Few businesses and residents ask for a higher garbage bill, but Alameda County taxpayers have chosen to hit themselves where it hurts. County officials say a self-inflicted fee that won voter majority 12 years ago is responsible for the 55-percent diversion rate achieved in 2000. Many are hoping that fee also will carry the county to its 75-percent diversion goal by 2010.
The 55-percent milestone has earned Alameda County praise in a report published recently by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR). The county is unusual because it receives a streaming fund earmarked solely for waste diversion purposes.
For every ton of refuse landfilled in Alameda County, an agency comprised of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board receives $6.59 to enact and manage several waste-diversion programs, including small-business loans. But funding doesn't end there. The agency also receives $1.50 per landfilled ton from the state and $4.53 per ton from San Francisco, which disposes its waste in Alameda facilities.
The voter's fee starts at the landfill. In addition to its standard tipping fees, landfills charge haulers $6.59 per ton for disposal. Landfills then send a check for the additional charges collected to the agency. Haulers in Alameda County, which operate under a franchise, pass the fee onto their customers. In 2001, when the initiative was re-evaluated and raised for cost-of-living, the average figure added to each garbage bill from this voter-imposed landfill fee was 2 cents. The agency's fiscal 2002 to 2003 budget is $17 million.
According to Bruce Goddard, Alameda County Waste Management Authority's director of public affairs, the voters are to thank for the diversion successes. “The amount of garbage disposed in Alameda County landfills went down between 1990 and 2000, even during the economic boom of the 1990s — one of the nation's most prosperous times,” he says.
For more information, visit www.stopwaste.org/ilsr.html.