Cleaner & Greener

Oakland's New Waste Services Arriving July 1 - Written by Sean Maher & Karen Stern - Posted May 15, 2015

Cleaner & Greener

An exciting new package of Zero Waste services is launching in Oakland on July 1, 2015, including a new food scraps collection program for apartments and condos. This program will provide a green compost cart at all multifamily properties with five units or more to collect residents’ food scraps, food-soiled paper and plant debris. It is one of many initiatives under the City’s new Zero Waste program, which tailors trash, recycle and compost collection services to reduce material sent to our landfills.

Thousands of Oakland residents at 480 multifamily buildings — like the California Hotel — already participate in the green cart composting program, where trailblazing property owners have shown leadership implementing the programs in advance of county regulations and deadlines that began rolling out in July 2014. These new requirements fall under Phase 2 of the Alameda County Mandatory Recycling Ordinance – a set of regulations that belong on every local property manager’s checklist (we’ve provided a link at the end of this article).

Beginning in July, all Oakland residents will receive trash and compost service from Waste Management of Alameda County and recycling service from California Waste Solutions. Both companies are part of Oakland Recycles, the City’s Zero Waste program working to divert as much waste as possible away from our landfills and into more sustainable uses. A recent study by StopWaste, Alameda County’s solid waste authority, found multifamily buildings’ trash containers contained on average 28% compostable materials. In Oakland this represents roughly 6,240 tons per year of wasted material that could be diverted to compost. Solving this problem will help reduce the production of harmful methane gas, and provide moisture-retaining soil additives to help gardeners and farmers conserve water during an historic California draught.

The new compost service will be the biggest change for most multifamily customers. Waste Management will be delivering new green compost carts to Oakland’s 3500 multifamily buildings throughout the month of June, and is helping lead an outreach campaign to provide information to property managers and residents.

“We are excited to extend our successful compost collection service to multifamily properties,” said Rebecca Parnes, Oakland Contract Manager for Waste Management. “We have assembled an amazing team of community and business leaders and sustainability consultants to assist multifamily property owners, managers and residents in making food scraps recycling second nature.”


Expert Guidance

Under Oakland’s new services, Waste Management is providing compost assistance to multifamily property owners and managers across Oakland. They’ve hired Cascadia Consulting to coordinate site visits, door-to-door training and delivery of resident tool kits from May through December 2015.

Property owners or managers can request site visits, resident kitchen pails, recycling brochures and trash enclosure posters either online at or by calling Cascadia at 510-613-2888. In addition, EBRHA is working with Oakland Recycles to plan workshops) to help property owners and managers explore the new Zero Waste multifamily services. EBRHA will also provide ongoing updates in its magazine and on its website.

Introducing the new compost routine to California Hotel residents was easy, said property manager Roseshawn Black, of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. (EBALDC), which owns and manages the building. Many of the building’s residents are long-term tenants and all are low income.

“Incorporating food scraps collection was a simple two-step process,” Black said. “First, StopWaste staff conducted a site visit to assess the volume of compostables in our trash and calculated the size trash and compost containers we’d need. Then they attended a resident meeting to educate residents and staff alike about how to recycle right. Oakland Recycles provided our residents a kitchen pail for food scraps collection and easy-to-follow tips for using it.”

“By the time Waste Management delivered the recommended carts and we’d hung the poster showing images of what goes into the trash, recycle and compost carts, we were ready to go!”

Waste Management will oversee the delivery of green compost carts to every Oakland multifamily property with five units or more. Buildings with five to 12 units will receive one 32-gallon compost cart and buildings with 13 or more units will receive one 64-gallon cart. Buildings with fewer than five units already have access to compost service, and customers can call Waste Management now for any questions or to request help. Additional green compost carts may be requested and will be serviced at no additional charge. While this work is going on, Oakland Recycles, Cascadia and others will be focused on a greater challenge: how to engage residents in making use of this service.

The outreach effort also has support from government partners and community groups. StopWaste, City Slicker Farms and Asian Immigrant Advocates are among the partners helping reach the community with tips and techniques for recycling food scraps in anticipation of Oakland’s participation in required compost service.

“These are great partnerships,” said StopWaste program manager Judi Ettlinger. “They have helped us reach a wide audience including many low-income residents and non-English speakers with the ‘How-to’sfor food scrap recycling.”


Closing the Loop

Residents of the California Hotel know first hand the link between food scraps composting and a healthier environment.

“I love bringing my kitchen scraps down to the garden. It helps the garden,” said Collette Walker, a California Hotel resident. “They give to us and we give back.”

Oakland’s residential food scraps and yard trimmings return to the community as compost for city, school and community gardens as well as residential and commercial landscape projects. The California Hotel boasts a 9,000 square foot garden where residents grow vegetables with the help of the People’s Grocery and donated compost.

“Some of the residents are really invested in this food scrap recycling program,” said Heather Smith, the hotel’s Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator. “They want to make a positive contribution to the environment. Some participate because we offered prizes, but once they see the results in the form of good useable fertilizer for our plants, they get even more excited.”

With Oakland’s new Zero Waste compost service, every multifamily resident will have the opportunity to help create a cleaner and greener community. They will even have access to donated compost for their plants during Oakland Recycle’s compost giveaway events.


Next Steps

Your green compost cart will arrive in June, but there are many other resources available to you right now. Go online to request assistance or call Cascadia or one of the other organizations listed for tenant outreach. You’ll find information on how you can contact any one of these organizations alongside this article.

Your early engagement will increase the chances of a successful compost collection service and the long-term reduction of material in the trash and our landfill. Together we’ll make Oakland a greener, cleaner community. RH

-Sean Maher & Karen Stern

Sean Maher, City of Oakland Zero Waste Outreach Program Manager, and Karen Stern, Waste Management of Alameda County Communications Manager, are members of the Oakland Recycles team responsible for the launch of the new Zero Waste collection services on July 1, 2015. They can be reached at or .

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