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Council advances on changes to garbage handling system
ceres cans
Ceres residents will no longer be legally able to store their garbage containers in public view when not on collection day.

Prompted by a host of new state laws, the Ceres City Council took action last week to begin the process of making changes to garbage collection practices in Ceres.

Among those changes is that household will be receiving a third garbage waste-wheeler for service starting Jan. 1, 2022. One container will be for household waste, another can for recyclables and the new can for organics, such as paper, grass clippings, garden waste, leaves and food scraps.

The council also decided to return to the former policy which forbids residents from storing their garbage containers in public view when they are not at the curb for collection.

Another primary change is that the city will continue to offer the leaf and limb program but only seasonally and not year round. The new leaf and limb season will run Oct. 1 to Jan. 9.

Public Works Director Jeremy Damas said that the city will have months of educating the public about the changes in an effort to change behavior so that cans aren’t cross contaminated.

In an effort to reduce what goes to landfills in California, state legislators in Sacramento have passed a host of bills mandating cities to make sweeping changes to how their residents dispose of trash. Those changes include making some businesses like restaurants to recycle organic wastes.

Because Ceres’ contracted refuse collector Bertolloti Disposal doesn’t have access to high diversion organic waste processors to sort out materials in any two-can system, the city is adding a third container solely for organics and biodegradable waste.

While residents see a third can as a curse, the city hopes they see it also see it as a blessing since they’ll have more capacity for green waste. Residents will be less tempted to unlawfully dump lawn clippings in the gutter since those and leaves can now go in the green organics can and not take up space in the regular household waste can.

Damas said the extra container should also result in fewer cans being set at the curb overfilled with the lids unable to be closed. Bertolloti crews have long been instructed to not pick up overstuffed cans.

Damas said change typically causes angst among citizens. But each can will be labeled to remind residents what they can and cannot be placed in each can until it becomes routine.

Lawmakers and the governor have adopted a series of bills, some of which have been in effect for decades. AB 939, for example, was passed in 1989 and mandates that cities cut their waste streams in half. Over the last four years, however, Ceres has diverted only 15 percent of its waste away from landfills.

AB 341 requires businesses and public agencies which generate four cubic yards or more of waste per week to arrange for recycling services to divert 75 percent of the waste stream away from landfills. Targeted is food waste, green waste, landscaping and pruning waste and other non-hazardous waste. Businesses may haul themselves, or arrange for pickup of recyclable materials. Such diversions will cause some challenges for businesses to “fill out forms and go online just to document what they are doing,” said Damas.

Senate Bill 1383, called the “Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy” aims to reduce organic waste by 75 percent by 2025. It requires the state to increase edible food recovery by 20 percent by 2025. The state will begin enforcement on Jan. 1, 2022.

“Local governments must take enforcement against noncompliant entities in 2024.

The bill also stipulates the implementation of residential organic waste recycling programs.

Under changes to AB 827, fast-food restaurants will have to provide organics and recycling containers for the use by customers who purchase and consume food on the premises. Full-service sit-down restaurants do not fall under the same regulations but they must provide labeled containers next to the trash containers for employees to separate waste.

Damas said the city will be launching an aggressive public education campaign to get residents up to speed on the forthcoming changes.

With the three can system, the color of cans is key:

• The black can becomes the garbage can for garbage and rubbish;

• Blue cart is for recyclables, including, aluminum cans, glass bottles and jars, plastic jugs and bottles.

• Green cart for leaves, grass clippings, weeds, newsprint, cardboard, paper, junk mail, garden and tree prunings, shrubs, food waste and food-soiled paper.

Senate Bill 1383 and Assembly Bill 1826 takes aim at cart contamination and enforcement. It will require cities to conduct regular waste “audits” of a small percentage of garbage cans to determine if residents are incorrectly disposing of waste in the wrong can. That information then gets reported to Cal Recycle. Damas cited an example of contamination as when someone places recyclables in plastic bags before placing them in the blue cart. “The plastic bag would be considered a contaminant because it’s not considered a recyclable material.”

He said that means the city will have to take random cans from 40 locations, dump the contents on a concrete slab and if it’s being sorted improperly or contaminated. 

Damas reviewed the fines that the city intends to implement, including:

• Up to a $500 fine for pilfering and scavenging;

• Fines for illegal dumping (which includes placing grass clippings in the street) that starts out as a warning, second $25, third $100, fourth $250.

• Collection cart contamination that starts out as a warning, second $25, third $100, fourth $250. Or habitual offenders can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

Cara Morgan of CalRecycle said the state can start enforcement Jan. 1, 2022 and if cities need more time to educate can start enforcing in 2024.

“We really anticipate that cities and counties will not have to implement much enforcement since residents and businesses are being provided this service,” said Morgan.

“I’m a little confused why you’d say this service is provided for them,” said Vice Mayor Couper Condit. “I mean if someone’s not sorting their trash correctly they can get fined and that’s my concern – a lot of folks don’t sort their trash and they’re going to end up getting fined.”

Morgan said regulations don’t require fines, only allow a city to do so.