Although the , there was a silver lining: the Council proved itself smart enough to see through the risible claims of outside groups trying to meddle in our local affairs.
The National Resources Defense Council, Teamsters and other special interests came out in force Monday to engage in proxy warfare—trying to score political points in West Hollywood for their battles in the much more consequential trash wars in Los Angeles.
The Teamsters and NRDC want to keep the antiquated source-separated recycling system which sends tons of recyclable materials directly to landfills, rather than adopt the more environmentally-friendly materials recovery facility model (“MRFing”) wherein all trash is disposed of in the same, single trash can and is later sorted by professionals at a MRF.
If you’re the Teamsters, it is in your best interests to have two sets of trash pickups—one for trash and one for the blue bin—because it means more truck trips and more jobs for union drivers. But why would the NRDC oppose a recycling program that prevents good recyclables from going into our local landfills?
According to their representative at West Hollywood’s council meeting, the NRDC believes that MRFing waste in an unproven recycling technology, that recyclables get contaminated, that trash companies have an incentive to skirt the system and that there is no way to know just how much gets recycled.
Single-stream trash collection is neither new nor unproven. More than a dozen cities in Southern California alone do it. The San Francisco airport found that of the 80% of waste that is not put into blue bins, more than half of their waste stream was being recovered as recyclables at their off-site sorting facility.
To claim that recyclables get contaminated by being mixed with the rest of the waste stream ignores a fundamental question—where do recyclables that are sorted in blue bins go? To the same materials recovery facilities as a single-stream recycling system would.
Finally, companies like Athens Services know exactly how much trash goes into their Materials Recovery Facility, they know how much goes to a landfill, because they have to pay to send it there and they know how much they recover in recyclables because they sell it to be processed into recycled paper, cardboard boxes and more. A basic understanding of economics says that the incentive is to recover more, and send less to landfills—not the other way around.
The Council was at least smart enough to see through these claims—with a majority saying that the future of trash collection in our City should use a MRFing model.
In fact, that is exactly what the NRDC recommended that the City of New York do in their 2004 report, “Recycling Returns,” where a key recommendation was to enter into firm long-term contracts with waste haulers and encourage them to build single-stream materials recovery facilities.
If you agree with the NRDC, and think we should have a single-stream waste system, join my group, Recycle Everything, for information and updates on the issue.