council trash stock

City approves resolution with the aim to go waste free by 2030

Cloverdale recently joined the ranks of local cities adopting zero waste resolutions which aim to have the cities go waste free by 2030.

The resolution doesn’t explicitly have the power to change specific practices within the city, however it formalizes the goal to go waste free and can be a jumping off point for discussing how to do so.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, zero waste refers to the “conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

The resolution approved by the council earlier this month included suggested initiatives from a task force of county businesses, nonprofits and government officials that worked to create the resolution nearly two years ago.

“Resolutions like this are important because we can't afford to do business as usual,” Mayor Melanie Bagby said in an interview following the council decision.

The Sonoma County Central Landfill has a remaining capacity of 29 years, Bagby said, adding that making an effort to reduce food waste specifically is also beneficial when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to Zero Waste Sonoma, food waste that decomposes anaerobically in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more potent than carbon monoxide.

“We need to reduce, and in some cases eliminate our waste stream because our current rate of consumption simply isn't sustainable,” she said. “And that's not an abstract idea: we literally don't have room at the landfill for our waste. It's costing us now on our monthly trash and recycling bill — it's going to soar every year we get closer to capacity if we don't take action now.”

At the time of approval, Leslie Lukacs, executive director of Zero Waste Sonoma (also known as the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency) updated the council on Cloverdale-based projects she’s been working on since starting at Zero Waste Sonoma two months ago.

“Things are already happening in Cloverdale,” Lukacs said. “I’m working with the city manager to make sure that your city hall has all of the recycling bins it needs, we’re going to be purchasing those for you, and I’m working with your parks and rec department to make sure that public spaces also have adequate recycling bins.”

Additionally, Lukacs said that she’s been put in contact with some of the local service organizations to see how she can help with local events.

During the council discussion regarding the resolution, Councilmember Mary Ann Brigham asked a question that seemed to be on the minds of some of her fellow council members as well — when is Cloverdale going to get a recycling center?

“These are wonderful goals and I’m behind them 100%, but there are some basic things that we lack here in Cloverdale,” she said. “We’ve got a couple of people who basically made their living going around … just collecting cans. But there’s nowhere to take the cans anymore. This is almost to me laughable if we don’t have those basic things. How do you get people to think about this when there’s nowhere for them to take it?”

Lukacs responded, saying that she’s working on getting funding for a roving CRV (California Refund Value) center that spends a set number of days in Cloverdale, Sonoma and Sebastopol collecting bottles and cans.

Brigham also requested talking to CalRecycle to get Cloverdale more dates for electronic waste recycling.

Additional suggestions for improving how the city handles waste disposal included improving recycling signage at events and in public places.

Sebastopol was the first city in the county to adopt a zero waste resolution (theirs was adopted in October 2018), with other cities following suit. Since then, Sebastopol has also issued a ban on polystyrene, which City Manager David Kelley said may be coming up in a future Cloverdale council meeting as well.

While this resolution signals that the city wants to take measures to reduce waste, it doesn’t mean that residents have to wait for city direction to take action.

“Going green is great but we need to realize that as a community, making these changes has much greater benefits,” Bagby said. “Reducing your consumption of plastic and other materials is going to save you money and help keep your trash and recycling bill down.”

The mayor also recommended people use reusable products instead of buying items like water bottles or plastic utensils.

“Cloverdale water is great and you should be taking it from the tap instead of buying bottled water for daily use — keep it in your disaster preparedness kit and use it only in emergencies,” she said. “Reducing your food waste by shopping more often and locally at the Tuesday Farmers Market and local stores can lower your food bill and keep your dollars in our local economy. Local restaurants need to get onboard with this and it can be a great marketing tool for them.”

“This was not a ‘government down’ effort,” Bagby added. “This resolution is the result of extensive input by local business, environmental, labor and other stakeholders concerned about the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of our community. Second, the simple act of mindfully reducing waste will personally save you money. Collectively, our actions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep our dollars in our local economy. That's a win-win.”

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