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Commentary: Set the record straight on Costa Mesa recycling

December 13, 2013|By Robert J. Ooten

Re. "Commentary: Trash contract is not in the best interest of ratepayers," [Nov. 27]: Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick wrote of his concerns about the recyclable materials' value in a Daily Pilot opinion article.

He noted the value of the recyclable materials that the trash vendor could salvage and sell was $3 million. The $3 million Fitzpatrick claimed that the trash vendor made from the salvaged recyclables is for all 13 customers served by the trash vendor, not just Costa Mesa.

All trash vendors recycle as part of their business. In the spring of 2013, the sanitary district hired a professional to audit the district/trash vendor contract.

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One of the auditor's tasks was to estimate the recyclable material's value in the residential trash. After disposal costs, the auditor estimated the recyclable material's value at just over $730,000 — far less than Fitzpatrick would lead you to believe.

I expect that Fitzpatrick is feeling recyclable-material remorse, since as a planning commissioner he voted to recommend that the City Council kick Garcia Recycling out of town. Costa Mesans were paid for the bottles, cans, glass, etc. that they sold to Garcia. That money is no longer spent in our town.

In addition, residents pay more than $100,000 annually to haul away the two tons of materials that Garcia recycled. A few of the recyclables do make their way to the other recycling centers, mainly by the homeless.

Taking Garcia Recycling down was an environmental disaster for recycling in Costa Mesa. Nearly a third of what was recycled was glass; when put in the trash trucks, glass is crushed and no longer recyclable. Data suggest that more than half of the $730,000 in recyclables now found in the Costa Mesa residential trash came to the trash vendor as a result of Garcia recycling closure.

The district board/trash vendor contract was signed in 2006 to provide stable rates for the residential customers and let the trash vendor be responsible for the ups and downs in the recyclable commodities markets.

This was a good move since the rates have not been increased since 2006. The rates the last two years have been reduced 10% to $18 per month.

The rates could have been even lower if Garcia Recycling had not been run out of town, putting additional trash in the residential bins which you and I now pay the trash vendor to haul away — and they are able to recover from during the sorting process.

BOB OOTEN is the assistant secretary on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District's board of directors.

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