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Waste Management Sonoma Style Part 2


Waste Management Sonoma Style
Part 2

By Connie Madden, co-owner, Oasis Community Farm

In Part 1 on Waste Management - Sonoma Style, we looked at how Sonoma County waste management programs are operating currently – more plastics going to landfill since the few remaining centers no longer accept soft plastics as the resale price of plastic has fallen off, glass deposits not collected by residents, so money from broken glass goes to our hauler, The Ratto/North Bay Corporation.

Since our Sonoma Compost facility closed, we now haul our green waste to Marin County to the tune of $4.5 million per year hoping for a new facility within three years, according to Patrick Carter, Executive Director of Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, and an amazing 100 small recycling booths closed last year due to low income – seems we’re on a downward trajectory.  Of course, the low point can also be part of a renewables upcycle.

Pamela Davis, a waste management consultant working with C&S Waste Solutions, sees light at the end of our waste management tunnel through contracting with the best possible hauling services and by choosing to end the use of plastic water bottles. Reaching those two benchmarks, much more recycling will be possible.

It is encouraging that the City of Windsor has set a goal of 50% recycling and its contract for services is out for bid with a new contract that came up in November 2016 while the City of Sonoma uses a different hauler than other Sonoma cities, John Curatto, inventor of The Curatto-Can (claimed to be The Future of Automated Collection). By mounting an automated container to the front forks of hauling trucks, operators can easily spot contaminants that should be removed from the trash stream, according to Curatto. One wonders if the good record of Curatto-Can, recently purchased by Environmental Solutions Group, a division of Dover Corporation, Fort Payne, AL can continue with an out of state home office.

If cities, such as Sonoma and San Francisco, can pull recyclables out of the trash stream, a great deal more can be reused whereas The Ratto /North Bay Corporation used by all Sonoma cities save the City of Sonoma, does not allow cities to pre-sort trash so that far more recyclables go into the dump pile. The company was cited on several occasions for recycling containing more than 10% garbage and one Cease and Desist order issued to Ratto Corporation in 2015 charges of up to 50% trash amid recycling at one point.

While a 50% recycling rate sounds excellent and is the standard for California generally, we look at our closer to 34% rate and see San Francisco’s plans as quite exhilarating. San Francisco is leading the way toward Zero Waste by 2020, becoming a role model not just for California but for other countries as well.  “Zero Waste is sending nothing to landfill or incineration. SF Environment creates policies that reduce waste, and increase access to recycling and composting,” according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment. San Francisco already recycles up to 80% of waste material and a series of Channel 7 KGO TV and Channel 2 KTVU stories shows amazing progress in our City by the Bay. View the upbeat videos at Excellent programs on this area are also available at the Living on Earth site,, part of NPR.

How? Here’s the plan in short:

Prevent Waste – buy less and reuse what you have.

Recycling and Composting – recycle or compost almost everything. You can reuse and recycle debris from construction and demolition projects

Safe Handling of Toxic Products – options for batteries, paints, pesticides. 

Re-compost – green waste can be ground up and processed to reinvigorate soil and has shown itself to be invaluable in restoring depleted soil Composting keeps materials out of landfill, it reduces the production of greenhouse gases and returns them to the land. Food scraps that might be waste beome compost…more than 300 vineyards are using SF compost, returning carbon back to the land. 

While Sonoma County stores and recycling centers offer many options for recycling batteries, paints, medicines and other toxic products both in stores and at the central site at Meacham, corporate groups face huge challenges, some recycling as little as 7%, but practices are changing throughout our state and elsewhere and recycle bins and education are becoming more the norm in the corporate world.

As the SFEnvironment website proudly states:

“Zero Waste: Sending nothing to landfill is a foreseeable future.”