There’s no getting around this: the Kern government’s next venture in the county’s waste stream is going to get complicated.
State law requires the county to halve the amount of organic waste it dumps by January 1, although there is some flexibility in timing. By 2025, reducing methane emissions requires that three-quarters of the food, grass, paper and cardboard be sent to local landfills.
Now the price to pay: Kern’s director of public works told the supervisory board on Tuesday that the amount the county charges homeowners to cover the costs of transporting and recycling waste will likely need to increase 71% to 180 $ per year. Costs would also increase for companies that hire carriers.
Behind the county’s cost projections lie years of research and the desire of staff to balance transportation and operating costs while keeping the local environment clean and avoiding state sanctions.
Public Works Director Craig Pope told supervisors the county had considered drastic measures to cut costs, such as closing landfills and transfer stations and shutting down household hazardous waste facilities to benefit less practical alternatives.
But staff concluded that not only would the costs fall heavily on the carriers the county has contracted with, but people and perhaps businesses with a lot of waste to dispose of would end up throwing it where they shouldn’t. .
“(If) people have to shoot too far,” Pope said, “they won’t.”
What is proposed instead is a series of multi-million dollar construction projects, such as a $ 20 million composting facility in the Shafter-Wasco area, facility expansion and improvement. treatment facilities and a new $ 30 million organic waste treatment facility.
Different types of facilities would be needed to manage different waste streams. Residents with separate containers for garbage, recycling and green waste could have their organics sent directly to compost. In addition, it is expected that more emphasis will be placed on reducing food waste.
But the county foresees a great need to remove organics from unsorted residential waste streams, estimated by the state and county to be about 40% of all households throw away.
The state estimated that county costs would climb to between $ 25 million and $ 150 million per year. County staff say that looks about right.
No plan has been finalized locally. As a first step, the staff intends to move forward with an increase in costs, then ask the Supervisory Board to approve a specific plan for the treatment of organic waste. CalRecycle, the California Department of Recycling and Resource Recovery, is expected to approve any proposed solution. The county is also coordinating solutions with the incorporated towns of Kern with which it is already working on waste disposal and landfill diversion.
A few years ago, the county issued a request for proposals asking organic waste processors to submit their technologies for review. Nine responses were received, and of these, staff selected three for further review.
Deputy director of public works Lynn Brooks said staff had traveled to San Jose to check out a processing line that employs hundreds of people and almost non-stop removes organics which are then cooked for a month before to be composted. It was the most expensive of the three, with an estimated price tag of around $ 100 million.
In Sun Valley, staff witnessed processing that begins with unloading the waste onto a floor and then processing it onto a series of belts. Organic material is “crushed” or compressed to remove liquid, she said.
“It looks like oatmeal. It smells so bad,” she said, adding that the material is then sent to another facility where it is rehydrated and conventionally treated as wastewater. This has been estimated at around $ 30 million.
The third technology, valued at around $ 25 million, would turn organic waste into a potentially marketable product.
Brooks described it as producing pellets, or fluff, which can be used as fuel.
“Now we have a usable product that we could sell,” she said. There was talk of offering it as a green raw material to an industrial user of coal in the Tehachapi region, she added.
No final decision has been taken. “We are still looking,” she said.
Pope told supervisors there will have to be a balance between taxpayer fees and carrier costs, and rate negotiations with the county’s franchise carriers are continuing. He said this month that seven local hauliers have agreed to sell to Fontana-based Burrtec Waste Industries as a “curved ball.”
CalRecycle said by email that it is working to train cities and counties on how to comply with the mandate taking effect in less than three months. A spokesperson stressed that there are options for municipalities that cannot meet the deadline or need more time to develop a plan.
Spokeswoman Maria West noted that the state is providing tools, including sample prescriptions to adopt and sample marketing materials to help residents understand the greater value of meeting the requirements of SB 1383, the project. of law finalized in November requiring greater diversion of organic waste.
“Implementing SB 1383 is one of the fastest and easiest ways for Californians to fight climate change, feed Californians in need, conserve our precious water used to grow food and to move the state forward towards a future with less pollution and more green jobs, ”she said. wrote.