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December 13, 2011 > Mandatory recycling and single-use bag ban under consideration

Mandatory recycling and single-use bag ban under consideration

Initiatives designed to reduce waste and litter, stimulate the local economy and create jobs

Submitted By Jeff Becerra

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority (ACWMA) has developed an Environmental Impact Report for, and will consider adoption of two ordinances that will help the county achieve its long-term waste reduction goals. The first proposed ordinance requires recycling of certain materials by larger businesses and multi-family properties. The second, prohibits distribution of single-use bags at check out for many retailers. Both ordinances were included as long-term waste reduction strategies in StopWaste.Org's Strategic Plan, adopted by the ACWMA and Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling boards in July 2010.

Earlier this year, Governor Brown signed AB 341 (Chesbro) into law, which included a requirement for larger businesses (four cubic yards of garbage service per week and above) and multi-family properties (five units or more) to obtain recycling service. The mandatory recycling ordinance proposed for Alameda County builds on the State's requirements by specifying which materials need to be recycled and by requiring an adequate level of recycling service be obtained.

Alameda County has long been a leader in recycling. In 1990, the voters expressed their support for recycling by passing Measure D, which set the most ambitious waste diversion goals in the country. StopWaste.Org's current goal is to have less than 10 percent easily recycled or composted material going to landfill by 2020.

"Increased recycling can contribute significantly to the local economy by tapping into $100M of resources that would otherwise go to landfill annually," said Gary Wolff, StopWaste.Org's Executive Director. At least 1,500 local jobs are expected to be created as a result of the mandatory recycling ordinance.

A county-wide cost analysis projects that the average cost to process materials for recycling and composting is two to seven percent lower than to collect it as garbage. Recycling also reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly, which is why the State has adopted a mandatory recycling law to help implement its landmark climate change initiative (AB 32).

The second ordinance under consideration would ban single-use bags at check-out at retailers selling packaged food, county-wide. Recycled content paper or reusable bags may be provided but only if the retailer charges a minimum price of $0.10 per bag. Adoption of a single-use bag reduction ordinance would help Alameda County reduce the number of bags going to landfill and decrease the problems caused by plastic bags at recycling processing centers and landfills. Setting restrictions on single-use bag distribution will also help local jurisdictions meet their storm water permit and litter control requirements at lower costs and reduce environmentally harmful trash in storm drains and creeks. Despite voluntary efforts to promote reusable bags countywide for several years, plastic bags accounted for 9.6 percent of litter collected during coastal clean-up days (based on 2008 data) in Alameda County.

The proposed ordinances will go before the ACWMA Board on December 14, 2011 for a first reading with a second reading scheduled for January 25, 2012. The two readings and majority approval by the Authority Board at each are required for adoption of the ordinances. If adopted, individual jurisdictions within the county would be able to opt out of either.

FAQ's with detailed information on each of the proposed ordinances are available at

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