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Recycling Contract Scrutinized by Council, Community

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday December 18, 2007

“Talkin’ trash” will take on new meaning at today’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting when contracts for hauling rubbish from the city’s Second Street Solid Waste Transfer Station will be considered.  

The discussion won’t be limited to which company can get the job done for less. In the era of global warming, the question council is likely to address is how to recycle and reuse as much of the waste as possible.  

Currently, the city contracts with Republic Services to haul away two-thirds of its approximately 150,000 tons of garbage each year to a dump in Livermore.  

Of the 50,000 tons that don’t go to Livermore, half are organics and composted by the city’s contractor, Grover Landscape, and about 22,500 tons are recycled through the city’s curbside program.  

Urban Ore scavenges about 800 tons of reusable material and city staff picks up about 1,500 tons of recyclables that include mattresses, computer monitors and televisions. 

But since the city’s goal is to recycle much more of its trash, and because the five-year contract with Republic will terminate Dec. 31, the city wanted to contract with a company that would recycle or reuse more of the trash. 

City staff is proposing a 2.5 year contract with East Stockton Recycling—the only respondent to its request for proposals—to haul away from the transfer station 50,000 tons of trash annually, half of which would be recycled and half of which would be deposited in the East Stockton dump. This would increase the percentage of the city’s recycled trash from 33 percent to 50 percent 

Mary Lou Van Deventer, co-founder of Urban Ore, has been monitoring the contract through its discussions in the Solid Waste Commission. 

Urban Ore resells used goods at its facility on Murray and Sixth streets recycled from individuals, businesses and scavenged from the transfer station. According to Van Deventer, who spoke to the Planet Friday, the company would like to participate in making much more of the trash available for reuse and recycling. And they prefer that the material is not trucked for long distances.  

Urban Ore can live with the proposed city contract to East Stockton, however, if the council approves some conditions that would modify it, she said. The conditions should specify that the contract would be for one year, subject to a 1.5-year renewal, rather than for 2.5 years, she suggested.  

Another condition that Van Deventer proposed was that within the 25,000 tons that the company is contracted to recycle, East Stockton should not be allowed to count any tonnage burned for fuel. And the company should not be allowed to count as recycling any waste—concrete, wood chips, or other—ground up and spread over a dump to cover it, she said. 

What Van Deventer said she would really like to see is a complete remodeling of the facility, with the ability to do all the sorting of recyclable items at the transfer station itself. The city will be sending out a Request for Quotations in February to begin the formal process of exploring such a remodel, which Van Deventer estimated would cost $15-$30 million. 

Immediately, she said, the city should hold a design charrette aimed at interim remodeling of the transfer station so that more reusable and recyclable items can be separated on-site from trash that goes to the dump. 

“There’s not much of a capital cost” to the interim remodeling, Van Deventer said, noting that more materials, especially construction and demolition materials and cardboard could be “intercepted,” that is, taken directly off the trucks coming to the transfer station. 

And “we want to expand scavenging on the floor” of the transfer station, she said. 

Peter Holtzclaw, manager of the solid waste and recycling division, said such a charrette could be held as early as January. “I’m open for [Urban Ore] doing more here,” Holtzclaw told the Planet, during a walk-through of the facility on Friday. “I just don’t think they can do 25,000 tons more.” 

Holtzclaw added, “On-the-floor coordination with Urban Ore can happen today.” 

How the remodeling will be done is a question of worker safety, Holtzclaw said. “I don’t want Urban Ore crawling on that pile,” he said, pointing to the mountain of waste materials, with some obvious recyclables such as wood poking out from otherwise unidentifiable scraps. “That’s a big safety issue.” 

But Van Deventer called the safety issue a “red herring.”  

“They have very low workers’ compensation costs,” she said. 

The overall cost for services in Stockton would be 4 percent more than current costs. The city may ask for a rate increase in the future, according to the staff report. 

A second contract would go to Waste Management for 5.5 years to dispose of 24,000 tons of trash in its Altamont landfill in Livermore. And a third contract is proposed for Allied for 26,000 tons to be deposited in its Keller Canyon landfill in Pittsburg. 


Photograph by Judith Scherr. 

Reusable and recyclable materials are embedded within mounds of trash at the city’s Solid Waste Transfer Station. More of these materials will be recycled under a new city contract. Plans are afoot to further increase the tonnage of materials saved at the transfer station.