California May Waive Disposal Fees

THE CALIFORNIA INTEGRATED Waste Management Board (CIWMB), Sacramento, is considering passing regulations that would offer incentives to inert or construction and demolition (C&D) landfill operators and waste haulers to fill and cap several state landfills. As part of the proposal, some hauler and operator disposal fees would be waived to help CIWMB expedite the filling and capping of state C&D landfills and more quickly redevelop land. Because the board would consider the land “redeveloped,” it also would allow the added C&D debris to be counted toward state-mandated recycling goals.

The waste and recycling industries are in opposition as a result of the possible changes. Recycling industry representatives are worried landfills could take away their business. They say the board would be falsely labeling certain material ‘recyclable’ that, for all intents and purposes, is garbage. Inert materials recyclers in California are concerned that the regulations will create unfair competition. After all, they say, the material would merely be lying in landfills, albeit under redeveloped sites.

Stephen Bantillo, chair of the Construction and Demolition Council of the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA), Sacramento, says that truly “recycled” materials should join the market of recycled aggregate, which are 50 percent less expensive than raw materials.

The waste industry, on the other hand, is lobbying hard for the changes because they would be privy to waived landfill fees. According to CIWMB Public Relations Officer Lanny Clavecilla, the regulations do not specify materials as “recycled” or “disposed,” nor do they focus on capping inert or C&D sites. Rather, he says, “the regulations are for ensuring that the sites are designed and operated in a manner that does not result in adverse impacts to the environment.” Although C&D material is accepted at some municipal solid waste landfills throughout California, only sites that solely host inert and C&D material would be affected by the regulations.

Regardless of whether the C&D debris is considered “recycled” or “disposed,” several incentives are driving the new regulations. If the material could be considered as having been “of beneficial use” to the reclamation process, then operators of the four to 12 sites that could qualify for redevelopment plans may be able to argue for exemption from state disposal fees. Fees were on average $39.52 per disposed ton in 2000, according to industry sources. Additionally, jurisdictions sending material to the sites could count the added C&D refuse toward state diversion goals. Jurisdictions are required to annually divert 50 percent of their generated solid waste. The average statewide rate in 2002 was 42 percent.

If the regulations are adopted, it still could take as long as 20 to 30 years for some of the larger sites to be capped. Yet once jurisdictions — attracted by incentives that inert recyclers cannot offer — begin sending a majority of C&D debris to landfills, the recycling industry will feel the effects.

Currently, Bantillo cites three California landfills — Cal Mat Reliance Pit Number 2, Irwindale; Nu-way Live Oak Reclamation Facility, Irwindale; and Peck Road Gravel Pit landfills, Monrovia — as significant competition for inert recyclers because they would qualify for “inert fill” status.

At press time, the issue was to be presented at the Permitting and Enforcement Committee in Sacramento, Sept. 8, and to the full board Sept. 16 and 17. CIWMB staff said they would recommend the board adopt a version of the regulations. The latest the board could take action would be in early October in order to have them submitted to the Secretary of State by Jan. 1, 2004.