UPDATE: Discussion about recycling contracts has been deferred to Sept. 18.
Paper and plastics tossed by U.S. consumers into their blue bins each week have been piling up or trucked to landfills and incinerators ever since China stopped accepting contaminated recyclables earlier this year.
Now, municipalities like San Jose—and ultimately residents—are stuck with the tab.
The City Council on Tuesday will discuss the impacts of China’s so-called “National Sword” policy, which banned the import of 24 types of recyclable materials and reduced the level of acceptable contamination to a half-percent per bale. That means throwing a fluid-filled bottle, a takeout container or other piece of trash in the recycling bin can render an entire multi-ton load unsellable.
San Jose, which provides recycling and trash pickup to more than 320,000 homes, oversees one of the largest privatized solid waste systems in the nation with a yearly budget of $115 million.
Local haulers say China’s new restrictions have slashed revenue per ton of mixed paper from $160 in March of 2017 to $3 in the same month this year. To ease the financial burden on San Jose’s recyclers, California Waste Solutions and GreenWaste, the city will consider waiving financial penalties if the contractors fail to divert the required amounts of reusable materials from the landfill.
State CalRecycle officials issued a letter advising companies how to manage the backed-up materials to reduce fire risk, water damage and pests. More importantly, manufacturers, consumers and local governments need to figure out how to reduce waste before it enters the curbside bins.
“For example, manufacturers can reduce unnecessary packaging on products, consumers can choose to use reusable instead of single use, disposable products, and local government can procure products with recycled content,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline wrote in a letter to California cities earlier this year. “Waste prevention has the potential to reduce reliance on foreign markets, as there is no need to export what California has not generated.”
Meanwhile, global market vulnerabilities combined with tighter regulations here at home might require San Jose to come up with an entirely new procurement framework for recycling, according to city Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for August 21, 2018:
- The city will spend $1.1 million in construction tax revenue to build a new park with a dog run between Alum Rock Avenue and East San Antonio Street off of Highway 101.
- San Jose may offer its official support for a proposed state bill that would prevent landlords from turning away prospective tenants who rely on publicly subsidized rent vouchers. AB 2219 introduced by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) would help prevent some San Jose tenants from becoming homeless, according to city Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand, who recommends supporting the bill. “Having landlords in our market that accept payments that benefit low-income and formerly homeless people is critical to preventing homelessness in our city,” she wrote in a memo to the council.
- The Blue Whale Sailing School in Alviso fell behind on its property taxes, which gave the Santa Clara Valley Water District a chance to purchase the site. The city is supposed to help authorize the $58,500 sale, which will add to the water district’s flood control infrastructure.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260