Two small California cities (names withheld by request) are making great strides in their diversion efforts by combining their efforts in a manner pioneered by some of the most successful financial institutions in the nation.
In return for anonymity while they work out a few bugs in their system, the two cities agreed to allow MSW Management to peek behind the curtain at the program they feel will bring them to the very edge of zero waste (ZW). There are those who have remained skeptical of the ZW movement—your humble editor was one—but we’re entering a new era of diversion that brings previous practices into question.
Prior to their alliance, both cities had met their mandated diversion rates by exporting recycled materials to foreign markets, an expedient that bothered both waste managers.
“It just didn’t feel right not knowing the fate of these materials,” admits one.
“There had to be a better way to guarantee public health and safety,” explains the other, and this shared concern became the basis for an alliance that they—and I—feel will revolutionize how communities can meet increasingly stringent diversion mandates without going bankrupt
What’s the secret? Well without giving away all the proprietary details, here in outline form is the way it works:
1.) City A collects, MRFs, and separates materials into marketable and unmarketable portions.
2.) It then sends marketable materials for reuse and unmarketable materials to City B, classifying it as diverted, just as if City B were an overseas receiver.
3.) City B collects, MRFs, and separates its collected materials in like manner.
It then sends marketable materials for reuse and the residuals to City A, taking full diversion credit as per the cooperative agreement.
Now here’s the beauty of the approach.
Since City B provides a market for City A’s residuals, City A is able to take diversion credit for all of its materials. Ditto City B. Then both cities are clear to send those materials to a landfill where they know they will receive proper handling free from health and safety concerns.
As a final benefit, Cities A and B can share in energy credits for the elimination of overseas shipping fuel usage.
I hope you’ve found this April Fools' Day diversion program stimulating.