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Santa Monica Businesses Gear Up for New State Recycling Law
By Melonie Magruder
August 9, 2012 -- Several hundred large Santa Monica businesses and some of the city's multifamily buildings are gearing up to comply with a new state law that requires them to recycle their waste.
Assembly Bill 341, which went into effect July 1, covers businesses that generate four cubic yards of waste a week and any multi-family buildings with five or more units.
That minimum requirement -- about two large trash containers or “dumpsters” -- is normally generated by busy restaurants or hotels but precludes most small businesses, City officials said.
“This is a big shift,” Sustainability Communications Coordinator Andrew Basmajian said. “Commercial waste disposal typically has had no regulation at all because businesses looked on recycling programs essentially as another tax.
“This new statewide initiative will address a huge amount of commercial landfill waste.”
The City conducted a survey and pinpointed about 950 Santa Monica businesses that would qualify as meeting the minimum waste requirement.
“We sent out letters, then we met with the owners or managers at each location,” said Kim Braun, the City’s Resource Recovery and Recycling manager. “I was happy to find out that only 206 locations of those targeted have no recycling program in place at all.”
Santa Monica has long pushed environmental responsibility, providing businesses and residents with trash hauling and recycling bins whose blue color has become ubiquitous in alleyways throughout the city, officials said
According to the City's Office of Sustainability and the Environment, Santa Monica residents are almost uniformly on board with regular recycling. But AB 341 aims to rein in the source of the most egregious landfill patrons.
“It’s taken a long time to get a recycling infrastructure available to the business community and residents’ waste disposal fees basically ended up subsidizing commercial recycling efforts,” Basmajian said.
While most recyclable material generated commercially is cardboard or paper, Braun said that the City wanted in particular to address the recycling needs of restaurants.
Accordingly, it provides 95-gallon composting containers to restaurants who want to compost their food waste.
Some businesses are already ahead of the game.
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows was given the Sustainable Quality Award Grand Prize this year by the City, the Chamber of Commerce and Sustainable Works. For many years, the Fairmont has observed “green practices” as a default operation.
Jacqueline Kerns, public relations manager for the hotel said that, on average, the hotel generates three tons of waste a week, dependent on occupancy and special events.
“We have mixed waste, biodegradable, paper, plastics, glass and food,” Kerns said. “We compost our edible waste and have long had a recycling program in place.
"We have always been big proponents of initiating sustainable environmental efforts and are proud of the city wide effort,” she said.
Even smaller commercial entities, which would not normally meet the minimum waste threshold, make recycling part of their business plan.
Paul Islas, the manager of J. Nicole’s Day Spa & Salon on the Third Street Promenade, says he probably doesn’t fill one commercial waste bin a month.
Braun said that while legislation enforcement plans are still taking shape, the City is trying to make it as easy as possible to join the recycling revolution.
“We’re reaching out with letters and phone calls,” Braun said. “We make it easy to comply with this bill by providing containers with no extra fees, or help them to ID a nearby shared container. We’re here to help.”
To get help in setting up or improving a recycling program at no charge, whether business or residential, contact the Resource Recovery and Recycling Division at (310) 458-2223 or visit them online at www.smgov.net/r3.
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