By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Every two years, trash collection service providers are allowed by state law to raise rates on customers. This year, local trash collectors EDCO are asking customers for an additional $1.44 a month for residential services and $8.89 more for commercial services.
At the April 23 La Mesa City Council meeting, EDCO representatives started the process for rate increases by receiving approval from the city to mail out notices about the rate increase. A public hearing and vote on the proposed rate increase will be held June 25 and, if approved, the new rates will take effect July 1.
EDCO president and CEO Steve South said part of the need for customer rate increases is due to changes in the worldwide recycling market.
“Over the last several years, there has been somewhat of a paradigm shift in recycling where markets have simply crashed,” he said.
South explained that 65% of recycling used to be shipped to China, until that country gradually increased quality standards for materials it would accept. Now, China doesn’t want any recycling from around the world.
EDCO has found new markets in countries including Turkey and Vietnam for its roughly 45 ocean containers a day of recycled material it ships and recycling, South said, is still preferable because it is obviously a “more sustainable option” than dumping in landfills — but there is no longer revenue from it and it doesn’t offset the company’s costs.
“For many times, we stood before you for rate adjustments and we actually had an offset for recycling. That no longer exists. Recycling is actually a cost,” he said. “But, again, in our assessment, that is a more sustainable disposal option and it surely assists the city in achieving state mandates.”
In addition to laying out the rate increases for the next two years, South also presented the waste disposal company’s future program for meeting city and state climate goals in recycling organic matter.
In 2014, the state passed AB 1826, which requires California businesses to have a mandatory commercial organic recycling program for food waste.
“Right now, there is not a food waste outlet for the city,” South said. “Currently the city has an offramp from CalRecycle.”
CalRecycle is California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, which brings together the state’s recycling and waste management programs and provides environmental stewardship.
In addition to requiring the food waste program, the state also passed AB 1594 in 2014, which took away disposal companies’ ability to divert ground cover — wood chips and the like — from landfills. Additionally, in 2016, the state passed SB 1383, which set a timeline to reduce methane emissions from short-lived climate pollutants like yard clippings and food waste.
“In response, we’ve developed what we feel is a viable, sustainable and expandable solution for our cities, which is commingled organics collection,” South said.
Starting in 2021, commingled collection will mean that residents and businesses will throw away their food waste into the green bins they currently use for yard clippings.
“It’s easy, it’s convenient and it should increase participation by making it easy the same way that single-stream recycling made recycling expand,” South said, adding that commingling the two wastes means EDCO customers will not need a fourth bin with a new color.
Residential customers will, however, be receiving a “kitchen caddie” that hangs from the inside of a cabinet door to collect food waste before taking it to the green bin for pickup.
After the food waste is mixed with the yard waste and picked up by EDCO on garbage day, the organic waste will then be taken to a new facility being built in Escondido that will convert it into methane gas as well as solid and liquid fertilizers. The methane will be used to power EDCO’s vehicles, making the entire fleet carbon-neutral.
The “anaerobic digestions facility” is permitted and entitled and ready to start construction, South said. The new operation should be up and running by 2021 — just in time for a new round of rate increases.
The proposed organics rate in 2021 will add an additional $2.84 to monthly residential bills and $85.24 to commercial rates, South added.
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.