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We made plastic. We depend on it. Now we’re drowning in it.

Laura Parker, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE

If plastic had been invented when the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England, to North America—and the Mayflower had been stocked with bottled water and plastic-wrapped snacks—their plastic trash would likely still be around, four centuries later.

If the Pilgrims had been like many people today and simply tossed their empty bottles and wrappers over the side, Atlantic waves and sunlight would have worn all that plastic into tiny bits. And those bits might still be floating around the world’s oceans today, sponging up toxins to add to the ones already in them, waiting to be eaten by some hapless fish or oyster, and ultimately perhaps by one of us.

We should give thanks that the Pilgrims didn’t have plastic, I thought recently as I rode a train to Plymouth along England’s south coast. I was on my way to see a man who would help me make sense of the whole mess we’ve made with plastic, especially in the ocean.

Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin—a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017.

Read more at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/

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Republic Services to buy Santa Rosa trash hauler, recycling center

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Republic Services, which has operated the Sonoma County-owned Central Landfill west of Cotati since late 2010, is the nation’s second largest waste firm.

Its expansion in Sonoma County could position it for a head-to-head competition with Recology for future hauling business, according to local solid waste experts.

Republic Services, the national solid waste giant that runs Sonoma County’s landfill, is in the process of acquiring a Santa Rosa garbage contractor and its recycling center in a move that could further shake up the region’s garbage industry.

Industrial Carting, along with its Global Materials Recovery Services recycling operation, both located on Santa Rosa Avenue south of the city, is selling to the Arizona-based company, according to Lee Pierce, a consultant for Industrial Carting, and Leslye Choate, a Sonoma County government official who is handling paperwork related to the deal.

Neither company would elaborate on the acquisition or disclose the terms of the agreement.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8386238-181/republic-services-to-buy-santa

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California has a recycling crisis. The only way to solve it is to stop making so much trash

Times Editorial Board, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Californians use — and then toss — a tremendous amount of paper and plastic packaging material every day: takeout coffee cups and lids, cereal boxes, wine bottles, plastic bags, clamshell food containers, and on and on.

It’s hard for even the most militant environmentalist to avoid contributing to this waste stream, given the inescapability of products wrapped in some sort of disposable material. Even fruits and vegetables that are naturally encased in durable, compostable wrapping will be trundled up in plastic bags in the produce aisle for the trip home.

Those disturbed by the amount of trash they produce have been able to assuage their guilty consciences by making sure every potential recyclable item ended up in the blue recycling bin. Surely there could be no long-term environmental toll if every empty plastic soda bottle and chipboard six-pack carrier was diverted from the landfill and remade into a cozy fleece jacket or an organic chemistry textbook.

What a lovely story. Too bad it’s about as true as a happily-ever-after fairy tale. Recycling has never been the solution to the problem posed by empty beer cans, plastic takeout containers and other single-use items, just a way to mitigate the effects enough to pretend that all this waste is not really wasteful. But reality is becoming harder to ignore now that the foreign market for our trash is collapsing. Hallelujah to that, as it might just be the impetus needed to force society to confront the disposable culture that is trashing the planet.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-recycling-crisis-20180526-story.html

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is ballooning

Livia Albeck-Ripka, THE NEW YORK TIMES

In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.

In recent years, this notorious mess has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling oceanic graveyard where everyday objects get deposited by the currents. The plastics eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that often get eaten by fish and may ultimately enter our food chain.

A study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports quantified the full extent of the so-called garbage patch: It is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. While the patch was once thought to be more akin to a soup of nearly invisible microplastics, scientists now think most of the trash consists of larger pieces. And, they say, it is growing “exponentially.”

“It’s just quite alarming, because you are so far from the mainland,” said Laurent Lebreton, the lead author of the study and an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a nonprofit that is developing systems to remove ocean trash and which funded the study. “There’s no one around and you still see those common objects, like crates and bottles.”

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/climate/great-pacific-garbage-patch.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Recology eyes big boost in composting in Sonoma County

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Carole Carpenter always felt funny about throwing thousands of pounds of used coffee grounds into the garbage.

The manager of the popular Railroad Square café A’Roma Roasters knew the rich brown granules made a great soil fertilizer, a fact she was reminded of whenever customers asked if they could take some home to sprinkle in their gardens.

“It seems like such a waste to just throw them in the garbage,” said Carpenter, who has managed the operation for 20 years.

But with limited kitchen space, no simple way to set the coffee grounds aside for gardeners, and no green bin to dispose of them in, Carpenter just did what was easiest — she told employees to toss them in the dumpster along with all the café’s other food waste.

So Celia Furber, the waste zero manager with Recology, the city’s new garbage hauler, and John LaBarge, a Recology waste zero specialist, sat down with Carpenter last week to see if they could find ways to help the eatery keep more food waste out of the landfill.

It turns out that A’Roma Roasters should have been composting its food waste since Jan. 1, 2017. That’s when businesses that create more than 4 cubic yards of organic waste a week were required under AB 1826 to begin diverting it from landfills. Larger producers were required to start a year earlier.

But the city’s previous hauler, The Ratto Group, did not make it easy to set up the service, Furber said.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8106202-181/recology-eyes-big-boost-in

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U.S. recycling woes pile up as China escalates ban

Adam Allington, BLOOMBERG NEWS

Tens of thousands of tons of recyclables have been diverted to U.S. landfills in recent months as the reality of China’s new ban on certain types of imported waste takes hold.

The ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, covers imports of 24 types of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the difficult-to-recycle types of plastic, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), commonly used in plastic bottles.

And China’s import restrictions become even tighter March 1, increasing the sense of urgency U.S. recyclers feel to find new outlets for their products. At the same time, some industry officials say the situation could be a blessing in disguise if it eventually prods the U.S. toward processing more of its own recycling.

“What we’re seeing now is really unprecedented,” said Julie Miller, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

China has been by far the largest market for U.S scrap exports—in many cases the recyclable materials Americans put in curbside containers. China’s crackdown, now three months old, has both U.S. and global waste collectors scrambling to find new markets for their recyclables to avoid disrupting curbside collection services.

Read more at https://www.bna.com/us-recycling-woes-n57982089254/

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , ,

Amid a flood of plastic, big companies try to clean up image

Danica Kirka, ASSOCIATED PRESS

In the last few months, Amcor, Ecover, Evian, L’Oréal, Mars, M&S, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Walmart and Werner & Mertz – which together use more than 6 million metric tons of plastic packaging per year — have committed to using only reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an innovation think-tank.

LONDON (AP) — Once a month, accountant Michael Byrne pulls on his rubber boots and makes his way to a spot on the banks of the River Thames.

He carefully marks out a one-square meter (11-square foot) patch and, with gloved hands, catalogues each bit of plastic he finds, meticulously reporting the data to the environmental group Thames21. On Aug. 20, for example, he and other volunteers found an average of 31 food wrappers, the sticks from 29 cotton swabs, 12 bottle tops and about 100 pieces of small chewed up plastic in each patch.

“We are the data gatherers” who provide evidence of the plastic that’s clogging the world’s rivers and oceans, he said. “We are building up a picture all along the river of what is washing up.”

Public awareness of the problem of plastic waste is swelling after alarming forecasts that there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Plus the shocking images are rolling in: Britain’s Sky News’ campaign against ocean plastic featuring whales bloated by plastic bags; National Geographic’s chilling picture of a seahorse curled around a pink cotton swab, and filmmaker David Attenborough’s documentary “Blue Planet II” footage of sea turtles shrouded in plastic.

Read more at https://www.apnews.com/21beacb71e40446a979b6b2edad1f5c1/Amid-a-flood-of-plastic,-big-companies-try-to-clean-up-image

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New year, new garbage services for Santa Rosa

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more information about Recology programs on the North Coast, visit www.recology.com/recology-sonoma-marin/

Santa Rosa’s new garbage hauler is rolling out plenty of changes for customers this New Year’s, including new plastic bins, new trucks and new rates to pay for it all.

Recology, the San Francisco-based garbage company, completed its purchase of The Ratto Group December 23, making it the dominant waste hauler on the North Coast.

Most Sonoma County residents and businesses will see few changes from the sale because Recology has merely taken over Ratto’s existing service contracts.

But beginning Jan. 1, the company began operating in Santa Rosa under a new 15-year contract that calls for sweeping new changes to the refuse service to 55,000 residential and commercial accounts.

The city hopes Recology will provide not only better service and accountability than its predecessor, but will help it achieve its environmental goals of increasing recycling and reducing the amount of garbage heading to the landfill.

“They really buy into the zero waste philosophy,” said Gloria Hurtado, deputy city manager. “They certainly have a track record of achieving good results in other communities.”Here’s a look at some of the changes in store for local garbage service under Recology.

Read more at: New year, new garbage services for Santa Rosa

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Concrete torched in Sonoma County fires being recycled for roadbeds

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Marta May lives in Bloomfield and is used to seeing trucks coming and going from the Stony Point Rock Quarry west of Cotati.

But never has she seen anything like the procession of heavy-duty dump trucks recently waiting to deliver their seemingly endless loads of rubble to the facility.

“There’s millions of them,” May said after passing the long line of trucks along Stony Point Road late last month.

Equally amazing is what they are leaving behind: a mountain of concrete chunks 30 feet high, the remains of hundreds of driveways and foundations cleared from some of the 5,100 residential properties in Sonoma County destroyed in October’s fires.

“It’s huge and it keeps getting bigger, and you wonder how much bigger that it can get,” May said.

The activity around the quarry is just one more reminder of the unprecedented scale of the fires, which scorched 137 square miles in Sonoma County, killed 24 people, and triggered the largest wildfire cleanup in the state history.

While tens of thousands of tons of ash and debris from destroyed homes is being deposited into the Sonoma County landfill, raising concerns about its future capacity, by contrast the concrete heading into the quarry will be recycled, said Mark Soiland, president of the Soiland Company, which owns the quarry.

Read more at: Concrete torched in Sonoma County fires being recycled for roadbeds

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Sonoma County fire cleanup weighs heavy on landfill

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Although nearly 260 destroyed homesites had been cleared of their post-fire debris in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood through Nov. 19, it represents less than a quarter of the burned properties in one corner of the devastating 36,807-acre Tubbs fire.

Just those cleared sites, however, produced a mountain of ash, twisted metal and charred wood — nearly 50,000 tons, according to county officials, with all of it going to Sonoma County’s Central Landfill.

The dump west of Cotati is the main disposal site for what local and state officials are calling the biggest debris removal from a wildfire in California history.

The scorched remains of more than 5,100 Sonoma County homes are bound for the Mecham Road location for burial — loads that have spiked daily traffic from heavy-duty commercial trucks and could burn through the life expectancy for one of the North Coast’s few operating landfills between Petaluma and the Oregon border.

Other than to confirm an increase of inflows from fire debris, a spokesman for Republic Services, the Arizona-based waste giant that operates the county-owned dump, declined to offer specifics about the number of trucks or how much material is now coming through the gates. He added that it presented no need for worries over capacity.

“From where we stand, as the operators, we are not concerned,” said Russ Knocke, Republic’s vice president of communications and public affairs. “Without a doubt it’s something that will factor into overall capacity at the site, but in terms of cause for immediate concern, again, I would say no.”

Still, to handle the additional level of waste and the sudden need for a place to unload it, Republic Services requested a four-month-long emergency waiver at the end of October for its daily weight maximums. Without that, only 2,500 tons of materials from a maximum of 900 trucks are permitted each business day.

Under operations covered by the emergency waiver, on the single biggest disposal day since the fire, the Central Landfill accepted 5,800 tons — about six times the most recent year’s pre-fire average. That compares to roughly 1,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day in 2016, and less than 860 tons daily in 2015.

Read more at: Sonoma County fire cleanup weighs heavy on landfill