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February 13, 2007 > Directors consider composting alternatives

Directors consider composting alternatives

By Steve Warga

Last month, Alameda County Waste Management Authority directors listened to more than a dozen presentations from a variety of entities eager to begin processing county garbage into resalable compost. As one company after another stepped to the podium and described their ideas, independent observers were left scratching their heads and wondering why ACWMA has been allowed to flounder for so many years in one failed project after another. All the while, landfills grow increasingly shorter on space and voter-mandated goals for greater percentages of recycling become increasingly impossible to accomplish.

About half of the proposals heard on January 24, required little or no investment of public funds or resources. A couple of companies flatly rejected the suggestion of wanting ACWMA funding. These companies wanted nothing more than the chance to begin receiving and composting public garbage. A presenter from Z Best Composting of Gilroy said it best, "We want your [garbage] flow, not your capital." He also insisted they could begin accepting that flow as early as January 25 ... the very next day!

Why ACWMA staff and directors have ignored these options for the past decade remains a mystery. While countless millions have gone to pay the salaries and perks of people hired specifically to effectuate an extensive composting program, a small army of private entrepreneurs have been busy doing just that without picking one single taxpayer's pocket.

Although the number of options offered caused some hesitation in the decision-making process, one conclusion remains crystal clear after the meeting. The only people who seem unable to commence recycling Alameda County's waste are the ones being paid by the county to do so; the ones calling themselves "Stopwaste.org."

By the end of that meeting, directors could have voted, on the spot, to enter contract negotiations with at least three companies to commence composting within a matter of days. Instead, the board decided to postpone any decision until Executive Director Karen Smith and Senior Project Manager Brian Matthews directed an intense study effort. Smith was magnanimous however. "One month," she promised. "We'll just drop everything else."

That offer seemed very pleasing to the board. None of those devoted public servants thought to prioritize agency requirements or questions. None asked why staff had passed over several of these companies and proposals in years past. And no director thought to ask just what in the world Smith and Matthews meant about dropping "everything else." What "everything else?"

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