Palo Alto shifts to domestic markets for recycled goods | May 27, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 27, 2022

Palo Alto shifts to domestic markets for recycled goods

City finds partners in Louisiana, southern California for materials shipped to unknown destinations in Asia

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto takes pride in its record on recycling, but the city's recent efforts to track materials as they make their way from blue bins and onto ships to Asia and Mexico have been a glaring failure.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2022 at 10:42 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Why is it that on clean up days the trucks come round and collect all our sorted, labeled and usable stuff, and put it into a dump truck, squash it, and send it to the landfill?

We were told when these started that they would be opportunities to share our reusable items and this definitely happened the first time round at least in my neighborhood. The items I placed outside were greatly reduced in number as people who thought they could reuse them were able to collect an old bike, a garden chair and some large kids toys. Now the old office chair, book case and lamp that I left out and could possibly be used by others was just thrown into the trash truck and destroyed as I stood and watched!

It is time to stop this practice of pretending that it is a method of recycling.

Posted by Barron Park Denizen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2022 at 11:29 am

Barron Park Denizen is a registered user.

It's unbelievable that the City will spend $1,200,000 annually for the comfort of knowing where all the recycling goes, even if completely "knowing" the final destination is infeasible. Our modest-sized town cannot keep being viewed by Council and Staff as a plump golden goose for frivolous expenses such as this. And more taxes and fees, such as the business tax, are being thought up--why?, when there's $1,200,000 to fritter away.

Over 10 years, that is $12,000,000, which is badly needed elsewhere. As noted in this space before, the City government has two top priorities that have lots of zeroes: (1) the four unfunded (and not-yet-designed) rail crossings, which could total $1,000,000,000 even before the current fierce inflation; and (2) the City's unfunded pension liabilities, for which no set number has been defined but which is said to be around $600,000,000. Both of those figures are growing fast. How will they ever be paid?

Yet our Council and Staff worry about silly things.

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2022 at 12:16 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

I would rather pay my share of the $1.2 million new costs. The general fund should not have slack to absorb unexpected costs such as this. This would satisfy the accountability and transparency goals of the Council. Don't corrupt the cost and revenue centers.

Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Ferdinand is a registered user.

I agree with NB, RAISE the rates before removing from city funds! Also, consider lowering the rates for those who may only put garbage/recycling out biweekly or monthly.

Overall I'm thankful there is finally some action being taken regarding our unknown recyclables (although I asked where things were going more than 3 years ago!). Although it might seem frivolous to some, why shouldn't we be responsible for our own consumption, rather than secretly trashing (literally) other poorer countries who may need income at any cost to their health, the watershed, and the beauty of their countryside? It could stimulate more reputable business practices outside the US, which could result in renewing some contracts elsewhere.

There are lot's of sites online if you're unsure how to reduce your recyclables. Here is CalRecycle (Web Link If you only did the following you could probably stop there:
- Examine what is in your recycle bin and challenge yourself to stop buying it
- Buy little/no plastic bottled drinks and foods in rigid plastics
- Shop the deals at our fabulous farmers' markets, affordable for most produce

Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2022 at 5:58 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

A couple of clarifications. The authorization only provides permission for the Staff to negotiate, but does not allow them to enter a contract. Therefore, no payment is authorized in this vote. Second, this does not come from the General Fund but rather the Refuse Enterprise Fund. The relevance is it would not pull monies that the General Fund normally targets.

A frustration is that our city is ostensibly taking on a state issue. However the state, and even our local legislators, have not been responsive to Palo Alto's concern. Our legislators dance to their own music, where in my best-of-worlds, the legislators would have a structured relationship with our city to support local needs in Sacramento. Our state is focused on keeping materials out of landfill, and look the other way to the adverse consequence of the policy which enables shipping waste to Southeast Asia so they can hit their landfill diversion metrics. I welcome Becker or Berman to step up on this topic, so far they have not, even though it is a strong community concern.

I also invite our City not to "green wash" us with all the recycling promotions. Current representations are not honest about the adverse impact. Their goal is to keep us "trained" and not disrupt the flow even though it has a dark endpoint. Let's tell it like it is in our promotions.

I appreciate the Weekly's coverage of this topic, as the coverage elevates the story. Palo Alto is at the national forefront on this topic. While I don't see eye-to-eye with staff on this, the staff has raised awareness in the Bay Area, and more jurisdictions, like San Jose, may start adding to the push for a more responsible waste management strategy. Palo Alto led in curbside, composting, zero waste, and now we lead in responsible recycling (or land disposal), if recycling is not feasible.

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2022 at 8:56 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

On another sustainability-related issue with Greenwaste, why are we now forced to drive all the way up to San Carlos to dispose of items that won't fit in our recycling bins? Could we not have made a deal with Mountain View to use their Recycing Center? I am glad that at least we have a household hazardous waste dropoff in Palo Alto that is open every Saturday morning.

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on May 27, 2022 at 11:56 am

William Hitchens is a registered user.

"With the market in flux, many nations directed their plastic waste to ad hoc dumps and landfills in countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam." This wasn't made clear in the previous article on GreenWaste. I hope that PA avoids all dealings with them in the future. Hope that their new brokers and end recyclers are a heck of a lot more transparent in the future.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2022 at 12:07 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"I agree with NB, RAISE the rates before removing from city funds! Also, consider lowering the rates for those who may only put garbage/recycling out biweekly or monthly."

hat proposal has been proposed and ignored by CPAU for as long as I can remember.

Let people get vacation cancellations just like they do for newspapers!

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2022 at 11:10 am

Citizen is a registered user.

A lot more single use waste should be compostable, or compostable with processing if it needs to behave like plastic for it’s single use.

Those little plastic things that hold clothing together. Those just become micro plastic pollution. Stickers on produce. No excuse that those aren’t ALL compostable. Security seals on personal care items with expiration dates. Disposable single use cutlery and hangers for infants clothing (nobody wants those not even shops who toss them). Bubble wrap for shipping. All packing peanuts. Clear window plastic film in personal care item boxes.

There’s a brand of chocolate from Switzerland—Alter Eco? Their truffle wrappers look just like others but they’re compostable. Honestly, why not bandaids? Shampoo bottles and water bottles (the kind that acts like plastic til it’s processed). Plastic film to control weeds in farming (compostable that has to processed). Plastic film on a lot of big items for construction and food — if it’s the kind that doesn’t break down til processed, it could save contractors a lot of money to divert waste.

Some professor at Iowa State? Colorado? I can’t remember, demonstrated a practical way to turn plastic back into oil. Hey, if carbon capture and/or removal ramps up, it could be a reasonable eco friendly source, mining our landfills and using it instead of letting it leach for a billion years.

The disconnect in the life cycle makes it hard for everyone to settle on options that work together to avoid pollution and reduce resource use.

But those little plastic things that hold clothing together. Those should compostable.

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