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Trash Is Getting Costly!


Trash Is Getting Costly!

By Vesta Copestakes

I’m old enough to remember before recycling where everything you didn’t want went into the trash can and the local trash service hauled it away…to the dump…a.k.a. landfill which describes a hole or valley everything got dumped into until it filled up.

Then recycling came along and we sorted our trash by category and felt good knowing it would have a second life. Trash men would throw the contents of our bins into trash/recycling trucks divided into categories.  “Single stream” came along about the same time trash trucks were designed to pick up trash mechanically…no people jumping off and on the truck as it rolled down the road. Recycling now gets sorted at the facility owned by the trash company - not us sorting it at home.

We trust our trash service to take care of what we throw away. We complain when they raise our rates, but out-of-sigh…out-of-mind applies here.

Several Sonoma County cities have contracts with local provider Ratto Group – known as North Bay Corp., or Redwood Empire Disposal, and other names depending upon the city it serves.  They are known for their low rates, but also for their less-than-ideal service as well. Sometimes the two go hand-in hand.

“When a complaint was made to the State, late last year, Sonoma County Environmental Health did an inspection of North Bay Corp recycling facility, and issued a Cease and Desist order after finding the facility out of compliance and lacking the appropriate permits.

The Cease and Desist order, issued last fall, was intended to shut down the North Bay Corp. recycling facility on Standish Avenue where all North Bay Corp. affiliates deliver single stream, or blue can materials. For years, the facility skirted the requirement for a Solid Waste Facility Permit by claiming that the residual, or contamination level, was under 10%. But following the complaint, the subsequent inspection determined that nearly 30% of the incoming material was garbage, and not recycling.

The company continues to receive daily fines as they seek to legalize their operations on Standish Avenue.

More recently, the Santa Rosa deputy city manager hired R3 Consulting Group to do a Performance Review of North Bay Corporation, and what they found revealed problems company-wide.

“Key findings include the fact that the Company is not operating vehicles meeting the requirements of the franchise agreement, and did not meet the 45% minimum diversion requirement in 2013 and 2014. Additionally, the Company has not consistently met a number of other primary performance requirements in the franchise agreement, and is facing a number of systematic performance issues in nearly all departments.”

 Although the audit was specific to the Santa Rosa Agreement, importantly, several key components of that audit may have direct implications to other jurisdictions in the County. For example, recycling delivered to the Standish Avenue recycling facility are commingled with materials from the rest of the county, as well as the parts of Marin County where North Bay Corp. also provides collection services. These materials are “allocated” to each jurisdiction based on incoming volume from each service area. In Santa Rosa, Windsor and unincorporated Sonoma County, these numbers are critical as certain diversion goals must be met in order to receive 100% of an annual CPI increase (Consumer Price Index/cost of living .  

Now that the excessive contamination level at the recycling facility has been exposed, it raises the question about just what the actual diversion rate is for the other jurisdictions, and especially for Windsor and the County, since those rate structures are directly tied to that self-reporting performance indicator. 

The City of Petaluma has recently brought on a consultant to evaluate their own North Bay Corp. agreement. The Town of Windsor is putting their collection contract out to bid this year, and the City of Santa Rosa is facing an imminent decision about what penalties may be imposed, and whether they will elect to seek a new hauler themselves. 

The County of Sonoma entered into a 20-year agreement with North Bay Corp. in 2010. Given the important issues that have been raised in Santa Rosa, it seems important that the County do their own due diligence to assure the ratepayers are provided the services, and rates, that were promised under the agreement.

As the trash/recycling issue hits the proverbial fan, we, as a county, and our cities, need to be paying more attention to the details and not just trust like we have in the past. Trusting can get costly in fees as well as environmental hazards.

Just another subject we need to be paying attention to. So when you put your trash and recycling in those color-coded bins…PAY ATTENTION to what goes in there and where it’s going. YOU will be the ones paying no matter what these audits find…one way or another.