The resolution, as amended, passed on a 6-0 vote.

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