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Long-term fix may turn organics such as paper & green waste into fertilizer
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Manteca is switching to new rules for what can go into blue carts this month. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Manteca’s recycling blues could get a permanent fix.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton said the city is exploring an option that could protect it against future fluctuations in the recycling market such as the one that has now made everything from paper to cereal boxes worthless forcing what was once recyclable to be landfilled.

It involves creating an organic recycling flow that would take household food waste and items such as newspapers and paper board boxes that most food products come in as well as similar boxes for shoes and other items and shred them so they can be combined with green waste to make fertilizer.

If that happens what Manteca does with the recyclables they collect won’t be subject to market changes. When contamination levels for recyclables soared several years ago, overseas concerns that were buying the materials and succeeded in undercutting the domestic market forcing the closing of paper mills that used recycled paper to create new products because they could no longer compete financially to close, gave notice they would no longer accept contaminated recycling.

That left the United States with no domestic market for many items that had been recycled for years. 

The city learned efforts were being considered to open shuttered paper mills including one in Oregon. The problem was it could take several years for such a plant to come on line.

Organic shredding program

could dodge another bullet

expected from Sacramento

Should the city be able to work out a shredding solution to turn organics into fertilizer they would be able to address another mandate expected to come down from Sacramento to eventually stop landfilling household food waste as well as commercial food waste.

A shredding program would not interfere with the food waste to fuel effort the city is now in the process of implementing. That effort is collecting huge volumes from schools, restaurants, and stores to combine with the methane gas byproduct of the wastewater treatment process to produce compressed natural gas to power municipal solid waste collection fleet.

The shredding option, if it is determined to be viable, will take a number of years to implement. It is why the city is changing what it collects in the blue carts. The new changes helps avoid a $52 per ton landfilling charge that was never factored into solid waste rates that were based on firms willing to take the items collected from the city.

Now that they aren’t and the items were still mixed with recyclables that had value such as California Redemption Value (CRV) containers and clean corrugated cardboard, everything the city was collected in the blue carts that averaged 600 tons a month had to be landfilled.

City switching over

to new recycling

rules this month

The city started the switchover to new blue recycling rules this month.

The only items that can now be placed in blue carts are clean corrugated cardboard; No. 1 and No. 2 plastic containers; CRV containers for soda, waster, and such as well as tin cans. Paperboard such as cereal boxes, all paper including magazines and newspapers, plastic bags, plastics that aren’t No. 1 or No. 2, glass containers, and Styrofoam currently have no recycling value and must be placed in brown carts. 

City Manager Tim Ogden noted earlier this month almost all other jurisdictions are opting to respond to the forced burying of items that were once recyclable by “jacking up rates.” He said Manteca’s course of action is designed to avoid that from happening or at least minimize any impact on rates the changes may have.

The implementation program now underway includes:

The placing of stickers on blue carts on collection days of what can and cannot go into the blue cart.

A two-month grace period — December and January — where residents will be allowed to work on changing their recycling habits. Only warnings will be issued at some point during the two months.

Then in February county conservation corps workers will go ahead of collection trucks on pick up days to inspect the contents of blue carts. Those with any of the wrong items will be tagged and not picked up. If it happens a second time, the city will seize the blue cart.

Throughout the course of the year each household can obtain three stickers. They allow you to place 32-gallon garbage bags with trash that doesn’t fit into the brown cart next to the cart for collection as long as a sticker is attached. They may come in handy this month as households deal with extra holiday trash.

The stickers are available through the Solid Waste Division.

The city anticipates a number of households may have to switch to larger brown carts.

If the City Council concurs on a second reading of an ordinance on Dec. 18, the $51.78 change out fee to switch carts will be suspended for at least 90 days.

As of last week, there were already 500 people signed up for larger brown carts.

Even without the change out fee, switching to a larger size brown cart will cost households. To go from a small to medium cart would be an additional $1.80 a month and from the medium to large is $1.69 a month.  If someone went from a small to large cart the monthly increase would be $3.49 a month. And for those with a large cart who need an additional cart to get rid of their garbage that will include items once allowed in the blue cart they will be paying $31.97 for a second 96-gallon cart.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email