MOJAVE – The process of getting Waste Management to where it is today in Kern County has been about two years in the making, according to officials.
“We certainly appreciate all of your patience, I know that many of you are our customers,” said Waste Management Public Sector Solutions Manager Josh Mann at the Aug. 22 Mojave Chamber of Commerce meeting. “I can’t thank you enough for working with us.”
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, Waste Management is a publicly traded company and describe themselves as the leading provider of comprehensive waste management in North America, providing services that range from collection and disposal to recycling and renewable energy generation.
“In terms of our presence here in Kern County, we go back a little ways here as well,” said Mann. “We operate a facility over on the western part of the county, the McKittrick landfill facility, and have been operating there since about 1970.”
“The work in East Kern is done by a local team of about 50 employees – that includes our drivers, our laborers and our office staff,” said Mann. “We’re primarily based in terms of operations out of our Tehachapi site.”
The company also acquired Benz Sanitation in February.
“It was an asset purchase,” said Mann. “We bought the facilities, the trucks and the equipment. We do operate a Material Recovery Facility in Tehachapi as well as a buy-back center and other facilities located throughout East Kern County including Rosamond and Mojave.”
He said the world has been changing rapidly in terms of lifestyle and consumption habits as well as environmental regulations, technology and recycling in recent years.
“There is no other company doing what we’re doing, making the kind of investments that we’re making to ensure that we can evolve along with our customers,” said Mann. “That really, is probably most easily showcased in our trucks, they are most visible symbols of our company out there – picking up from our customers every single day.”
From the standpoint of technology investment, the trucks are much more than just a chassis with a box on the back of it. Proprietary software that analyzes routes and efficiencies, safety improvements, GPS tracking and onboard computing units and cameras are just some of the recent improvements.
“Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to drive our business forward,” said Mann. “The fact that we are monitoring every service that we provide to make sure it is provided safely and accurately.”
Mann handed the presentation to Residential Recycling Manager Ali Van Dereyk, who spoke about some of the services provided by Waste Management. Services are based on terms of an agreement with the Kern County Board of Supervisors set in 2000 and amended in 2006. Service rates, land use fees and bin fees are set annually by county ordinance.
“Trash service is available for residents and businesses in 96-gallon carts and 1.5-, 3- and 6-cubic yard bins, said Van Dereyk. “Carts are serviced once per week and bins can be serviced multiple times per week, depending on how much trash you produce.”
Commercial Recycling Manager Ashley Cortes went over some of the current laws and services offered. California Assembly Bill 341 established mandatory commercial recycling with a state goal of 75% diversion by 2020. The law applies to commercial and multi-family properties of more than five units that create four or more cubic yards of waste per week.
“Basically, the state wants to capture that clean material: the bottles, cans, cardboard glass, they want to get that out of the trash and recycle it properly,” said Cortes. “As the state gets more stringent on their laws, you can see that we have to get more cleaner material nowadays. It can’t be dirty with the food and liquid, you’re mixing in your trash container.”
The next big concern is AB 1826 - mandatory commercial organics recycling.
“This pertains to food waste, the soiled paper products like napkins, paper towels, paper plates, all that material, green leaves, all that is considered organic material,” said Cortes. “So same kind of threshold, if your business generates four cubic yards or more trash, then you have to have an organic program in place. Now not only are we diverting the recycling material, we’re diverting green waste and food waste out of the trash out of the landfill and getting it into a composting facility. So we’re working with the county to develop a program and kind of gauge who falls into this threshold who needs to comply, so that we can build a really good program to get everyone in compliance.”
California Assembly Bill SB 1383 will also be a factor in coming months and years. The law deals with short-lived climate pollutants: methane emissions from dairy and livestock and organic waste in landfills. The goal is a 50% reduction in the level of the statewide disposal of organic waste from the 2014 level by 2020 and a 75% reduction by 2025.
“So how there was organics for just commercial with AB 1826, eventually we’re going to see that move to residential,” said Cortes. “For residential, you’re going to have a trash cart, a recycling cart and a green wast cart. Hopefully we’ll be able to mix that green waste with food waste.”
Draft regulations will further extend recycling and organic waste requirements to include residences.
“They expect it to be effective Jan. 1, 2020,” said Cortex. “Because we’re not getting to the goals we need to have diverting that organically, the state’s going to impose this law that will trickle down to our residents. So we can capture more of that organic material and diverting it from the landfill. As the law gets drafted and finalized, we’ll be working with the county to develop a program for residents as well.”
Mann wrapped up the presentation noting that Waste Management intends to be a good neighbor and wants to be a part of the communities they serve.
“We want to be that community participant and to that end we’re certainly stepping up our involvement with our local Chambers of Commerce, knowing that they are the pillars of community activity within the different communities of East Kern,” said Mann. “We’re also stepping up in terms of supporting those quality of life elements – those events, those projects and programs.