The money and work of environmentally minded Peninsula residents have been partially wasted after Allied Waste garbage trucks were found to have dumped tons of recyclable material into a landfill, authorities said recently.
Allied Waste, which provides garbage services from Burlingame to the southern San Mateo County border, has dumped up to 64,722 tons of plant materials into the Ox Mountain landfill near Half Moon Bay during the last four years, according to the South Bayside Waste Management Authority. Allied is contractually obligated to send the yard trimmings to its Newby Island compost site in Milpitas so the material can be recycled and used in local gardens and agriculture.
Now the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, which oversees Allied in San Mateo County, has demanded the garbage company pay back its residents between $560,000 and $1.8 million for the composting services. Allied Waste charges residents a fee for composting plants from yard trimmings. The exact fine would depend on the precise number of tons Allied did not divert to composting.
SBWMA board member Diane Dryer said neglecting to compost yard trimmings increases local greenhouse gas emissions.
“It would probably be a good idea to think about banning plant materials altogether from landfills due to the global warming problems,” Dryer said.
If Allied refuses to pay, the SBWMA said it would seek legal action based on the contract violation.
“This material was set out for recycling and it was put in a landfill. It’s a breach of public trust,” said Hilary Gans, SBWMA’s facility operations contract manager.
To conduct the investigation, the SBWMA in April hired Walnut Creek-based consulting agency HF&H, which presented a nine-page report on the accusations to the group’s board of directors recently.
Evan Boyd, Allied Waste’s general manager for the county, admitted some of the plant material did end up in the landfill but argued the SBWMA’s numbers may be inflated a little bit.
Boyd acknowledged his company dumped 14,159 tons of plants into a landfill in 2005 and 2006. He said his company faced an unusual situation those years, due to the relocation and shrinking of their compost pad. Allied contacted the SBWMA board about the infractions but the two could not reach a solution, he said.
“We’ve got to sit down and figure out if there’s going to be a compromise made,” Boyd said.
Despite the controversy, Boyd said the two groups still have a decent working relationship. The dispute between Allied and SBWMA comes as the two prepare to part ways on the local recycling center, a $15 million contract.
Allied, which has operated the county’s Shoreway Recycling and Disposal Center in San Carlos, will be let go by the SBWMA when its contract expires at the end of 2010.
Uncovering the compost
The South Bayside Waste Management Authority has demanded that Allied Waste pay back residents for composting service payments after Allied was found to have dumped recyclable material into landfills.
64,722: Plant tons dumped into landfill that should have been composted
14,159: Plant tons Allied admitted it dumped into landfill
4: Years Allied dumped plants into landfill
2: Years Allied admitted it dumped plants into landfill
$560,000: to $1.8 million Fine levied on Allied Waste
12: County cities or agencies that supplied the plant material
Source: South Bayside Waste Management Authority, Allied Waste