California’s landmark universal organics recycling law is now in effect. The waste authority for one of California’s northern counties has chosen a company with European roots to take over its post-collection operations. FCC Environmental Services is now able to enter the market, marking a significant milestone in a long-running procurement process that involved several key players in California’s waste industry.
The Western Placer Waste Management Authority board (WPWMA). Recently votedFCC will initiate formal contract negotiations with the U.S. subsidiary a European company that has operations in more than 30 countries. This will allow for the operation of its landfill, composting sites, MRF (including an estimated $110.7million retrofit) as well as other facilities. The project is designed to comply with SB 1383A newly-enacted state law that will require jurisdictions achieve 75% landfill diversion for selected organic materials by 2025.
The law has prompted contract negotiations to be reopened and createdFinancial opportunities for waste and recycle providers across the state. WPWMA’s setup is seen by some as an anomaly, but others see it as part of a complex debate about the best collection methods and processing techniques to meet California’s SB1383 targets.
WPWMA’s mixed-waste operations, which provide services for unincorporated Placer County as well as the cities of Lincoln, are part of WPWMA. RocklinAnd Roseville,California has a relatively low number of such jurisdictions. Most jurisdictions will comply with SB 1383 by operating three cart, source-separated collection programmes. However, local governments in Placer County collect a lot of putrescible and recyclable waste. “one big bin,”Yard waste should be handled separately.
Ratepayer costs were a top factor during the contract process, as the county has kept them relatively low over the years.While one bidder with extensive operations in Northern California,GreenWaste,outscored FCCFCC was awarded a higher overall score on experience and facility design. This is based on financial qualifications, design presentation, and cost. GreenWaste submitted a lower price bid, partly driven by It expects to have greater access capitalFrom its pending sale Macquarie Infrastructure Partners FCC Still had the overall cost advantageThe combined MRF and landfill bids of the two companies.
|Annual Facility Cost Estimates||FCC||GreenWaste (revised bidding)|
|MRF Processing Fees||$24,942,506||$27,658,229|
|Annualized Capital Cost*||$9,109,454||$11,144,358|
|Landfill Operating Cost||$2,511,231||$6,663,499|
|Total annualized cost||$37,039,677||$45,890,786|
|*based on 15-year time frame|
FCC Vice President for Operations Dan Brazil stated that the FCC was focused on making the facility the most advanced in North America, at the Nov. 29 meeting.
Recently, the company reiterated its belief that the facility is a launching point for future U.S. opportunities.
“We see it as a strategic contract for the company because we have a lot more experience and knowledge than any other company operating similar facilities around the world. Brazil sent an email in December saying that they believe the award will position them as a major player in these types of processing facilities.
GreenWaste sees things differently.In lettersWPWMA shared this information with them upon request. During the Nov. 29, meeting, GreenWaste repeatedly stated that FCC’s proposal was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of SB1383 or other industry standards. GreenWaste also suggested three mixed-waste lines, compared to FCC’s 2.
Greg Ryan, GreenWaste’s manager in the local operations and CEO at affiliated Zanker Recycling said that his company was disappointed with the outcome.
“While we know that cost is a key factor in any contract decision,” said the company. Their cost proposal was in line the current industry rates as well as the three unsuccessful bidders. Our demonstrated experience is unmatched. [WPWMA]GreenWaste was confident that the operational superiority and staff of the proposal would have led to a different outcome had they not been contracted with R3 Consulting.
R3 was hired by the authority for assistance in the procurement process. GreenWaste says that R3 wasn’t involved with the final round design submissions. The two finalists were chosen last fall. WPWMA Executive director Ken Grehm replied that he could not speak to the details of R3 involvement but noted that they weren’t there “to make the decision.”
Republic Services (for landfill contract), Mustang Renewable Power Ventures and current operator Nortech Waste were other bidders. WPWMA rejected Ecohub’s response to the RFP as it did not meet its requirements.
The fact that Nortech, a Recology-affiliated joint enterprise that has managed the MRF since its inception, didn’t make it to the cut is “a shock for many people, I think” Grehm stated last June after the authority named the two finalists.
“They have been a great partner for a very long time. They aren’t unhappy with us, but the landscape changes, and people must be able to adapt to change and pivot, he stated.
After the June expiration of its WPWMA agreement, Nortech is not known for having any other contracts. The company declined to comment on May 31, and did not respond to a request to comment further.
Evolution of a new facility
Placer County is one of many California jurisdictions that are looking at ways to modify their operations in order to comply with SB1383. However, certain characteristics of the county as well as its existing waste facilities merit a closer inspection.
The estimated population is 405,000. It stretches northeast from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and was designated as the State’s fastest-growing countyBetween 2010 and 2020. As this trend continues,Overall waste volumesThe potential for growth could increase from 386,000 tons in 2018 up to almost 600,000 tons by 2030. While some areas of the county are still rural, there are other areas that are seeing more housing and commercial development. There is a casino with a large amphitheater outside and some of these are located close to WPWMA’s operations.
DiscussionsHow and when to expand the Western Regional Sanitary Landfill The county’s last active landfillThe state is trying to reduce landfill disposal. The MRF has an estimated diversion rate between 40% and 45%. However, to meet the requirements of SB 1383 for mixed waste operations, it must reach a minimum of 50% this year, 75% in 2025. FCC’s proposal includes a guaranteed MSW diverting rate of 60% and an Expected overall diversion rate of 80%.
According to industry professionals who spoke about SB 1383, this mixed waste approach is not common in California. However, Placer County has a history that it has chosen its own path.
Origins of the MRF date back to another landmark state legislationAB 939, which required 50% recycling by 2000, sparked a wave in curbside recycling programs. WPWMA tried a different approach by partnering with Nortech, a three-way partnership of Recology and Sexton Resources, to create a mixed waste facility. It opened in 1995. An ObituaryWayne Trewhitt, the CEO of Nortech, was the architect of the facility and he called it “the most successful of its type in the United States.”
Later, the facility went through a $26 Million UpgradeThe upgrade boosted Nortech’s recovery capabilities and increased its processing capacity to more that 2,000 tons per hour. It was also tied in with the 2005 awarding of a new operating agreement. Based on its extensive experience, Nortech beat GreenWaste, a newer company. This result was described by GreenWaste as ironic, given the outcome of this latest contract process.
Trewhitt was no more. Nortech enlisted the help of someone who had worked in the industry. More than 20 years of experience designing and installing critical systems at the MRFGeorge Gitschel, founder and CEO of Ecohub. Gitschel claims that he officially partnered with Nortech in 2020 after years of discussions to pitch a project. New 20-year contractUpdates on operational and technical matters.
Nortech and Ecohub TogetherThese plans were in place throughout the summer and into fall, before WPWMA staff & the authority’s Board decided to. Open the contract for public procurementSeptember 2020. After initially discussing plans for bidding together, the two companies parted company in November that year. The reason was not publicized due to a nondisclosure deal.
Recology holds one of the three votes on Nortech’s board. Local franchise operations allow primary hauler to bring tonnage into the facility., declined to comment on internal discussions and deferred any questions to Nortech.
Ecohub made its own bid. Similar to its previous proposalsThe best-known example is the Houston contract fight in which FCC won in 2018. The general concept it proposed for Placer County included colocating capabilities for anaerobic digesting, composting and C&D recycling. A paper mill was also included.
Gitschel stated that he is the only person on the planet who has the perfect solution to all of these problems. He was referring to SB 1383. I have the technology. You can put everything in one container, then separate it, and then run it through all the different processes at the back to make new products, renewable energy, or grow food.
Gitschel said that his plans called for a guaranteed diversion of at least 80%, with a pledge to reach 100%, and full private financing to at least $800million to construct the Ecohub Campus. He also stated that the Ecohub campus would be able to keep current ratepayer rates the same for 20 more years, reduce composting odors, and eliminate the need of landfill expansion.
In a February letterWPWMA declared Ecohub’s proposal a bid protest. It said that Ecohub’s entry was invalid because it had not been submitted in the RFP-required form, met the RFP requirements, and didn’t contain the required information.WPWMA’s letter also described claims by GitschelThe request for proposals was “drafted so as to exclude” Ecohub” as unsubstantiated.Gitschel disputes this response, saying his intent was not to file a protest bid and that he encountered technical issues with the submission.
The WPWMA board will be elected by April FCC was selected and GreenWaste was chosen as the two finalistsAll bidders involved with the MRF’s operation and design were out of competition.
Both the finalists suggested that the facility’s mixed-waste capabilities be maintained, but the RFP process also provided room for source-separated methods if member municipalities desired to do so.Ecohubs Gitschel focuses on the waste industry.Three-cart collection due to its profitability.
EcoHub is not wanted by any waste or recycling companies. This is especially true if the plant is combined with a one-bin or two-bin program. If that were to happen no city would continue its inefficient, expensive three-bin programs. On top of that, there would be no need for existing landfills or new landfill construction,”Gitschel said via email recently. “The status quo is ripping off residents as well as businesses for billions every year. It is time to make a change.
As Placer County’s member agencies prepare for SB 1383 implementation in 2019, mixed waste processing has been a frequent topic of conversation.
According to the RFP, it would Consider switching to a 3-bin system. Grehm, WPWMA’s largest member, stated that he would be surprised even if we went there in June. However, he has said that it could happen depending on how the initial efforts to implement SB 1383 throughout California. Roseville, WPWMA’s largest member, is currently exploring this possibility.
The city, which has its own waste collection service is preparing for weekly green waste service. This year, the city may be able to collect food scraps along with yard waste. It has also been Piloting a three-bin source-separated systemIn select areas. The changes were attributed to the ability to capture cleaner recyclables that meet market standards. There was also a perception of easier compliance with SB 1383 for three-bin systems than with mixed-waste processing.
96% of the state uses three-container collections. With a three container collection system, we just need to have it in place and demonstrate its effectiveness, stated Devin Whittington in May, the city’s solid waste utility manager. Although the pilot saw some good sorting compliance, the city saw low participation in food scrap recycle. Whittington said that “the public isn’t excited about separating organics” at the time and that there will be a steep learning curve.
Others prefer the mixed waste approach. Unincorporated Placer County includes many rural and mountainous areas such as Lake Tahoe, with long distances between collection.In some cases, stops may be made. These customers are served by Recology and Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal, two franchise haulers. The state offers SB 1383 waivers to certain low-population areas or high-elevation areas. However, they are not universally applicable.
We must think carefully before implementing a separate container system and route. This would increase vehicle miles and greenhouse gases emissions, as well as cost people more.Christina Hanson,In May, a senior planner was appointed to the county’s division of environmental engineering.Our county loves to think about our ratepayers first, and what is cost-effective for them as well as what makes sense.
Hanson stated last month that the county has since hired more employees, updated its franchise agreements, and taken other important steps towards SB 1383 compliance. The recent MRF contract award decision is a positive development. Hanson envisions her region tackling this issue through green waste collection in more densely populated areas, drop-off opportunities, and other initiatives.
Lincoln, which has its own waste collection system, just recently completed implementing AB 1826. It is a prior state law that requires organics recycling in certain commercial and multifamily properties. Jim Bermudez, then-Director of Public Works, stated in May that the city was concerned about moving to greater source separation. We were really tearing out our hair because we thought that we would have to go to another can.” he said.
The city reported last month it would be able to continue with the mixed-waste scheme based on recent contract decisions. It said it was looking forward for WPWMA’s assistance with SB 1383 compliance.
WPWMA and FCC will close their contracts in the coming weeks. WPWMA will work out details such the agreement length and the handover of operations from Nortech. After the parties have signed their final contract, the MRF renovations’ first stages are expected to start soon.
Placer County may take a less conventional approach to meeting the goals set forth in a major state law on waste management. This will determine the fate of its efforts in the years ahead.
First, the Potential expansion and possible excavation in certain areas of the local landfillSome in the community see these issues as a major concern. Grehm stated that he believes expansion will be inevitable, but that the timing could be a problem. It all depends on the success of organics diverting efforts. One option for expansion was recommended by an outside consultant In 2019WPWMA is Comments are currently acceptedOn a draft report on environmental impact that includes this possibility.
The quality of food waste composting operations as well as the marketability of the final product are also key issues. Grehm acknowledged that neighbors will have to be able to tolerate the odors at the site’s location.
WPWMA will now compost food waste, instead of just yard waste. This will be WPWMA’s core new component to comply with SB 1383 requirements. FCC and GreenWaste disagreed on the method. Although the California-based company claimed their approach was superior to FCC, the Californian newcomer claimed its design proposal was informed and guided by decades of European experience in meeting similar organics regulations. It also partnered with Van Dyk Recycling Solutions (both have extensive California experience).
California’s compost markets could benefit from the new law’s strict procurement requirements. However, selling compost made from mixed waste is more difficult. FCC’s low pricing, which Grehm repeatedly called “aggressive”, and its faster turnaround times for a product will all be factors in the company’s efforts to find a new approach. FCC has won with lower bids than major competitors in Texas and Florida in the short time it has been expanding in the U.S.
“We have a different business model to our competitors. We have a lean structure with lower overheads and plan long-term for our investors with stable returns. Not just looking for short-term results,” wrote Brazil’s FCC.
WPWMA will not be able to fully understand how its SB1383 compliance plans will pan out for many years, but it believes it has chosen the right course.
Grehm stated, “I hope that we were able to find something that ultimately serves our community that is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.” “Were going be watched and I hope people can learn as much from us as we can from others about the future of this industry.