August 12, 2023
By David Goldstein
“How is recycling really going?” Versions of that question come to me by phone and email every week.
Scott Meckstroth, a professional engineer and deputy director of Ventura County’s Water and Sanitation Department, explained the reason for his and others’ challenging questions about the intentions and results of recycling programs: “We owe it to society to question and confirm the efficacy of the status quo,” he told me by email.
In particular, many people want to know what is happening with the relatively new food waste recycling programs. Public sector recycling coordinators and their contractors, such as trash and recycling collection companies, request compliance with curbside and commercial refuse separation rules. People often respond to requests for compliance with new programs by checking to see if others are also complying, according to Kendra Cherry, a psychology educator and author of “The Everything Psychology Book.” Cherry wrote, in an article published last year on the VeryWellMind website, “Compliance, (defined as) changing one’s behavior at the request or direction of another person… (depends on) several essential factors.”
Three of the factors are affinity, group influence and group size. In checking to see how many others in their city or county are recycling, some people may be gauging how much of an obligation to participate they should feel.
To provide clear answers about implementation of recycling programs, on Aug. 1, every city and county in California was required by state law to submit an annual report to CalRecycle, the state agency that oversees recycling. Writers of these reports, including me, were diligent about reporting accurately, because these reports will be scrutinized, investigated, audited and questioned by CalReycle’s new Jurisdiction and Agency Compliance and Enforcement Branch.
Highlights from reports across the county:
• County: After route reviews investigating whether prohibited items were contaminating organics recycling containers at 5,137 accounts outside cities, refuse collection companies found 1,790 instances requiring follow-up with customers. The companies mailed notices to these customers.
• Ojai: Of the 50 multifamily buildings in the city, 36 collect both yard clippings and food scraps through bins collected by E.J. Harrison and Sons.
• Oxnard: 98% of single-family residential houses have an organics cart for yard clippings and food scraps, collected by city-owned trucks. Only neighborhoods without space for an additional cart are excluded. The city’s Del Norte Regional Recycling and Transfer Station separated 1,608.81 tons of bagged food from yard clippings in 2022, sending the yard clippings to Agromin’s composting operation at the Limoneira farm, near Santa Paula, and sending the bags of food to a transfer site, then on to an out-of-county facility permitted to compost food.
• Santa Paula: Of 103 multifamily buildings, 94 recycle both yard clippings and food scraps through bin collection programs collected by Athens Services. The city also distributed 50 tons of compost in 2022.
• Simi Valley: 718 businesses are recycling both yard clippings and organics through the bin collection program collected by Waste Management, with 430 not recycling organics. The city also gave away 20 tons of compost at free events.
• Thousand Oaks: Athens Services collected waste from 5,895 commercial customers in 2022 and all but 13 businesses also had organics recycling. The city also partnered with 16 local food recovery organizations to collect unwanted, edible food and distribute it to those in need, launching a mobile application to connect food generators with food recovery organizations, and Athens provided grant funding for mobile refrigeration.
• Ventura: Of the city’s 2,320 businesses and multifamily properties subject to organics recycling requirements, only 151 are out of compliance. In 2022, the city also coordinated delivery of more than 20,000 kitchen compost pails to residents and is still in the process of delivering pails to multifamily properties as they sign up for service.
If you want to find out how your city or county is implementing and promoting plans to meet waste reduction mandates, ask your local recycling coordinator for more updates included in your city’s annual report to CalRecycle.
You can find more information at calrecycle.ca.gov/lgcentral/AnnualReport.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or email@example.com.