Council tackles trash, pandas and bovine flatulence

The Atascadero City Council approved staff to enter into negotiations with North San Luis Obispo County Recycling to increase recycling rates referred to as “tipping fees.” Due to shifts in the market, recycling companies have been scrambling to recoup costs. The problem stems from China, which purchases recyclable material shipped from the United States. In 2018, China changed the standards of acceptable waste and turned the industry on its head, making it a far less profitable business. The country also plans on completely removing itself from the recycling business in 2020.

“Where revenue would come from the sale of the product, now it’s coming from tipping fees” said Lara Christensen, who serves as both city clerk and deputy city manager.

Christensen also stated that the City plans to assist in a public education effort on what types of materials are recyclable. Approximately 25 percent of all material put in recycling bins is not recyclable, referred to as contamination. Items such as cereal boxes, wet or greasy cardboard and even most plastics are no longer profitable for the company to process. Also, putting recycling into plastic bags is a big no-no. Christensen said essentially, the only thing worth recycling is aluminum and glass.
Christensen presented two pricing alternatives; a flat rate of approximately $2.90 for all sized bins or an overall increase of $3.65 for smaller bins (32 gallons) which are the biggest culprit of contamination and a more modest increase for larger containers.

The Council discussed a new community engagement program called Talk on the Block. The board initially planned to discuss the topic after City staff had returned with recommendations, but Mayor Heather Moreno stated that she wished to push ahead with the matter.

The program intends to reach out to the public with special meetings to help dispel rumors and have a “back and forth” with residents in their neighborhoods about crucial issues.

Southern California Gas Company representative Tim Mahoney took the podium during the public comment section and spoke on methane. Mahoney explained that the company is working toward harvesting the renewable natural gas from landfills, sewer plants and dairies. SoCal Gas plans to capture the methane, clean it the same way they do for a lot of other indigenous gas, odorize it for safety and pipe it to its customers. Mahoney also said that in a few years, the company plans on using hydrogen, another highly flammable gas, in its pipeline.

“There’s a whole bunch of hip, cool things coming onboard like that,” Mahoney said, “that are scientific and really exciting.