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City Poised to Sign Organics Recycling Contract

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By Jorge Casuso

March 3, 2022 -- The City Council is expected to approve a contract of up to $14.2 million over five years to comply with a State law mandating organics recycling for all residents and businesses.

The proposed contract with Athens Services for organics processing and recycling services covers two years for $4.28 million and three optional one-year extensions totaling an additional $9.92 million.

SB 1383, which requires statewide mandatory organics recycling starting the first of this year, spurred a "Mandatory Recycling Ordinance" approved by the Council last October.

The State law, staff said, "triggers a tremendous market demand for local jurisdictions to secure services from organics processing facilities that have the capacity to accept, process, and recycle curbside organics."

Compliance with with the State law "means increased expenditures for the City to recycle organics instead of landfilling the material as trash."

The costs include purchasing organics containers for residents and businesses that don’t already have them under the organics collection services the City began offering in 1998.

It also requires dedicating "more staffing and resources on education and outreach as required."

To cover the cost of outreach supplies and support community education the City will apply for $123,000 in grant funds from the SB 1383 Local Assistance Grant Program, staff said.

The price of the recycling program -- which is expected to rise -- is well worth paying, staff said.

"Although there is a cost to recycle organics, the environmental and climate cost of inaction far outweighs the financial investment," staff wrote in its report to the Council.

While solid waste rates have not increased during the coronavirus emergency, "it is anticipated that rate adjustments would be required upon the completion of a comprehensive rate study analysis," staff said.

City staff is working with a solid waste consulting firm "to examine the full financial effects" of the State law and "is expecting to return to Council later this year to discuss rate changes."

Under the City's ordinance, all residents and businesses must maintain an additional green-colored container for organics recycling ("Santa Monica Prepares to Launch Mandatory Organics Recycling," October 20, 2022).

The organics must be separated from the contents that go into the black refuse container or blue container for non-organic recyclables.

“Multi-family residential dwellings of five or more units and commercial generators shall periodically inspect blue, green, and black containers for contamination," according to staff.

"If containers are contaminated, generators must correct the issue and educate their employees on the importance of proper waste sorting to prevent contamination."

The ordinance also established an "Edible Food Recovery Program" that requires certain food-related businesses to "recover edible food leftovers," package them for reuse and donate them to a food bank.

The ordinance requires the establishments to "maintain specific records and make them available to the City for annual reporting purposes."

It also allows City enforcers to "access the premises and review records."

Adopted in 2016 -- SB 1383 -- is "considered to be the most significant waste reduction mandate to be adopted in California in the last 30 years," staff said.

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