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Environment

Napa City Council to consider changes to waste standards

Napa residents will need to separate organic materials from regular trash and recycling starting Jan. 1 next year.

That change, required by state law, and several other changes to solid waste and trash enclosure standards, will be heading to the Napa City Council on Tuesday.  

Senate Bill 1383, passed in 2016, requires all California jurisdictions to collect organic waste from residents and businesses starting Jan. 1, 2022.  The law seeks to reduce organic waste disposal by 75% from the 2014 level by 2025, said city recycling manager Kevin Miller.

“Now, Napa’s had full blown residential and commercial food scrap programs since 2015,” Miller said. “So we’re ahead of a lot of communities. But basically the state law says up and down California, both residential and commercial properties need to recover not just the traditional yard trimmings but food scraps and soiled paper as organics.”

Reducing the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills will cut down on the amount of methane released into the atmosphere from the breakdown of such materials, according to the law. The law requires that all residents and businesses have access to recycling and organics collection, he said, and to establish an enforcement program to ensure the separation of the organics.

Napa, Miller said, has been designing around separating the three streams of waste — trash, recycling and composting — for the last four or five years. But the city so far has only recommended the separation, which will become mandatory on Jan. 1 under SB 1383.

“We had a commercial food composting route here for six years but sometimes I say ‘it’s the coalition of the willing’ because it’s just voluntary to participate,” Miller said. “Now we’re going to transition so everybody’s going to be compelled to be a part of these programs. So that’s going to take a lot of patience, a lot of education, a lot of training in a different mindset. For people at home, curbside recycling is normal now, right. Well, it wasn’t normal 30 years ago. We’re going to be that way a little bit on the organics side.”

The city’s trash enclosure standards haven’t been officially updated since 2008, said Miller. The purpose of the enclosures is to enclose waste and recycling containers, reduce scavenging and prevent storm water pollution, Miller told the city’s planning commission last month.

But currently, enclosure standards apply for any project “that requires approval of a use permit or design review permit.”

Two new definitions, expanding when trash enclosure standards should be considered, are set to be added to the city’s code.

The first, a “significant remodel,” will apply if a remodel will increase occupancy of the building area by 50% or more, or if it changes the use of the building in a way that increases waste.

“Let’s say you have an office space and it converts into a restaurant because it’s in a zoning area where that’s permitted,” Miller said. “If that happens, we want the new standards to come into play because you now have to deal with the food component.”

The second standard, a “significant addition,” would apply whenever a structure of more than 1,000 square feet — or an addition equal to or greater than 20% of the total building square footage — is added to the original structure or site.

“At that point we felt the enclosure standards ought to be addressed because the building is generating more material,” Miller said.

The city is also set to add the possibility of creating cart-only trash enclosures, which could include wheeled carts but not larger metal dumpsters. That will allow enclosures to be created in areas where space is tight, Miller said.

“A lot of time enclosures are kind of an afterthought, I think, when you’re looking at development projects,” Miller said. “But you have to step back and realize they’re going to be out there for 30, 50, 70 years. And you really do want them to be designed and built correctly so that they serve all the needs they’re supposed to serve.”

In other news, the Napa City Council will be considering the purchase of three fire engines for $2.49 million. The council will also be hearing an update on the Napa Al Fresco parklet program, which was first established as a way to create outdoor seating for businesses a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents gathered in downtown Napa to salute former service members Thursday, as in-person Veterans Day events resumed following their cancellations in 2020.

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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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