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Recycled plastic bottles

Bottom Line:
It Costs More If We Don’t Recycle

Dec 29, 2017

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By Occupy Sonoma County

What’s your bottom line? Is it money or the continuity of life on this planet?

In January 2018, Recology of San Francisco will replace The Ratto Group as Santa Rosa’s garbage hauler. As goes Santa Rosa so goes the rest of the county. Curbside residential rates are expected to increase by 58%. If you’re paying $16.97 a month now, expect it to rise to $26.85. Commercial rates will increase by an even greater percentage. Yet, these new rates are still 7% - 18% below industry standards for similar size communities in Northern California. One reason these rates seem so high is because Ratto was charging 42% - 48% below the average rate. They were able to achieve this, in part, by paying drivers an average of $16 an hour while line recyclers received barely more than the state minimum wage of $10.50 an hour.

Ratto’s below average rates bought us below average service and a dismal environmental record. The deal was a 45% diversion rate. A diversion rate is the percentage of trash kept out of our landfill through recycling, composting and repurposing. What we got was a 36% diversion rate. The Standish Avenue Recycling Center was closed by the health department. Ratto’s trucks polluted heavily and frequently broke down which led to poor customer service. A 2015 lawsuit shut downSonoma Compost and we’ve been out-sourcing compost ever since. Up until recently, Ratto employees lacked union protections resulting in few wage increases, dangerous working conditions (garbage and recycling workers are in the 5th most dangerous profession in America), extended work hours and unsafe trucks. What you pay for is what you get.

Recology is a union shop and has been since the 1930’s. Their diversion rate for San Francisco is 80%. In LA they’re shooting for 90% by 2025. The goal in Santa Rosa is 60% by 2029. They plan on introducing a new fleet of trucks and containers. They will expand services, upgrade the Standish Avenue site, and try to bring composting back to Sonoma County. Until that happens, Recology’s six composting facilities will absorb our compost. Critical to their success is eco-education. Zero waste specialists will help customers, both commercial and residential, improve their recycling and composting while reducing their trash. For us to reach zero waste, customer buy-in is needed. Consider what a 1℃ climate change has brought us to date: unprecedented hurricanes, mass migrations, droughts and, of course, fires. It looks like October’s fires weren’t started by climate change, but climate change most certainly exacerbated them. Proper waste disposal is one way we can reduce the effects of climate change.

So what’s your bottom line? Is it money or the continuity of life on this planet?


Sources: Made Local, September/October 2017 issue, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Press Democrat 8/16/17, 8/29/17, Sonoma County Gazette 8/29/17.

Occupy Sonoma County embraces the egalitarian, deep democracy principles of the Occupy Movement with a regional strategy for effectively organizing county-wide social justice campaigns that are globally relevant. For more information contact OccupySonomaCounty.org or call 707-877-6650.

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