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The Waste Industry’s Name Games

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In modern politics, it’s generally forgivable when advocacy groups come up with disingenuous or silly names for themselves (my favorites may be the “super PACs” – like Rick Santorum’s “Red, White and Blue Fund”).

It’s comical, though, when they are spun to the degree that they’re preposterous. A belly-laugh example: Angelenos for a Clean Environment – otherwise known as ACE – who are fighting to stop the city’s move towards an exclusive franchise system for commercial and multifamily waste.

By every reasoned account, an exclusive system would maximize recycling, ensure less truck traffic and emissions, and better protect neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by this industry. But not according to ACE.

ACE is comprised of folks like the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Central City Association, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA), the L.A. County Disposal Association, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, the California Grocers Association and the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, among others. They’re some of the real stalwarts of the environmental movement in our city…

Or maybe not…

Because somehow ACE ignores the fact that HF&H Consulting, the state’s gold standard in waste consultants, reported to the city recently that exclusive franchise waste systems ensure the smallest possible environmental footprint for Los Angeles.

Because somehow ACE ignores the fact that countless jurisdictions up and down the state have moved to exclusive systems after determining that, otherwise, they can’t reach their environmental and recycling goals.

Because somehow ACE – these Angelenos for a Clean Environment – continues to talk about L.A. County’s decision to go with a non-exclusive system despite the fact that the county’s own staff explicitly acknowledged that an exclusive system would best help the county reach its environmental goals. What ACE doesn’t reveal is that the county rejected an exclusive system because the waste hauling community didn’t like it.

Because somehow these Angelenos for a Clean Environment muster the gall to ignore the input of their advocacy colleagues in the environmental community…folks like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club, Coalition for Clean Air, Communities for a Better Environment, Pacoima Beautiful, Earth Resource Foundation and a host of others who are fighting intensely for this system change because it is best for the environment.

Because Ace is, after all, really a group of lobbyists, chambers of commerce, landlords, waste haulers and big business interests.

So maybe…just maybe, Angelenos for a Clean Environment isn’t that concerned with a clean environment – and instead should call itself Angelenos for a Cheap Environment. Because, I suspect, maintaining their benefactors’ dirt-cheap rates is what they’re most concerned with. See, companies and landlords with big volumes of trash, like those funding ACE, usually get the lowest rates – though often at the expense of small businesses and small landlords, who end up paying for big business’ negotiating leverage (they’re probably funding their anti-environmental campaign with a “Red, White, Blue & Green Fund “).

That said, fighting to maintain cheap rates is a reasonable goal (though, ironically, substantial data suggest that exclusive franchises actually help keep rates down). But the only thing that goal has to do with the environment is its sponsors’ willingness to sacrifice our air and communities in service to it.

Fight for what you want to fight for. Just have the courage to call it what it is.

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