Daily Digest: San Francisco moves 'zero waste' goal posts; latest on Florence
In the Daily Digest, the Waste Dive team rounds up insights and moments you may have missed.
"ZERO WASTE" BY [INSERT DATE HERE]
A growing number of cities have set "zero waste" targets, or at least espoused the ideal, in recent years. West Coast cities are often cited as the model, with San Francisco chief among them. The California city set its own target of achieving "zero waste" by 2020 all the way back in 2003. Now, with that mark fast approaching, San Francisco has quietly conceded they will not be hitting this goal.
While others have since set their own targets of 2030 or beyond, San Francisco's was the first to come up by nature of its early adoption. This result won't necessarily come as a surprise to anyone that has been watching the city's efforts, as many have long questioned the math on claims of diversion rates surpassing 80%.
Though even if this could have been predicted, it still presents an interesting case study in shifting sustainability talking points. If you aren't going to hit your current target, then you might as well set a new one that can become the center of attention.
Mayor London Breed recently announced her city's commitment to a new global pledge from C40 that aims for a 15% reduction in waste generation and a 50% reduction in landfill disposal by 2030. Toward the bottom of this press release, San Francisco's Department of the Environment (SF Environment) mentioned 2003, but omitted any reference to 2020 and said the new pledge "will help the City set new waste reduction targets to effectively track the City’s progress into 2030."
Earlier this spring, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors heard an update from SF Environment and Recology that recognized the 2020 goal would need to be updated. Presentations outlined areas to focus on, such as C&D or large generators, while also noting the current challenges caused by recycling market disruptions. Over the summer, Recology told Waste Dive it was still committed to maintaining an expanded list of accepted materials that was rolled out last year.
As noted in the spring, and highlighted by sharp local coverage from the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, one key issue is the city's landfill waste has been steadily rising since 2013. An estimated 60% of this material is recyclable or compostable.
Supervisor Ahsha Safai recently introduced a new ordinance that would require more than 500 of the city's largest generators to hire "zero waste facilitators" for at least two years if they were found to be non-compliant with existing separation guidelines. As is the case in any large city, diversion is often the most difficult in these commercial or multi-unit residential locations without the right systems in place. If passed, and enforced, that ordinance may well help move the needle closer to "zero waste."
Either way, the efforts of SF Environment and Recology are still above-and-beyond the average U.S. city and may serve as a useful model for others looking to expand their recycling efforts. Though the shifting benchmarks call into question whether the copious national press over the city's "zero waste" image is fully deserved and whether such targets are useful for anything beyond positive messaging if even this supposed paragon of sustainability can't achieve them.
IN OTHER NEWS
Indianapolis, still without curbside recycling, looking at new options — Waste Dive
More than two years after a contentious deal to build a mixed waste processing facility with Covanta fell through, the Indiana capital is one of the largest cities in the region to not have recycling.
Fears of Florence waste leakage now being realized — Bloomberg
While it was considered too soon to tell over the weekend, reports are now coming in of animal and human waste leaking into North Carolina's environment as a result of now-Tropical Depression Florence. Multiple wastewater treatment plants reported overflows, though the larger concern is the state's roughly 4,000 pig manure lagoons. The state's Department of Environmental Quality reported full breaches at two, discharges at seven, complete flooding at four and impending overflows at 14 more.
DSNY expands curbside e-waste collection to new neighborhoods — Queens Courier
New York's Department of Sanitation is adding new areas to its appointment-based e-waste collection service, effective Oct. 1. Residents in parts of western Queens and southern Brooklyn can now get a variety of consumer electronics picked up for recycling. This is the outgrowth of a successful pilot on Staten Island that expanded into northern Brooklyn last year and is eventually expected to reach the Bronx too. E-waste disposal has been banned in the state since 2015.
Canadian city plans to ban yard waste from organics collection due to odors — CBC
Hamilton, Ontario is set to approve a six-month ban on placing yard waste into organics collection bins to mitigate a multi-year issue with odors emanating from the Central Composting Facility. Officials say grass clippings in particular create ammonia when mixed with food waste. Planned upgrades at the facility, which has been temporarily closed since June, are expected to help address this problem by next year. In the meantime, residents will still be allowed to place yard waste at the curb in separate bags for collection.
Rubicon looking for the next "Best Small Business in America" — Press Release
Rubicon Global is launching its second annual competition to find nominees (with more than 200 employees at least one storefront) that are "using business as a force for social or environmental good." Businesses are asked to highlight "challenges they’ve faced and overcome to make the business successful as well as socially and environmentally conscious." The winner will be announced on Nov. 24, Small Business Saturday, and receive $10,000. Sugar Beet Co-Op from Chicago won the inaugural honor in 2017.
SEEN & HEARD
ON THE AGENDA
- Sustainable Materials Management Webinar Series: Ocean Bound Plastics Recovery and Recycling (1:30-2:45 ET). The latest event in a partnership between the National Recycling Coalition & Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center features Tamsin Ettefagh, vice president of sales for Envision Plastics.
Do you have events or webinars that should be on our agenda this week? Email [email protected].
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