California’s Alameda County has begun fining businesses and multifamily property owners in violation of the county’s mandatory recycling ordinance.
The Oakland-based Alameda County Waste Management Authority has issued more than 100 citations and expects more as routine inspections continue, according to a news release.
The authority said the majority of the locations it inspected this year were in compliance.
The law went into effect in 2012. It requires businesses and multifamily property owners to establish adequate recycling collection service. The law also requires businesses to separate recyclable and/or organic materials into the correct containers.
“The Mandatory Recycling Ordinance has been in place for almost three years, and the primary goal of the authority has been education,” said Brian Mathews, enforcement officer for the authority. “We are only now issuing the first citations. The cities, haulers and authority have given businesses and multifamily property owners ample time to comply or seek assistance, before issuing citations.”
Fines can vary from $100 for a single violation to $400 depending on the number and type of violation. Continued non-compliance can result in additional penalties.
All citations were reviewed by staff in the area where the business or multifamily buildings are located.
The authority said it considers the citations a last resort to achieve compliance. It has undertaken what it calls extensive outreach to business and property owners to assist them in coming into compliance.
The ordinance’s goal is to help Alameda County reach its long-term waste reduction goal of sending less 10 percent of materials that are easily recyclable or compostable to landfills by 2020. The authority said in 2014 25-59 percent of the items in businesses’ waste containers could have been recycled or composted. For multifamily properties, the authority reports that an average of 46 percent of their trash could have been recycled or composted.
Oakland has been aggressive in other ways in trying to divert more of its waste to reach its goal, as well the state’s recycling goal. In September the city proposed to increase recycling rates charged to all residents by more than 10 percent, as part of an effort to resolve a dispute with the private contractor California Waste Solutions (CWS). The proposed hike would enable CWS to increase its annual revenue by roughly $800,000.
City officials and its private contractor Waste Management Inc. agreed to lower businesses’ fees for disposing of food waste that month as well, in response to protests by local restaurants against what they saw as massive rate increases for composting under the city’s new waste contract.
Meanwhile, nearby San Jose has faced a similar problem with non-compliance and fines, involving single-family homes. In September it was reported that nearly 40 percent of the material single-family homeowners put into their recycling bins is non-recyclable food waste and other junk.
The city said residents who don't get the recycling right might soon face stepped up enforcement, with possible fines for repeat offenders.