New organics collection program stirs up interest
On Feb. 25 the Veterans Memorial Center, located at 203 East 14th Street, hosted a community meeting regarding the proposed Davis city-wide food scraps collection.
The city-wide program, projected to start at the end of 2016 would give single-family residential customers a 95-gallon organics cart that would be picked up once a week, the same day that trash and recycling are picked up. Apartment, multi-family and non-restaurant commercial customers would receive a 95-gallon organics cart per parcel, which would be picked up on the same day as residential carts. Restaurants and other commercial customers would receive a 65-gallon organics cart, which would be picked up twice a week, due to the large amounts of waste produced.
While details concerning sanitation, fee for extra carts and rebates for residents who do not produce 95-gallons of waste are still being discussed, individuals have been showing enthusiasm for the prospective program.
Jennifer Gilbert, the conservation coordinator for the City of Davis, explains that the contract with Davis Waste Removal, the private company that hauls the City’s garbage, recycling and yard waste, was signed Feb. 17. She adds that this was the first step needed to move forward with the Organics Program.
“We started in 2007 because we wanted to do a large pilot program to put more carts out on the streets and [to] reduce yard waste but that kind of fell through so here we are now trying to put everything together and we’re going to try it out….[The counsel approved] our integrated waste management plan that we put together in 2013….We’re actually starting to get the process going so that this can happen,” Gilbert said.
When asked what the program planners had been doing during the one year after the city council approved working with Davis Waste Removal, Gilbert responded that action focused on the contract.
“[We were] negotiating our contract with Davis Waste Removal. Step one was that we needed the contract. That contract was signed last Tuesday and so here we are. We finally got the contract signed and now we’re ready to roll,” Gilbert said.
The proposed waste program would potentially remove more organic material from the landfill by prompting Davis residents to separate their waste in the provided organics carts. According to the City of Davis’ recycling website, potential environmental benefits of the program include reduced waste, greenhouse gas reduction and improved stormwater quality. Some residential benefits include improved cyclist and pedestrian safety, cleaner streets and ease of use.
“Our goal is to reach 75 percent waste diversion by 2020. And the way that we’re going to get there is by collecting all the waste,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert also emphasized during the meeting that yard waste piles would still be collected once a month, during the first full week of each month, and every week between October and December due to the high volume of dropping leaves. Another point that Gilbert drove across was that there would be no additional costs to customers.
Sarah Mandel, a gardener at Davis Community Gardens, attended the meeting and stated her thoughts concerning the program and her desire to see a composting culture in Davis.
“I have family in Berkeley where they pick up all the waste and it’s great. I mean, I understand there are some problems with it but I think it makes a lot more sense. And we’ve been composting for years and it would be nice not to have to always do it myself, to have it be part of the culture,” Mandel said.
When asked about her interest in composting, Mandel expressed personal influences.
“I’m very concerned about soil. My parents grew up on the edge of the Dust Bowl and I was taught about how important soil is… And so this is just a really crucial part of soil improvement [just] in general….It really matters to compost waste and put it back in the soil,” Mandel said.
Amanda Emmel, a third-year wildlife fish and conservation biology major who is a member of the UC Davis Pierce Co-op, describes her support for such a program.
“Well, it seems like a perfectly good idea. A lot of the food in America…a third of it is wasted. It makes me happy to see that larger organizations are [finally] accepting that this is an important thing. There’s a lot of waste that happens. Getting some compost back from the waste is a great idea,” Emmel said.
Like Mandel, Emmel has hands-on experience with composting.
“Well [the Co-op] collect[s] all our compost from our kitchens. We do have, [in the gardens], a little compost system going. We have a few different piles and…it’s modest, like you can’t take care of orange peels or paper, or some things that larger, more carefully managed piles could take care of but… it works pretty well,” Emmel said.
When asked about what kind of impact she foresaw that the new program would have on Davis, Emmel pointed to both environmental and social factors.
“I think it’s obviously a positive environmental thing. And I think having something in place where there’s an authority [that] you’re close to… would be good,” Emmel said. “[It] would raise awareness about food waste…[that] things that you do throw out do go somewhere and some of these things have actual value.”
Graphics Courtesy City of Davis Public Works Department.
In the March 3 article “City-wide food scraps collection program projected to start in 2016,” it was reported that the contract for the waste removal project was signed Feb. 17 approving partnership in the compost program. The contract was actually a general agreement for the private company to pick up garbage, recyclables and yard waste, not specifically for the organics program.