California legislation dictates new per capita waste disposal reporting
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The California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 requires each city to divert at least 50 percent of solid waste from landfill disposal. The new legislation will change the way that 50 percent is calculated, dictating that it now be reported on a per capita basis.

The effort to promote recycling and waste diversion in California was given some legislative aid on September 29 when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Senate Bill 1016 – the Solid Waste Disposal Measurement System Act of 2008.

The legislation, introduced by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D – Santa Rosa) on February 23, 2007, has changed the way in which diversion is measured and reported.

Existing law, contained in the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB 939), requires each city or county’s source reduction and recycling element to include an implementation schedule showing that a city or county must divert 50 percent of solid waste from landfill disposal or transformation on and after January 1, 2000. SB 1016 will now require the 50 percent diversion requirement to be calculated in a per capita disposal rate equivalent.

The act also requires each city, county, or regional agency to annually submit a report to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) summarizing its progress in reducing solid waste, and requires the report to contain certain information such as calculations of annual disposal reduction, information on changes in waste generated or disposed, and progress in diverting construction and demolition waste material.

Under this new law, jurisdictions that currently meet the 50 percent requirement will have a review before the board once every four years, while jurisdictions currently not meeting the 50 percent requirement will have a review before the board once every two years.

Wiggins, who has had a long-term interest in promoting recycling and waste diversion, served as a member of the CIWMB from 2004 to 2006.

“According to the CIWMB,” said Wiggins, “California diverted more than 46 million tons of solid waste away from landfills into recycling, composting and transformation programs in 2005, for an estimated statewide diversion rate of 52 percent. Diversion has increased nine-fold since the Integrated Waste Management Act was passed in 1989.”

CIWMB statistics show that almost 70 percent of jurisdictions have received approval for their diversion rates, while about 30 percent have either been granted a time extension or are on compliance orders.

“My bill is intended to focus on disposal reduction and enhanced program implementation efforts,” said Wiggins, “and it makes conforming changes to the provisions requiring state agencies and large state facilities to divert 50 percent of all solid waste.

She added, “SB 1016 has two primary components – it moves the current emphasis on an estimated diversion measurement number to using an actual per-capita disposal rate when determining program implementation and reduces the frequency of jurisdictions reviewed before the board. These components will be implemented under a disposal measurement system while maintaining a 50 percent diversion rate ‘equivalent’.”

Making reporting more accurate, efficient and timely is a critical element of the bill.

“The current system uses a set of complex adjustment factors that are not timely – typically they are not available from other state agencies until 14 months or more after the end of the reporting period and an additional 4-6 months after that for a jurisdiction to report,” said Wiggins. “SB 1016 allows all parties involved to concentrate their efforts on diversion program implementation rather than paper work and bean counting.

“To ensure local performance,” she added, “CIWMB staff will visit jurisdictions and state agencies at least once annually and use the Disposal Reporting System (DRS) to identify disposal trends/anomalies that indicate potential performance problems.”

The key elements of SB 1016 are:

  • A requirement that on and after January 1, 2009, the CIWMB will determine compliance with the diversion goals established by the 1989 act by comparing each jurisdiction’s “per capita disposal rate” with the jurisdiction’s “50 percent equivalent” per-capita disposal rate on January 1, 2007.
  • A specification that CIWMB consider the per-capita disposal rate when determining compliance with the 1989 act, but that the rate is not the only factor in determining compliance.
  • A requirement by the CIWMB to evaluate the need for a review of a jurisdiction’s program implementation should the rate exceed the 50 percent equivalent.
  • It specifies how CIWMB determines the per-capita disposal rate (total annual disposal divided by population).
  • It authorizes CIWMB to use an alternative per-capita factor for developing the per-capita disposal rate if a representative rate cannot be determined using the specified factors.
  • Specifies how CIWMB determines the 50 percent equivalent disposal rate using years 2003-2007 waste generation information.
  • Retains CIWMB’s authority to establish an alternative per-capita disposal rate for rural jurisdictions.
  • It revises the 10 percent diversion “credit” for transformation to reflect the per-capita disposal rate.
  • It clarifies and consolidates the information required for the annual report submitted by jurisdictions to CIWMB, including an update of the jurisdiction’s source reduction and recycling element (SRRE) and household hazardous waste element (HHWE) to include any new or expanded programs; an update of the jurisdiction’s non-disposal facility element to reflect any new or expanded non-disposal facilities; and disposal characterization studies or other studies showing the effectiveness of program implementation.

It requires CIWMB staff to visit each jurisdiction at least annually to monitor the jurisdiction’s implementation and maintenance of diversion programs. Wiggins’ bill enjoyed solid support among the many stakeholders.