Get Ready for Zero Waste LA!
7.24.17 – Get ready Los Angeles, your trash system is changing! Read on to learn what the Zero Waste LA Franchise is, where it comes from, and what it means for you and your trash. Written by Sam Royall, our amazing Volunteer Program Assistant from Occidental College.
The Zero Waste LA Franchise and What It Means for Los Angeles
If you live in Los Angeles, you may have heard of something called the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, and have maybe even gotten notice about some changes to your waste disposal services starting July 2017 – exciting stuff! Before this new system goes into effect, here’s what you need to know about the the Zero Waste LA Franchise and how it will impact you, your trash, and all Angelenos!
History of Zero Waste LA:
Los Angeles’s Waste Disposal System before the Zero Waste Franchise
Before the announcement of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, waste disposal in Los Angeles was as an open-market system. Any number of waste disposal hauling companies could operate in any neighborhood. So, even though it was mandated to divert waste going to landfills, the city had little power to regulate hauling companies. This made it difficult to implement waste diversion standards, and to establish fair wages for waste disposal workers.
Furthermore, the nature of this inefficient open-market system means that multiple trucks from multiple hauling companies could service the same neighborhoods, and even the same streets, in the same day. This would cause heavy wear-and-tear on LA’s roads, and increased air pollution (one trash truck is estimated to have the impact of 9,343 SUVs!). The Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise aims to streamline LA’s waste disposal system, mitigating the negative community and environmental impacts that have resulted from LA’s open-market system.
In 2010, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) – an advocacy organization committed to establishing a new economic approach founded on “good jobs, thriving communities, and a healthy environment” – formed the Don’t Waste LA Coalition. The coalition, comprised of over 35 community, environmental, faith-based, and labor organizations, as well as more than 200 small businesses, had the goal of cleaning up and streamlining LA’s waste disposal system to ensure that all Angelenos have access to clean air, good jobs, and recycling services (and later, compost!).
With years of research, and the strength of a diverse coalition, Don’t Waste LA worked to promote the city’s adoption of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise–a program that would situate the City of LA as a leader in green waste disposal, while making LA’s franchise system a model for “greater recycling; fair rates; quality service; clean trucks and safe jobs.”
A Long Haul through LA City Council
Don’t Waste LA worked closely with members of LA City Council, including Councilmembers Jose Huizar (14th Council District) and Paul Koretz (5th Council District), who introduced the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise System to the City Council as a motion in 2010.
As the chair of LA City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee at the time, Councilmember Huizar continued to stress the multifaceted impacts of the Zero Waste Franchise plan: ensuring fair waste disposal rates for Angelenos, improving conditions for those working in the waste disposal industry, and helping to meet LA’s zero waste goals. Also known as the Solid Waste Integrated Resource Plan (SWIRF), LA’s zero waste goals call for diverting 90% of LA’s solid waste from landfills by 2025.
In September 2014, Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council voted to approve LA’s division into 11 different waste “hauling zones,” and to assign a different waste disposal company to each of the zones for the duration of a 10-year contract. This ordinance, known as the Citywide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Hauling Ordinance (Ordinance 182986) served as the political foundation of the Zero Waste Exclusive Franchise.
In an open-bidding process that went from June to October of 2014, 15 waste disposal companies submitted proposals to operate within the franchise system. The LA Bureau of Sanitation spent the next year reviewing and evaluating the 15 proposals, and began negotiating with the selected waste hauling companies.
In September 2016, Councilmember Nury Martinez (6th Council District) replaced Councilmember Huizar as the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. A strong advocate for environmental justice (many of LA’s waste disposal facilities are located in her district in the Northeast San Fernando Valley), Councilmember Martinez was a steadfast champion of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, and a meaningful ally of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition throughout the franchise approval process.
Immediately following her appointment as the Energy and Environment Committee Chair, the LA Bureau of Sanitation reported their recommendations for the franchise system to the Board of Public Works, which unanimously approved the recommendations.
By December 2016, Mayor Garcetti and the full LA City Council unanimously voted to approve the adoption of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, placing LA as a leader of environmental sustainability, and situating Zero Waste LA as a national model for green waste disposal systems. As a result of this historic accomplishment, the franchise system will increase Angelenos’ access to compost and recycling services, clean-up the historically dangerous waste disposal industry, and reduce food waste within the city of Los Angeles. Furthermore, the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise also recognizes the importance of reducing food waste as a means of mitigating both hunger and greenhouse gases.
Councilmembers Paul Koretz (left) and Jose Huizar (right) in support of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition
Timeline of Events Leading up to the Franchise
2010: LAANE forms the Don’t Waste LA Coalition; Councilmembers introduce the Zero Waste Exclusive Franchise
April 2014: Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council approves the Citywide Exclusive Franchise System for Municipal Solid Waste Collection and Hauling Ordinance (Ordinance 182986), designating 11 different “hauling zones” and an exclusive franchise system with a different hauler for each zone
June-October 2014: The city accepts proposals from waste haulers in an open-bidding process
2015-early 2016: LA Bureau of Sanitation review and evaluate the 15 hauler proposals
September 2016: LA Bureau of Sanitation recommends haulers to the LA Board of Public Works
December 2016: Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council approve the Zero Waste LA exclusive franchise system
Late 2016-early 2017: The city negotiates contracts for approved haulers
July 2017: Zero Waste LA Franchise system set to go into effect; customer transition begins
Zero Waste LA Policy Specifics
Dividing the City of LA into 11 different hauling zones, the Zero Waste LA Franchise will expand LA’s current residential waste and recycling services to all businesses. The LA Bureau of Sanitation defines the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise as
“a new public private partnership designed to address the 3-million tons of waste disposed annually by businesses, consumers and residents. This innovative franchise system establishes a waste and recycling collection program for all commercial, industrial, and large multifamily customers in the City of Los Angeles… With a single trash hauler responsible for each zone, the franchise system will allow for the efficient collection and sustainable management of solid waste resources and recyclables.”
The specific environmental outcomes and service mandates, as stated by the LA Bureau of Sanitation, are as follows:
- Reduction of landfill disposal by 1,000,000 tons per year by 2025;
- Transparent and predictable solid waste and recycling service rates for the next 10-20 years;
- Quality customer service standards with LASAN monitoring and enforcement;
- Franchise hauler accountability for program outcomes and customer satisfaction through a series of measures implemented by LASAN, up to and including liquidated damages;
- Compliance with environmental regulations, including mandatory commercial and organics recycling;
- Investment of over $200 million in new and improved solid resources infrastructure;
- Clean fuel vehicles
Because of the extent to which the Zero Waste Franchise addresses so many issues: waste reduction, universal access to recycling (and eventually organic material disposal) services, increased worker protections, and decreased food waste, the Zero Waste LA Franchise has been characterized as the plan to lift all boats.
Historically, low-income communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the waste disposal industry in Los Angeles. For example, in the Northeast San Fernando Valley where the landfills and waste disposal facilities that serve Los Angeles are overwhelmingly concentrated, the majority of residents are low-income immigrants of color. This means that the city’s waste disposal systems most heavily affects some of LA’s most vulnerable communities, who are more likely to live nearby, and work in, the industry.
In examining the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic implications that LA’s “open market” system has had on very specific communities, it becomes clear that LA’s waste disposal industry disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, and can therefore be characterized as an issue of environmental racism or environmental injustice. In an article defining environmental justice, Renee Skelton and Vernice Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council note that,
“Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution. Championed primarily by African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, the environmental justice movement addresses a statistical fact: people who live, work and play in America’s most polluted environments are commonly people of color and the poor. Environmental justice advocates have shown that this is no accident. Communities of color, which are often poor, are routinely targeted to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts — say, a landfill, dirty industrial plant or truck depot. The statistics provide clear evidence of what the movement rightly calls ‘environmental racism.’ Communities of color have been battling this injustice for decades.”
In understanding the legacies of environmental racism and injustice, it is important to note the ways in which the Zero Waste LA Franchise, by streamlining LA’s waste disposal system, will address the adverse impacts that LA’s waste disposal industry has on local low-income communities of color. By minimizing the amount of trash and number of garbage trucks traveling through the Northeast Valley, and enforcing strict workplace health and safety guidelines, the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise will likely improve living conditions in the Northeast Valley, contributing to Don’t Waste LA Coalition’s goals of clean air, good jobs, and recycling for all.
Jobs and Workers’ Rights
While a common criticism of the Zero Waste LA Franchise system is that it will reduce jobs in the waste disposal industry, LAANE has spent years researching the economic impacts of the exclusive franchise system, and has found that the franchise will ultimately be extremely beneficial to working Angelenos.
LAANE found that, despite initially cutting jobs from the waste disposal companies that did not receive a franchise bid, the Zero Waste Franchise could create: nearly 16,000 jobs in the reuse and remanufacturing, and manufacturing sectors; upwards of 7,000 jobs in waste processing and collection; and around 2,000 jobs in composting. Furthermore, the exclusive franchise system will allow the city to better regulate working conditions and establish fair wages for the more than 6,000 workers currently employed by LA’s waste disposal industry.
Coalition of activists, organizers, and City Council members in support of Don’t Waste LA
Following the adoption of the Zero Waste LA Franchise, the LA Food Policy Council and members of their Food Waste Rescue and Prevention Working Group (including Food Forward’s Farmers Market Recovery Program Manager, Leah Boyer) published a guide entitled “Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources in Our Food System” to provide waste haulers and stakeholders in the community and non-profit sectors with more information about the food recovery efforts taking place across LA County. (Scroll to pages 16-17 of their guide for Food Forward’s spotlight, and browse the rest of the guide to learn about the various food recovery work occurring in the LA area!)
In understanding the history and breadth of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, it is clear that we can make significant progressive changes at the local level, and that the community-based work of grassroots organizations are fundamental to shifting both policy and practice when it comes to food waste and food recovery. This process of community-based outreach and political mobilization has resulted in the adoption this revolutionary waste disposal system–addressing the needs of all Angelenos, and helping to protect LA on the whole.
So get ready for the implementation of the Zero Waste LA Exclusive Franchise, coming this July, and check-out these resources for more information!
For more information: