California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

SB 2202 Report

Executive Summary

In the 1980s, California has faced landfill siting problems and a projected shortage of landfill capacity that could impact the health and safety of Californians. The California Integrated Waste Management Act (AB939, Sher, Chapter 1095, Statutes of 1989 [IWMA]) established a framework to limit reliance on landfills and waste-to-energy projects and give greater weight to recycling, waste prevention, reduction, and composting methods. The IWMA required each city and county to prepare and implement plans to divert 25 percent of solid waste in 1995, and 50 percent in 2000 from landfills. Diversion activities include source reduction (also called waste prevention), recycling, and composting. Cities, counties, and regional agencies that fail to meet the mandates face potential penalties of up to $10,000 per day.

In 1989, the diversion rate measurement system was generation-based and each city and county was to quantify diversion and disposal (generation) in 1995 to find out if they met the 25 percent diversion requirement, and again in 2000 for the 50 percent diversion requirement. Cities and counties expressed concern that the most difficult and costly requirement was obtaining accurate information on quantities and types of wastes recycled or otherwise diverted, and calculating waste prevention. Waste diversion activities are decentralized and dispersed, as compared to disposal that occurs at a limited number of facilities. Recyclers and businesses were reluctant to provide information that could give competitors an advantage.

The solution was to redesign the measurement system. With the passage of Chapter 1292, Statutes of 1992 (Sher, AB 2494), measurement of 25 and 50 percent diversion was changed to a disposal-based measurement system and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) was required to establish a mechanism to estimate disposal tonnages through periodic surveys. Diversion achievement would be determined by comparing jurisdiction disposal amounts (as measured by the disposal reporting system [DRS]) to the estimated annual waste generation, adjusted for changes in population and economics. The adjustment is needed so jurisdictions are not penalized for changes in population and economics outside their control that can have significant impact on the amount of waste generated. AB 2494 also allowed jurisdictions to join together in regional agencies to reduce costs and improve measurement accuracy.

Over the last five years, concerns have been raised about the accuracy of the DRS. SB 2202 (Sher, Chapter 740, Statutes of 2000) requires CalRecycle to convene working groups to assist in preparing a report to the Legislature on DRS improvements. SB 2202 requires CalRecycle to recommend regulatory and statutory changes to address DRS deficiencies and improve accuracy. Since the DRS is an integral part of the diversion rate measurement system, but is only one component, CalRecycle decided to undertake a review of the entire system in the report to the Legislature. In addition to the DRS, the adjustment method and alternatives to the existing system were examined and included in the report to the Legislature. CalRecycle review of base-level generation issues was already well underway when SB 2202 was enacted.

Local implementation of diversion programs has created a diversion infrastructure that includes collection and processing facilities and equipment, bins, trucks, and personnel. Investments of hundreds of millions of dollars have been made in this infrastructure throughout California. A key issue is the appropriate balance between resources needed to improve accuracy and resources needed to establish and maintain the diversion programs and infrastructure.

Structure of CalRecycle Review

CalRecycle held public workshops in January 2001 to gather input on the diversion rate measurement system and potential solutions. Three working groups, comprised of volunteers from jurisdictions, waste and materials management industries, consultants, colleges, and environmental groups, met March through May of 2001. Each of the working groups considered data, analyses, potential solutions for the DRS, adjustment method or alternatives to the existing system. A synthesis group, comprised of six members of each of the three working groups, met in June and July to synthesize ideas from all groups and develop a set of recommendations that address the diversion rate measurement system as a whole.

Base-Level Generation

Base-level generation is the starting point of the disposal-based diversion rate measurement system. For most jurisdictions, base-level generation (diversion tons + disposal tons) was established in their 1990 source reduction and recycling element (SRRE) and approved by CalRecycle. The base level is the foundation for diversion rate estimation and plays a crucial role in the accuracy of a jurisdiction’s diversion rate estimate. Many assumptions about California’s waste stream that were used in establishing the original base levels are not supported by current data. Data gathered since 1990 shows:

  • Waste flow patterns are much more variable and complex than originally assumed in 1990. Waste commonly flows between counties.
  • Jurisdictions with large numbers of businesses and industries generate more waste than jurisdictions that are primarily residential.
  • About half of California’s landfills did not have scales in 1990 and about ten percent currently do not have scales. Tonnage estimates have improved with use of scales.
  • A considerable amount of waste is not hauled by franchised or licensed haulers. Self-haul waste (hauled by someone whose primary business is not hauling waste) is about 13 percent of the statewide waste stream and is much higher in some areas.

The disposal-based measurement system calculates a diversion rate by applying the adjustment method to base-level generation. Large errors that understate or overstate base-level generation can result in inaccurate diversion rates. Thus, inaccuracies in base-level data can have a significant adverse impact on the estimated diversion rate. Therefore, base-level inaccuracies could negatively impact jurisdictions’ ability to quantitatively demonstrate their actual progress toward achieving the 25 percent and 50 percent diversion goals. In addition to base-level generation tons for that year, its predictive value as a bench mark for future waste generation estimates erodes with changes in the nature of jurisdiction solid waste produced; for example, a manufacturing community becomes a “bedroom community” and waste types and amounts change.

In early 2001, CalRecycle adopted a diversion study guide to provide jurisdictions with guidance on preparing a new base-level generation study. About 90 jurisdictions have new CalRecycle-approved, base-level, generation studies. About 360 jurisdictions have 1990 or 1991 base levels.

Adjustment Method

The adjustment method relies on a jurisdiction’s base-level generation, a standard formula to estimate waste generation, and avoids measuring diversion. The method is low-cost for jurisdictions because the formula is relatively simple and relies on data from State agencies. This is the first method of this type in the United States.

Issues and Analyses

Issues associated with the adjustment method include:

  • Heavy reliance on the base-level generation amount (greater influence on estimates of future year waste generation than any adjustment method factor).
  • Whether the standard formula works well for all jurisdictions (for example, does it work well for a jurisdiction with a low population and a high proportion of business and industry and vice versa).
  • Whether other sources of data on population and the economy provide accurate estimates of waste generation.
  • Whether changes in the nature of solid waste produced (for example, change from manufacturing heavy machinery to assembly of computers results in different amounts and types of waste) may make a jurisdiction’s base-level generation obsolete.
  • Use of State data in the formula that is generally more accurate at the countywide or regionwide level than for individual jurisdictions.

Data analyses show that the adjustment method is an estimation tool that works reasonably well for most jurisdictions but has some accuracy issues. There are a number of sources of data that provide generation estimates similar to the existing factors used in the formula and seem to help the most if the jurisdiction is small or has unusual extremes of population and economic indicators. There is more variability in small jurisdiction population and economic factors over time, so accuracy of the adjustment method will be more variable for small jurisdictions. Further statistical analysis is needed to determine if entirely new adjustment method factors and weights would improve the accuracy of the adjustment method formula. Expanded dissemination of existing information and publication of new study results should improve adjustment method understanding and application.

Disposal Reporting System

CalRecycle was required to develop a system to track jurisdiction of waste origin using periodic surveys because the disposal-based measurement system is heavily dependent on accurate disposal data. CalRecycle set minimum standards for origin surveys, one week per quarter, to allow local flexibility. Many counties have established more stringent origin survey requirements. The DRS has given jurisdictions a better understanding of their waste flow and disposal data.

Issues and Analyses

Issues associated with the DRS include:

  • Complex boundaries make it difficult to identify a jurisdiction of waste origin.
  • Reliance on vehicle drivers for information on jurisdiction of waste origin.
  • Accuracy of a one-week-per-quarter waste origin survey.
  • Lack of scales at about half the landfills in 1990 and about ten percent of landfills in 2001.
  • Different standards at different facilities that impact whether inerts and special waste count as disposal.
  • Lack of enforcement mechanisms to assist jurisdictions in resolving issues due to misinformation or untimely information.

Data analyses show that waste hauler drivers may not know the jurisdiction of origin for hauling routes that serve multiple jurisdictions. In some areas, there may be economic incentives for vehicle drivers to provide inaccurate jurisdiction of origin information. Counties that require jurisdiction of origin information from waste hauler dispatcher or billing records have fewer waste origin issues. Self-haul drivers (other than franchised haulers) may not be asked for origin information or may not report waste origin correctly. Residential self-haul drivers may comprise a large portion of vehicles using a landfill, but only a small portion of disposal. Statewide, residential self-haul is about three percent of the statewide waste stream.

There can be significant error in surveying one week per quarter versus every load every day. This is particularly true for small jurisdictions with less than 25,000 people or 25,000 tons annual disposal. This makes sense in terms of arithmetic, since an extra 10 tons of waste disposed would make a bigger difference for a jurisdiction with 50 tons of disposal than for a jurisdiction with 5,000 tons of disposal. Surveying every load every day is more accurate, but there are still potential errors in assigning jurisdiction of origin. Countywide disposal data is more stable, except for counties with low countywide population and tons disposed.

Alternatives to the Existing Diversion Rate Measurement System

A wide range of alternatives has been intensely debated since development of the IWMA in 1989. The alternatives considered in this review address issues with the disposal-based diversion rate measurement system. These alternatives range from increased support for activities that increase the amount of material diverted from disposal to specific changes in the law to overcome accuracy issues.

Issues and Analyses

Some of the issues addressed include:

  • The right balance between measuring diversion progress and diversion program implementation to allow a shift of resources from diversion rate measurement to diversion program implementation.
  • Markets for recycled materials are critical to diversion program success.
  • Jurisdictions bear the responsibility of meeting IWMA requirements but do not control all the waste generators within their borders.
  • Appropriate measures of success for small and rural jurisdictions that have a disproportionate share of errors.
  • Whether changing the diversion rate measurement level from each city and county to countywide or regionwide would improve diversion rate measurement accuracy.

Many of the alternatives discussions were by their nature more conceptual, so the types of ideas discussed are summarized here. Instead of determining compliance with the IWMA based primarily on a calculated diversion rate, especially when that rate is derived from a measurement system with recognized potential errors, information on diversion program implementation should be carefully considered. Since small and/or rural jurisdictions are prone to more measurement problems, this consideration is especially important for them. Efforts to promote countywide and/or other types of regional measurements can improve accuracy. Resolution of issues about what counts as disposal (special waste and inerts) can also resolve accuracy and equity issues. Several additional options were discussed that would change how compliance with the IWMA is measured, but since the issues are complex, more work and time are needed to fully evaluate the ideas.

Actions can be taken to aid and enhance local government efforts to achieve the diversion goals, including continued statewide efforts to increase and develop markets, expanding responsibility for waste diversion and resource conservation, removing inadvertent barriers to diversion, and improving training and education for those on the front lines of waste diversion efforts.

Recommendations

The working group process allowed CalRecycle to obtain expertise from a variety of stakeholders and an independent review from CalRecycle staff in developing recommendations to resolve complex issues. This report includes both working group and CalRecycle recommendations.

Many of the recommendations resolve several problems. The recommendations from the individual working groups were reviewed and consolidated. The synthesis group, made up of members from each individual working group, reviewed all of the recommendations. The synthesis group believes that the set of recommendations, taken as a whole, will improve accuracy of the diversion rate measurement system, support activities that increase diversion, and lead to further investigation of the most promising alternatives to the existing diversion rate measurement system.

CalRecycle approved most of the synthesis group recommendations. However, there are several specific recommendations whose implementation CalRecycle does not support. These items are identified throughout the report. The recommendations are generally conceptual in nature and details of how they would be implemented would be developed in an open process involving all stakeholders. The recommendations are grouped into several categories. Summary tables (Table 1-1 and Table 1-2) are included below and a more complete table is included in the recommendations chapter.

An overriding recommendation from all the working groups and CalRecycle is to recognize potential inaccuracies in all components of the diversion rate measurement system. One of the key findings of this review of the diversion rate measurement system is that a diversion rate is an estimate, not an absolute value, and there are potential inaccuracies in each part of the diversion rate measurement system. One difficulty faced by jurisdictions and decision makers is how to fairly assess the accuracy of a diversion rate estimate, given the many variables and the potential for inaccuracies involved. Stated differently, a key issue is how should an estimated diversion rate be weighted in comparison to diversion program information? Another key issue for jurisdictions and decision makers is the level of resources required to improve accuracy, and the appropriate balance between resources to improve accuracy and resources to implement diversion programs.

Accuracy

These recommendations focus on improving accuracy and include:

  • Recognition that potential errors in the diversion rate measurement system make the diversion rate an estimate, not an absolute value.
  • Establishing statewide standards for daily origin surveys, except in rural areas, and for expanded information on alternative daily cover.
  • Resolving issues of consistency with what counts as disposal.
  • Increasing incentives for regional agencies.
  • Continued use of the adjustment method formula and factors, and addition of other tested adjustment method factors and formulas.

CalRecycle supports most of these recommendations. CalRecycle, with the exception of the methodologies, recommended to resolve issues of inconsistency with what counts as disposal. In addition, CalRecycle recommends that jurisdictions be asked to explain why their base-level generation still represents their jurisdiction if the growth rate is outside the tested limits for the adjustment method. This recommendation should help jurisdictions and the CalRecycle consider to what extent a base-level is still a reasonably accurate benchmark for estimating future year waste generation.

Alternatives to Numerical Compliance

These recommendations focus on alternatives to relying on diversion rates in determining compliance with the requirements of the IWMA and include:

  • Focusing on diversion programs rather than diversion rates.
  • Evaluating diversion rate accuracy (red flags) in CalRecycle’s biennial review of jurisdiction progress in meeting IWMA requirements using a tiered approach.
  • Allowing rural jurisdictions to demonstrate IWMA compliance based on diversion program implementation and effectiveness.
  • Allowing countywide diversion rate measurement without a regional agency if jurisdictions are implementing their diversion programs.

CalRecycle supports these recommendations.

Expand Responsibility and Enhance Control

These recommendations expand responsibility for diverting waste and provide a variety of options to enhance control and include:

  • Developing a model ordinance for jurisdictions to establish local ordinances to implement disposal reporting and assess penalties.
  • Changing state minimum standards for disposal facilities to require cooperation in DRS origin surveys.
  • Requiring disposal facilities to supply jurisdictions with information at the same time it is sent to counties.
  • Establishing statewide enforcement and penalties for DRS misinformation and untimely information.
  • Removing unintended institutional barriers to establishing diversion programs and siting diversion facilities.
  • Requiring schools to work in coordination with local jurisdiction recycling coordinators to divert waste.
  • Requiring disposal facilities to divert waste from self-haul customers.

CalRecycle takes no position regarding the recommendations to develop model ordinances, to require schools and State agencies to coordinate diversion with jurisdictions, or to require facilities to divert self-haul waste; current law encourages cooperation. Furthermore, with respect to removing institutional barriers to siting diversion facilities, CalRecycle must carefully balance the advantages of streamlining the system with protecting the health and safety of Californians and the environment.

Markets

The synthesis group recommends CalRecycle focus on market development, since markets are critical to the success of diversion programs. CalRecycle strongly supports these market development activities in its recently adopted Strategic Plan.

Change What Counts as Disposal

The synthesis group recommends CalRecycle change what counts as disposal to resolve inequities and promote power generation. These recommendations include:

  • Excluding inert waste at mine reclamation facilities (the four in the San Gabriel Valley) not subject to CalRecycle fees from the DRS.
  • Excluding special waste (at Class II facilities) from the DRS.
  • Removing the ten percent diversion limit for burning forest debris to produce power.

CalRecycle does not support excluding inert waste disposed at mine reclamation facilities from the DRS at this time. However, CalRecycle may revisit the diversion rate measurement aspect of the inert waste issue in the upcoming construction and demolition waste regulations. CalRecycle will continue to rely on existing CalRecycle policy to exclude disposal of special waste at Class II facilities if the special waste is required to be disposed by a control agency. With regard to removing the ten percent limit on burning forest debris for power, CalRecycle’s recently adopted Strategic Plan supports, in general, energy recovery from waste through clean technology.

Training

These recommendations increase CalRecycle training on the DRS and the adjustment method and provide standard CalRecycle training for jurisdiction staff responsible for implementing diversion programs.

CalRecycle supports most of the specific recommendations in this category, but it does not support the concept of a CalRecycle-sponsored certification program for local government staff.

Ideas Merit Further Study

These recommendations include ideas that have merit, but they will require additional study to determine whether they should be considered further. They include:

  • Continuing analysis of the adjustment method formula and factors.
  • Placing more responsibility for diversion on generators of difficult-to-handle waste.
  • Removing the ten percent diversion limit on non-burn transformation to encourage development of methods to handle hard-to-divert materials; for example, contaminated organics that are less desirable for composting.

Developing a method to evaluate IWMA compliance based on program implementation.

Summary Tables

The complete tables can be found in the Recommendations chapter of the report. The following abbreviations are used in the summary tables below:

  • ACC—Accuracy in diversion rate measurement.
  • ATNC—Alternatives to numerical compliance.
  • R&C—Expand responsibility and enhance control.
  • MKT—Markets.
  • CWC—Change what counts as disposal.
  • TRN—Training.
  • FS—Ideas merit further study.
Table 1-1. Summary Table of CalRecycle Recommendations
Category and
Reference #
Required
Actions
Synthesis Working Group Recommendations CalRecycle Recommendations
Accuracy
(ACC 1)
Policy Recognize diversion rate estimate is an indicator, not a measured value. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 2)
Policy CalRecycle should conduct increased county or regional audits of solid waste disposal facility disposal records. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 3)
Policy Update Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) Alternative Daily Cover (ADC) Advisory #48. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 4)
Regulation CalRecycle should require the following from solid waste disposal facilities: Conducting daily surveys and weighing every load except cars and pickups. Exempting small rural solid waste facilities from the daily survey. Scales at all solid waste facilities above certain tonnage. Solid waste facilities to post signs about origin collection. Standards for collecting origin and disposal tonnage information from waste hauler dispatchers. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 6)
Statute Increase incentives/remove disincentives to form regional agencies. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 7)
Policy Continue using the existing adjustment method. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 8)
Policy CalRecycle should: Continue use of the existing adjustment method factors. Monitor 2000 Census data publication & investigate potential issues. Add county level Employment Development Department (EDD) Industry Employment as default factor. Allow use of alternative data sources for factors. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 9)
Regulation Consider use of alternative adjustment method factors that require regulations revisions. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Accuracy
(ACC 10)
Policy Not recommended by synthesis group. Ask jurisdictions to explain why base years are valid if growth rates are greater than 14 percent (the adjustment method test limit).
Alternatives to Numerical Compliance
(ATNC 1)
Policy CalRecycle recognizes potential for significant errors in disposal reporting system (DRS) and adjustment method. Focus on diversion programs rather than tonnage/diversion rates. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Alternatives to Numerical Compliance
(ATNC 2)
Policy Develop standard “red flag” table of diversion rate accuracy indicators for each jurisdiction and include it in biennial review agenda items. CalRecycle would use tiered approach, based on the accuracy indicators, to evaluate diversion rate accuracy in CalRecycle biennial reviews of jurisdiction progress in meeting the requirements of the Integrated Waste Management Act (IWMA). Recommended by CalRecycle.
Alternatives to Numerical Compliance
(ATNC 3)
Policy, Regulation, or Statute Allow rural jurisdictions to demonstrate IWMA compliance based on “good faith efforts” in diversion program implementation and effectiveness during CalRecycle biennial review, instead of spending resources on fixing numerical issues. CalRecycle proposes regulations or statutes to reduce rural requirements for resolving numerical issues prior to the CalRecycle biennial review.
Alternatives to Numerical Compliance
(ATNC 4)
Statute Within a county, verify diversion program implementation at the jurisdictional level; if all jurisdictions are implementing their diversion programs, allow use of a countywide diversion rate. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 2)
Regulation Revise regulations to make solid waste disposal facility cooperation in DRS a requirement of a solid waste facility permit. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 3)
Regulation Landfill and transfer station operators send jurisdictions information on tons disposed by the jurisdiction at the same time the operators are required to send the information to the county. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 4)
Statute Authorize assessment of penalties for misinformation and lack of timely information in the DRS. Establish due process procedures to address errors in DRS. Penalties would apply to waste haulers, landfills, materials recovery facilities, and transfer stations. CalRecycle would enforce and assess any penalties. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 5)
Policy Further promote jurisdiction focus on largest individual waste generators, largest waste sectors, and most common materials in the waste stream to enhance waste reduction, recycling, and composting. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Markets
(MKT 1)
Statute Focus on developing markets for recycled materials through a variety of activities, including mandated programs. CalRecycle’s recently adopted Strategic Plan strongly supports creation and expansion of sustainable markets.
Change What Counts
(CWC 3)
Statute Remove the 10% diversion limit for direct burn transformation processes for forest debris (also called slash) used for power generation. CalRecycle’s recently adopted Strategic Plan supports, in general, energy recovery from waste through clean technology.
Training
(TRN 1)
Policy CalRecycle shall provide: DRS training to facility supervisors and counties. Adjustment method training. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Training
(TRN 2)
Policy Increase the number and types of DRS reports available on CalRecycle’s Web site. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Further Study
(FS 1)
Policy Continue further analysis of the accuracy of adjustment method formula. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Further Study
(FS 2)
Statute Place more responsibility for diversion on generators of difficult-to-handle waste. Recommended by CalRecycle.
Further Study
(FS 3)
Statute Remove the existing ten percent diversion limit for non-burn transformation. CalRecycle’s recently adopted Strategic Plan supports, in general, energy recovery from waste through clean technology.
Table 1-2. Summary Table of Recommendations on Which CalRecycle Takes Different or No Position
Category and
Reference #
Required
Actions
Synthesis Working Group Recommendations CalRecycle Recommendations
Accuracy
(ACC 5)
Statute and/or Regulation Remove uncertainties/inconsistencies with how some materials (for example special waste and inerts) are counted as disposal at different solid waste disposal facilities. See CWC 1 and 2.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 1)
Policy CalRecycle should draft model ordinance so jurisdictions can require commercial self-haulers to report origin information. No position.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 6)
Regulation Remove institutional barriers to establishing diversion programs and diversion facilities. No position. CalRecycle must balance the advantages of streamlining with protecting the health and safety of Californians and the environment.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 7)
Statute Adopt new laws requiring solid waste disposal facilities to divert waste from self-haulers. No position. CalRecycle must balance the advantages of this requirement with protecting the health and safety of Californians and the environment.
Responsibility & Control
(R&C 8)
Statute Require schools to work in coordination with local jurisdiction recycling coordinators to divert waste. No position. Current law encourages cooperation.
Change What Counts
(CWC 1)
Statute and/or Regulation Exclude inert waste, not subject to the BOE fee and disposed at mine reclamation facilities, from DRS. CalRecycle voted at its July 2001 meeting that inerts at CalRecycle-permitted mine reclamation sites count as disposal. May be revisited in upcoming construction and demolition regulations.
Change What Counts
(CWC 2)
Statute CalRecycle should support proposed legislation that will exclude Class II-type waste from counting in the diversion rate measurement system.. Rely on existing CalRecycle policy to exclude disposal of special waste at Class II facilities as required by control agencies.
Training
(TRN 3)
Policy CalRecycle shall provide standard curriculum training for local government waste management staff. No position.
Further Study
(FS 4)
Statute Establish a menu of diversion programs appropriate for jurisdiction characteristics and evaluate jurisdiction performance based on implementing programs and meeting effectiveness criteria such as participation levels. No position.

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Last updated: June 1, 2002
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