Will Lowry: Don’t leave apartments out of Oakland Zero Waste plan

30 May

This guest post was written by Will Lowry, who was born in San Francisco, where he lives with his family. Will has worked in Oakland’s public schools and currently does online communication for the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. He considers it part of his online mission to encourage you to leave your computer off, and to go outside.

Oakland is designing a new “Zero Waste” collection system to be implemented in 2015, which will last for 10 years or more. The proposal has many excellent points, but it still needs an essential improvement.

Under the current proposal, single-family residences would continue to put out separate carts for recyclables, compostables, and garbage. Multifamily buildings, however, would receive pick-ups just for recycling and garbage, with compostables mixed in the garbage. This mixed garbage would be processed at a mixed-materials processing facility, which would try to sort out the compostables (organic matter) from the items going to landfill.

This distinction between residential and multi-family buildings is wrong — both for the environment and for the people. Compost derived from mixed garbage is contaminated (sometimes by hazardous waste in the dumpsters), and can’t be used for farms and food crops. Further, treating apartment-dwellers as second-class residents, unable to learn to distinguish between compostables and trash, is insulting to them, and leaves them out of the city’s efforts to achieve Zero Waste.

Multi-family buildings could get separate pick-ups of compostables for an extra charge, paying a penalty for the opportunity to dispose of their waste responsibly. History has shown, however, that when Oakland rental owners are asked to pay extra fees to provide an extra service, they will almost always decline.

Send a message to Oakland’s City Council before their meeting on June 5th.

Let them know that it is essential that the new Oakland recycling contract require that compost bins be provided at multi-unit buildings at no extra cost.

Please feel free to modify the middle section of the email, letting the City Council know why this issue is important to you. Or just leave this section as it is, whichever you prefer.

The Oakland City Council will vote on the zero waste system on Tuesday, June 5th at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers, on the 2nd Floor of Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can fill out a speaker card online – sign up for item number 16.

2 Responses to “Will Lowry: Don’t leave apartments out of Oakland Zero Waste plan”

  1. withak30Erik May 30, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    I thought it was the other way around. Apartment-dwellers would have the luxury of not having to sort out their compost; people in single-family homes are forced to do it themselves manually.

  2. Lovica June 10, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Is there an incentive for apartment dwellers to separate their compostables? I think the participation rate will be even lower for apartment dwellers than it is for single-family residences because homeowners at least have a minor incentive of paying less per month for a smaller trash can.

    Also, in a multi-family residence, it only takes one family that doesn’t comply to ruin the whole separation scheme. Since we installed compost bins at work, I am constantly fishing trash out of the compost. It’s not that people can’t learn to separate, it’s that they don’t care to. To them all trash receptacles are created equal.

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