MSWMA report: Waste disposal tonnage edging up after recession
Solid waste disposal in Mendocino County declined by about 31 percent from 2006 to 2009, according to a report prepared by the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority.
In 2006, the county disposed of 73,365 tons of trash in out-of -county landfills. That figure declined to 70,314 tons in 2007, 58,053 tons in 2008, and 50,091 tons in 2009.
In 2010, the disposal tonnage increased modestly to 52,370 tons.
MSWMA General Manager Mike Sweeney attributed the decline in disposal to two factors: the recession, which Sweeney said reduced all economic activity in the county, especially construction, and a solid waste scavenging program being practiced by C&S Waste Solutions in Ukiah.
"Wood, metal, yard waste, gypsum board, carpet padding and other recyclables are hand-picked from the transfer station tipping floor by workers. Commissions are paid to the workers based on the tons they recover. This activity reduced total disposal by about one-third," Sweeney claimed.
Some 35 percent of Empire Waste Management's curbside collections in the Fort Bragg/Mendocino/Caspar area and the UkiahValley/Potter Valley/Hopland area was diverted into recyclables and green waste, Sweeney added.
Solid Wastes of Willits is lagging behind in this kind of "above-and-beyond" recycling, the report notes. The company scavenged only 426 tons of recyclables from a 25,565-ton waste stream.
"The large amount of material recovered by scavenging at the Ukiah Transfer Station showed that
source separation recycling efforts had been inadequate in the construction and demolition sector, and among debris boxes generally," Sweeney wrote. "Scavenging appears to be a partial solution for recycling in the sector, provided that workers can be found to carry out this difficult and dangerous task."
Sweeney noted that new state green building rules now require a 50 percent solid waste diversion from all construction projects. With these new rules, "There will be much greater pressure on contractors to divert waste," Sweeney said. "This can be done either by source-separation at the job site, or by relying of scavenging services available at transfer stations."
Food waste, a second but unexploited portion of the waste stream, could increase recycling rates in the future, according to Sweeney. Currently, food waste is being diverted into the recycling stream in Fort Bragg and in Empire Waste Management's Franchise Area 2, but not in Ukiah and Willits. In those cities, food waste diversion might pose a challenge because it "would conflict with existing methods of processing green waste."
"Reconciliation of these differing company interests so diversion can be maximized is an important challenge for Ukiah and Willits," Sweeney said.