Los Angeles City Council Boldly Approves Zero Waste LA Plan

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April 3, 2014 in Environment, Labor & Economy, Politics & Government

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Don’t Waste LA members gather at City Hall

On Tuesday — April Fools’ Day no less — Los Angeles’ City Council nearly unanimously approved the Zero Waste LA Franchise System, which would make it the first and largest city nationally to adopt a robust plan to move towards Zero Waste. The Zero Waste LA Franchise System, under the direction of the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation, will transform the antiquated waste and recycling system that currently serves apartment dwellers and businesses. In its place will emerge an innovative model for the nation. This new system will carve the city into 11 waste service zones intended to boost recycling and provide strong customer service – a similar success found in the city’s single-family waste and recycling programs.

The Zero Waste LA franchise plan specifically requires trash-hauling companies to bid for exclusive contracts to operate in the 11 waste service zones. This will help the city to meet its Zero Waste goals, adopted in 2013, including:

Cleaner Air

  • The Zero Waste LA Franchise System will eliminate 2.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of taking 517,000 vehicles off the road by reducing overlapping truck routes.
  • Our transition to clean trucks will reduce up to 94 percent of particulate matter emissions and up to 73 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions.

Recycling For All

  • Fulfilling L.A.’s Zero Waste goal of reaching 90 percent landfill diversion by 2025 will require our city to recycle two million tons of waste every year. Over the next five years, this will result in diverting 10 million tons of recyclables from landfills, equivalent to the size of 45 City Halls.
  • The Zero Waste Franchise System calls for everyone to have the opportunity to recycle and compost, expanding the three-bin system model currently provided only to single-family residences, and to reduce our dependence on landfills.
  • Nearly 1.2 million tons of food scraps and yard trimmings are thrown away by L.A. residents and businesses annually. Apartment dwellers and businesses’ current waste consists of 27 percent and 42 percent of compostable food waste, respectively. Recycling these organic materials can create as many as 2,000 jobs while reducing climate impacts.

Good, Green Jobs

  • The Zero Waste LA Plan will improve the lives of more than 10,000 workers who currently handle and sort our waste by requiring clean trucks and reducing workers to hazardous or contaminated materials.
  • Sorting waste is incredibly difficult and dangerous work, and every step possible must be taken to improve working conditions in this industry. A robust facility certification program will allow the screening and monitoring of processing facilities.
  • The Zero Waste LA Franchise System has the potential to create jobs in communities where they are most needed, just from increased recycling rates. Research shows that recycling and composting creates two to 40 times more jobs than by sending our waste to landfills, depending on the material recycled.

The Don’t Waste LA coalition – a group of environmentalists, faith groups, worker advocates, and small businesses – have achieved a great milestone. Four years ago, in the face of a massive number of trash and landfill closures, Don’t Waste LA pledged to make Los Angeles a greener city. Through the years, Don’t Waste LA members spoke at countless stakeholder meetings and public hearings, and held press conferences at City Hall and in the streets to send their message to public leaders.

In every meeting, we encountered staunch opposition. An industry-led faux-group, Angelenos for a Clean Environment, complained that the franchise plan would make the sky fall and shift our city into the hands of anarchy (no kidding). But we stayed the course and committed to doing the right thing to clean our city’s environment by continuing to push for the exclusive franchise plan. One might say our opponents really knew how to talk trash – but our coalition countered with real solutions.

Our public officials also understood the problems well and helped to craft a plan to move us towards Zero Waste. The incredible amount of work from Bureau of Sanitation staff members put Los Angeles on the cutting edge of the Zero Waste movement.

All these leaders have ushered us into a historic moment. As a native Angeleno, I am both proud and excited for what our work will do to transform our city. I am also excited to continue working towards Zero Waste with the Don’t Waste LA coalition. This is just the beginning of an innovative and greener Los Angeles, and I am thrilled to be celebrating and making history together.

¡Sí Se Pudo!

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Jackie Cornejo
Jackie Cornejo is the Director of the Don’t Waste LA Project. She previously worked on the Construction Careers Project as Research Analyst and later as Project Director. Born and raised in Los Angeles, her interest in social justice work sprung...
Read more articles by Jackie Cornejo

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