It is said the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. In Santa Monica, the journey to zero also begins with a single step. Indeed, by 2030, Santa Monica aims to be a zero waste city. A lofty plan, no doubt, yet City Hall hopes to instill the seeds of change now so the first steps can be taken in executing an ambitious vision.
If realized, the City hopes 95 percent of waste would be diverted away from landfill – and instead recycled or composted – by 2030. City Hall also hopes to reduce Santa Monica’s contribution of greenhouse gas by 50 percent by 2022 and, in the near future, increase by 20 percent the number of local jobs dedicated to recycling and waste prevention.
The grand vision was presented March 19 by City staff to Council members. Referred to as the Zero Waste Strategic Operations Plan, there are six goal areas City Hall will focus on in executing its vision: waste reduction; environmental benefits; economic benefits; city leadership; producer responsibility; and Culture Change.
Some specific short-term goals included diverting 80 percent of waste and reducing greenhouse gas contributions by 30 percent by 2015.
City staff identified several priorities in realizing the plan, including: policy decisions to be guided by community and environmental health; discarded materials will be managed in the following order or “hierarchy:” reduce, reuse, recycle, and recovery; there can be no zero waste plan without incorporating economic and social benefits; City Hall should lead by example; create regional partnerships; educate the public and perform outreach to inform how zero waste is achievable; research and develop new technologies “to maximize diversion of discarded materials;” and develop the local market for recyclable and reusable materials to ensure sustainability.
Policies under the Zero Waste Strategic Operations Plan would be guided by options within six categories.
For example, meeting diversion requirements or enforcing the plastic bag ban would fall under “Mandatory” policies.
Zero waste policies would also be guided by collections, rate-setting, and programs supporting “re-design strategies to reduce the volume and toxicity of discarded products and materials” as well as promoting “low-impact or reduced consumption lifestyles.”
Just the same, City Hall would be looking to create policies and programs to address reuse, recycling and composting of end-of-life products and materials to ensure their highest and best use” while also ensuring “local and regional, existing and new, resource recovery facilities for processing recyclables, residuals, and other materials for beneficial use and energy recovery” are available and accessible to residents.
According to City Hall, Santa Monica disposed of 82,997 tons of materials to landfills or processed at waste-to-energy facilities in 2011. About 50 percent of that waste was sourced from commercial operations; 25 percent of that waste came from multi-unit residences, while only eight percent was sourced from single-family residents.
City staff is expected to solicit public input on the plan before bringing it back to the council for adoption.