Transforming Trash: Victory for Good Jobs and Zero Waste in LA!

April 2, 2014 -- Partnership for Working Families

“This is one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in the world and will provide clean air, good jobs and recycling for all.”

–Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA Daily News

Friends, I have exciting news to share from the Partnership's Transforming Trash campaign: 

By a 12-1 vote of City Council, the City of Los Angeles just passed the new Zero Waste LA policy championed by LAANE and the Don't Waste LA Coalition!

Implementation of the policy will dramatically reduce the amount of waste that LA sends to landfills, spur the creation of thousands of good jobs in the recycling economy, and open access to quality recycling and organics processing services for small businesses and property owners.

The passage of Los Angeles' new policy makes it a national model for cities who want to transform their trash systems into engines of a new, sustainable economy. Like Los Angeles, cities across the country are discovering that transforming their trash systems is a critical step in tackling urgent environmental and economic problems. A recent Partnership study found that more than half of the top 37 metro areas in the country were either actively changing the way they manage trash, or have critical components in place to do so. 

In addition to providing ongoing support to Don't Waste LA, the Partnership is currently incubating Transforming Trash initiatives in New York, Denver, San Diego, Boston and Milwaukee. In each city, Partnership affiliates, together with environmental justice and worker allies are pursuing similar goals to Los Angeles, like: 

  • Dramatically increasing waste diverted from landfills to recycling and organics processing. Cities like San Jose and Seattle that have aggressively managed their waste have diversion rates around 70%, while cities like New York and Denver that have taken a more laissez-faire approach have recycling rates hovering around 15%. 
  • Reducing diesel pollution and street maintenance costs, while increasing pedestrian safety through efficient truck routing. LA's new Zero Waste Policy will reduce particulate matter emissions (a major contributor to asthma in communities of color) by 94% and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 million tons by 2030. 
  • Creating thousands of good jobs in the recycling industry. Recycling a ton of trash creates as many as 40 times the number of jobs as landfilling, so increases in waste diversion have a multiplier effect on job creation. 
  • Increasing accountability, consistent service, and affordable rates for small business owners and property owners, while opening up access to recycling and organics processing services for low-income communities of color. 

Congratulations to LAANE, the Don't Waste LA Coalition, and the City of Los Angeles Mayor, City Council, and Bureau of Sanitation staff for taking this monumental step toward zero waste and good jobs in Los Angeles! For more information on this huge win, see the write-ups in the LA Times and the LA Daily News.

Just before Don't Waste LA's huge win, the City of Oakland passed a resolution that requires new recycling contracts to include good, family sustaining wages and benefits and creates equitable access to composting services for apartment dwellers. EBASE and a coalition of labor and environmental groups had advocated for passage of this policy for the last couple of years. 

And, in the Southwest, FRESC's own Desiree Westlund was just appointed to the City of Denver Solid Waste Implementation Plan Committee. With a recycling rate hovering around 12%, the City's going to need all the help Desi can give to bump up recycling and create good jobs in the industry. 

Stay tuned for updates coming soon from New York and San Diego too!

In Solidarity,