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Organics recycling gets the go-ahead

Costa Mesa Sanitary District unanimously approves the new system, which ends one bin for all refuse.

February 25, 2014|By Bradley Zint
  • Pictured is a conceptual drawing of an anaerobic digestion facility in Perris that will take organic material from Costa Mesa residents' trash cans and convert it to renewable natural gas.
Pictured is a conceptual drawing of an anaerobic digestion… (CR&R ENVIRONMENTAL…)

Costa Mesa Sanitary District ratepayers' relatively luxurious one-trash-bin-holds-all system was nice while it lasted.

The longtime program that permitted all types of refuse to go into a single bin — no sorting required — faced the end of its run Tuesday with the district directors' unanimous approval of an organics recycling program. The new system could begin as soon as November.

The program, estimated to cost about $504,000 annually, will have residents separate their trash for organics, which include gardening clippings and food scraps. The materials will go in a special bin to be picked up the same day as the rest of the trash, though by a different truck.

The organic materials will eventually be converted to renewable natural gas at an under-construction anaerobic digestion facility in Perris.

District officials say the environmentally friendly program is needed to reduce landfill waste, and that by being at the forefront, the district is ensured a competitive rate.

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"The important part by us getting in like this is we're actually going to save taxpayers some money," said Director Arlene Schafer.

The system will also prepare the district to meet anticipated state mandates, said district General Manager Scott Carroll.

District President James Ferryman said "in a perfect world," the district could continue its single-bin collection.

"But the world doesn't stay the same," he said. "The rules are changing. We are not going to be able to maintain that approach ... as far as we're concerned, this is the next best thing we can do."

The directors approved a six-year evergreen contract — meaning it is automatically renewed at the end of that period — with CR&R Waste and Recycling Services. The Stanton-based company has had a long-standing contract with the district for recycling and solid waste services.

The district did not hold a competitive bidding process for the organics recycling because no other area agencies are providing a comparable service, Carroll said. According to district documents, the district is guaranteed the lowest anaerobic digestion fee in Orange County, and should CR&R negotiate a lower rate elsewhere, Costa Mesa would get the cheaper fee.

How the program will affect customers' rates hasn't been determined, however. That matter probably won't be discussed and finalized until February 2015, Carroll said.

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