Since 1990, Alameda County has maintained a strong momentum of achievement in waste diversion. Its robust system of waste management and diversion has enabled the county to achieve a 67% waste diversion rate, as of 2018. Supporting the diversion of recyclables from landfills are two Alameda County recycling ordinances: the Mandatory Recycling Ordinance (for recyclables and organics) and the Plant Debris Landfill Ban Ordinance. Programs under the Mandatory Recycling Ordinance will be replaced by the Organics Reduction and Recycling Ordinance starting January 1, 2022 in order to comply with California State Law SB 1383.
The waste diversion and recycling programs are predominantly administered by StopWaste, a public agency working on behalf of Alameda County’s Recycling Board, the Waste Management Authority, and the Energy Council. StopWaste receives over 90% of its core funding from Alameda County’s per-ton waste disposal fees,1 including a Measure D recycling fee ($8.23), AB 939 recycling fee ($4.34), import mitigation fee ($4.53), and a household and hazardous waste fee ($2.15).
StopWaste’s holistic approach to waste reduction and resource management includes technical assistance, grants and incentives, community engagement, public outreach campaigns, market development, and ordinance enforcement. The disposal fee revenue has funded numerous innovative projects in Alameda County over the years, including projects that prevent, divert, and recover wasted food, support building healthy soils, and increase availability and quality of local compost products, to name a few.
Measure D Recycling Surcharge
The Alameda County Waste Reduction and Recycling Initiative Charter Amendment of 1990 (also known as “Measure D”) that created StopWaste also established a countywide Recycling Plan to fund and implement a proactive and comprehensive source reduction and recycling program. Measure D established a $6-per-ton surcharge on materials disposed in Alameda County landfills or incinerators with the sole purpose of financing the County’s Recycling Plan. As of 2021, the per-ton surcharge has been set at $8.23 since its most recent update in 2011.
“SUBSECTION 64.050: RECYCLING FUND
6. Commencing not later than three (3) months after the effective date of this Act, each landfill or incinerator in Alameda County shall collect a surcharge of six dollars ($6.00) per ton on all refuse accepted for landfilling or incineration at said landfill or incinerator. All monies collected through said surcharge shall be paid by the operators of each landfill or incinerator into a fund, to be known as the Alameda County Recycling Fund (hereinafter the “Recycling Fund”), established for the purpose of receiving and disbursing monies pursuant to this Act. The Board of Supervisors shall ensure the collection of said surcharge, either by modifying the use permits of said landfills and incinerators or by any other necessary means.”
Revenue for 2021 is expected at $9.7 million. The fee is collected by landfill operators and paid to the Recycling Board, which deposits the revenue into the Recycling Fund.
Of the Recycling Fund, 50% is disbursed quarterly to municipalities (per-capita basis) for expansion of their recycling programs. In 2021, the revenue remitted to municipalities totaled $4.8 million. Of the remaining funds, 10% funds a grant program for non-profits engaged in maximizing recycling, composting, and waste reduction; 10% funds the Source Reduction Program; another 10% funds the Recycled Product Market Development Program; 3% funds administration expenses; and 12% is disbursed according to the Recycling Board’s discretion. The remaining 5% is applied to the Recycled Product Purchase Preference Program. Additionally, Measure D stipulates a price preference of 10% for County procurement of recycled products, including, but not limited to, compost products.
Guidelines for Review
Measure D also outlines clear guidelines for reviewing and updating the surcharge. However, adjustments to these fees now require voter approval, in accordance with California Proposition 26, which passed in 2010. Preceding the passage of Proposition 26, the Board of Supervisors could make adjustments to the surcharge in a few different ways, including by ballot measure for Alameda County, by Board vote in accordance with changes to the Consumer Price Index, and by Board vote every five years to increase the surcharge by up to 20%. Now, any adjustments to the surcharge must be approved by two-thirds of voters.
Five Year Recycling Board Audit
Subsection 64.040(C) of Measure D requires a Financial and Compliance Audit of the Recycling Board to be conducted every five years to ensure compliance with Measure D. The latest Five-Year Audit is being conducted by a third party consultancy with Crowe LLP. The audit is conducted in two phases, in accordance with the Recycling Board’s 2003 resolution (RB 2003-11). The first phase, evaluating fiscal years 2016/17-2018/19, is complete and fiscal years 2019/20-2020/21 are currently under review.
The audit provides a comprehensive overview of Measure D and StopWaste’s activities, assessments of revenue and expenditures, financial compliance, and waste diversion, as well as audit recommendations.
County Waste Surcharge to Meet State Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Requirements
Alameda County landfills also collect AB 939 implementation fees, in order to meet requirements under the California Integrated Solid Waste Management Act of 1989, enacted by California Assembly Bill 939 (AB 939). This state bill enabled local governments to impose solid waste fees to be used to pay the costs of preparing, adopting, and implementing an integrated waste management plan. Alameda’s AB 939 fee is set at $4.34 per ton disposed and yielded $5.5 million in revenue for the county in 2021.
“CHAPTER 8. Local Fee Authority
41900. Each city and county shall demonstrate a funding source, or sources, available to pay for preparing, adopting, and implementing the element or plan, as required by Sections 41003, 41230, 41303, and 41430.
41901. A city, county, or city and county may impose fees in amounts sufficient to pay the costs of preparing, adopting, and implementing an integrated waste management plan prepared pursuant to this chapter. The fees shall be based on the types or amounts of the solid waste, and shall be used to pay the actual costs incurred by the city or county in preparing, adopting, and implementing the plan, as well as in setting and collecting the local fees. In determining the amounts of the fees, a city or county shall include only those costs directly related to the preparation, adoption, and implementation of the plan and the setting and collection of the local fees.
41902. A local agency may directly collect the fees authorized by this chapter or may, by agreement, arrange for the fees to be collected by a solid waste hauler providing solid waste collection for the city or county.”
Waste Diversion Efforts and Grants
Often, the AB 939 fee revenue and the Measure D revenue are combined to provide funds for larger projects.2 Examples of projects funded by AB 939 fee revenue and/or Measure D funds in 2020-2022 with a particular focus on food waste, composting, and healthy soils include: 3
- Comprehensive school and community engagement campaign on healthy soils, food waste prevention, and composting
- Implementing carbon farm planning on Waste Management Authority property
- Efforts to increase availability of, access to, and quality of local compost and mulch products
- Food waste reduction initiatives including the Smart Kitchen and Cafeteria Initiatives, Stop Food Waste Campaign, and Food Waste Prevention and Donation Grants
- Expanding the use of organic material in landscaping to build soil health, sequester carbon, increase resilience to climate change, and conserve water resources
- Ongoing measurement and evaluation of Mandatory Recycling, Food Waste Reduction, Community Outreach, and Schools programs
- Implementation of efforts to comply with California SB 1383, which specifies targets for reducing organic waste in landfills, among other mitigation measures for methane emissions
StopWaste’s Waste Prevention Grants have played a key role in Alameda County’s food reuse and rescue efforts. In 2021, StopWaste allocated $580,985 in grants to local nonprofit and for-profit organizations, funding a range of projects that facilitate waste reduction and diversion. For example, Common Vision practices composting at its school garden Food Hubs in addition to rescuing and redistributing edible food within the community. Previously projects supported include a 2018 grant to the Habitot Children’s Museum to expand its recycling center exhibit including a public awareness campaign covering waste reduction and food waste recycling, as well as nine community outreach grants used to help increase participation in residential food scrap recycling in 2017.
Plan for Landfill Obsolescence
In accordance with Alameda County’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Act, the Recycling Board had established 2020 as the year by which the 75% waste diversion goal was reached. While the County achieved a remarkable 67% diversion rate by 2018, it fell short of its 2020 goal. Despite previous years of steady decline, landfill tonnages have begun to rise again. As a result, the Alameda County Recycling Board proposed an ambitious update to its Recycling Plan in October 2020 entitled “Beyond 75% Diversion: A Plan for Landfill Obsolescence.” The Plan aims to make landfills as a means of managing materials obsolete by 2045, in favor of circular material flows, redesigned products and systems, and effective recycling and organics programs.
- StopWaste Annual Budget (2021-2022)
- Alameda County Measure D Five Year Financial and Compliance Audit (Fiscal Years 2016/17 – 2018/19)
- Measure D Policies and Disbursements – StopWaste
- Waste Prevention Grant Opportunities – StopWaste
- Case Study on Alameda County’s Waste Management and Reduction Programs (ILSR, 2002)
- “Wastes to Landfill in Alameda County Have Declined 50%” (infographic fact sheet) – Urban Ore (2015)
1 StopWaste Annual Budget Report Fiscal Year 2021-22. September 2021. (Surcharge revenue info found on p.26 of document).
2 Personal communication. Meri Soll. Senior Program Manager, StopWaste. Video call. October 6, 2021.
3 StopWaste Annual Budget Report Fiscal Year 2021-22. September 2021. (Projects funded start on p.47 of document).
Original post from December 13, 2021