Avoiding Mountains of Trash

Recycling and composting food scraps will keep trash collection fees low as well as lessen the amount of trash taken to overflowing landfills, according to the terms of a renewed 10-year, $43 million waste collection contract approved by the City Council on Tuesday.

After nine years of providing the basic collection service removing curb-side discards from homes and businesses and taking it to local dump sites, Waste Management of Orange County will now operate in Laguna Beach under an environmentally focused, trash-reduction contract.

It’s called waste diversion.

“Fundamentally, it’s all geared towards recycling and green waste and food waste diversion programs,” said Richard Tagore-Erwin of R3 Consulting Group, contract negotiators.

Waste Management’s renewed contract is designed to save the city $1 million and customers $2.6 million over the next 10 years and includes $5 million of new services provided by WM without charge to the city.

Doug Corcoran, area director of disposal services for WM, said the city’s negotiating team “held our feet to the fire.”

The goal is to “divert” 50 percent of curbside discards to recycling programs and home and commercial composting bins by 2014.  By 2020, the waste reduction goal is 75 percent.  Currently, 35 percent of the city’s trash is recycled or composted.

The terms of the revised contract, including the recycling and composting programs as well as legal issues and insurance requirements, are geared toward reaching those goals, Erwin said.

Residential recycling is at 51 percent while commercial lags at 11 percent.  WM must bring commercial waste diversion up to 50 percent by next year.  “They have their work cut out for them,” Erwin said.

“It’s a big job. We know it.  We’re not scared of it,” said Corcoran, adding that Laguna residents, unlike those elsewhere, take recycling and creating a cleaner environment seriously.

The savings and financial assistance to the city and WM customers will result from several areas, reported Erwin, including WM adding $50,000 to the city’s public education programs on recycling and composting workshops where residents will learn how to decompose food scraps and organic green waste to enrich soils for lawns and gardens.

A charge based on removing a maximum of seven tons of waste from businesses will be lowered.  Erwin said many commercial customers weren’t throwing out that much trash but were being charged for it.


WM will also absorb the city’s cost for disposing household hazardous wastes and expand the program to smaller businesses and to include electronic products.  Erwin said the transfer will save the city $1 million over the next 10 years.

While the general terms of the renewal contract were agreed upon in January, staff was directed to press for ways to reduce the town’s environmental impact on landfills without triggering a rate increase.

A rate freeze for all customers, commercial and residential, will be in effect until July 1, 2015, Erwin reported.  The last rate hike was in July 2010. Commercial businesses using carts rather than the larger commercial bins will see a 15 percent rate decrease, he added.

“Every account, business and resident, hard-to-service or non-hard-to-service, will have recycling service provided as a free service,” Erwin added.

WM will also add new services: providing recycling for clothing and bulky items, recycling containers at public events, a part-time recycling coordinator and a “working plan” to implement recycling meat and dairy discards from restaurants.  “There’s not a lot of facilities that can accept meat, dairy, fish,” said Erwin, because it requires a different type of facility and there are none in OC. WM will pay for the program.

Erwin said the contract terms took longer than anticipated to organize and formalize, necessary because of a performance requirement. The city could assess damages if WM doesn’t perform as stipulated, Erwin said.

Council approved adding $15,300 to R3 Consulting Group’s original $38,300 fee to negotiate the pact for the additional six months needed to finalize the 100-page contract.

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  1. Don

    We own a business and residence on PCH in Woods Cove. As a business owner I have insisted that our employees recycle while at work and its always surprising to me when I get push back and lack of compliance on this request, even from our own employees. I am ASHAMED at some of the stuff i see in trash containers that should be recycled from businesses and residents in our town. Let’s clean up our act Laguna!

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