The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins><ins></ins>

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and demolition debris to reduce the more than 100,000 tons that end up in the landfill annually instead of being recycled.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced legislation last week that would require those who transport construction and demolition debris for disposal to obtain city permits in an effort to ensure the waste is recycled at city-registered facilities — not illegally dumped.

“It’s going to weed out some of the bad actors,” Safai told the San Francisco Examiner Friday.

He said some transporters of the waste have been able to “fly under the radar” and have a business model of paying a lot less to dispose of the waste by taking it straight to the landfill.

Safai’s proposal comes as The City has refocused its efforts to reuse and recycle after having to abandon in 2017 its prior goal to send no waste to the landfill by 2020. Mayor London Breed changed those goals in 2018 to shoot for a 50 percent reduction of solid waste sent to the landfill by 2030, after city officials said the 2020 goal was no longer within reach.

The proposed cost of the permits are based on the size of the vehicle. A pickup permit costs $395 a year, while pickups with a small trailer are $1,200 a year. Larger dump trucks cost $1,600 a year and the largest trucks $2,000.

The permit revenue will help with education and enforcement. The Sheriff’s Department would assist with compliance, such as with site inspections and outreach.

The fees are expected to generate $1.4 million in the first year, according to the Department of the Environment, which is supporting the proposal.

The law would go into effect in July 2021.

The department called the legislation “an important, necessary step for meeting The City’s zero waste and climate goals.”

The proposal builds on the 2006 Construction and Demolition Debris Recovery Ordinance, which required the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a project site. It also required those who transport or recycle such material to register for free with the Department of the Environment. Only those registered are allowed to perform the service.

But construction and demolition debris comprises about half of all the solid waste generated in San Francisco and about 25 percent, 150,000 tons, that ends up in the landfill annually, according to the Department of the Environment.

It’s not clear how much should have gone through the recovery process for recycling and reuse, but it’s thought to be a significant amount.

“The [construction and demolition debris] that does not go through a recovery process ends up illegally disposed or at illegal dumping sites,” according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

The 2006 law led to “the registration of 15 facilities and more than 400 transporters,” according to Safai’s legislation.

“However, the growing number of transporters has made registration compliance increasingly challenging to implement and enforce, with the result that it has become harder to prevent illegal dumping and landfilling of construction and demolition debris in San Francisco,” the legislation reads.

Safai said last week that the proposal was born out of previous legislative hearings he held with the Department of the Environment on landfill disposal when the city officials said “if we were able to do a better job of diverting construction and demolition waste from landfill, then we would take a significant step toward producing zero waste.”

He also noted last week that “there is quite a bit of illegal dumping that goes along with construction waste on our streets.”

Safai called the proposal the second part in his effort to address landfill waste. He had promised to tackle the problem since learning in late 2017 that The City would not meet its goal of zero-waste by 2020.

In 2018, he introduced legislation adopted by the Board of Supervisors to require larger businesses to sort their trash better with a mandate to hire more trash sorters to help instead of paying fees to get out of the obligation as some were doing.

Safai said he expects to pass the law at the full board before the end of the year.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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