- San Jose officials may roll out larger trash bins for residents in early 2016, in hopes they will stop dumping garbage into the recycling bins. The idea of larger trash cans arose after a city audit found the rate of acceptable recyclables dropped among single-family households from 36% in 2008 to 27% in 2014.
- California Waste Solutions (CSW), San Jose’s main hauler, reported that nearly 40% of what they collect is unrecyclable garbage; consequently they have fallen short of their goals, resulting in nearly $900,000 in fines for 2011 to 2014, and another $560,000 in 2015. San Jose’s second contractor, GreenTeam, says their company isn't finding high contamination rates.
- In addition to thinking about larger trash cans, San Jose City is considering more recycling education by the city, reducing recycling rate targets in CWS's contract due to declining recyclables, redrawing district boundaries to account for household size, and other new developments.
Contamination rates around much of the country are on the rise, according to the Environmental Research & Education Foundation. And San Jose’s declining recycling numbers make it highly questionable whether the city will reach its "zero waste" goal of 100% landfill diversion by 2022. In September, the city threatened to fine residents $50 for throwing trash in the recycling bin, however the possible fine wasn't enough to stop the contamination.
"We are finding more of the unacceptable items and garbage in the carts," said Joel Corona, California Waste Solutions’ chief operating officer.
San Jose city officials question the 40% contamination figure, citing a 2008 study that found about 25% of the material dropped into recycle bins is garbage.
Further, city leaders claim a drop in recycling is due to the process of handling recycled paper, though California Waste Solutions disagrees. But the city and recyclers agreed to a new waste study to get an accurate picture.
Meanwhile, the city and CWA disagree on other points; Kerrie Romanow, San Jose’s environmental services director, recommended CWS transfer compostable materials to another hauler to sort and process. But "CWS believes we can do most of that ourselves," said Corona.
City officials will report the costs of the proposed changes at a City Council meeting in February.