The city of Menlo Park is pursuing a goal of boosting the amount of waste that is recycled or composted by 17 percent over the next 10 years.

This would equate to the removal of roughly 13,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which a staff report equates to taking 2,790 passenger vehicles off the road or using 1.5 million fewer gallons of gasoline. The city’s current rate, based on waste collector Recology’s data, for recycling/composting trash is 56 percent and the city is aiming to reach 73 percent by 2027.

The city is aiming to kick off its “zero waste” program slowly over a three-year period in 2018 with outreach on recycling and reuse strategies to construction and demolition firms, elementary and secondary schools, and faith-based organizations. From 2021-2024, the city would increase recycling requirements and expand recyclable items and ban new products and packaging, as well as hire a part-time staffer to oversee efforts. From 2025-2027, participation in recycling and composting programs would be mandatory and all trash from construction and demolition would be required to be sent to designated facilities. The latter two stages would require upgrades to Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos, whose cost would be shared between all jurisdictions in the coverage area, according to the staff report.

Trash rates would increase roughly 1 percent for Recology customers over the 10-year period, according to Clay Curtin, assistant to the city manager.

“It’s a lot to undertake, but we think having this as a percentage of the monthly rates won’t have a huge impact” on customers, Curtin said. He added that the recycling/composting rate at single-family homes is already at 73 percent, but multi-family and commercial properties lag.

The goal is for the city to reach a 90 percent trash diversion rate, which Curtin said is doable, but could be costlier. The 10-year plan is estimated to cost the city $921,375, which would be paid out of the city’s solid waste fund, which currently contains about $1.3 million and earns roughly $300,000 a year.

“There’s other more expensive things to get us the rest of the way (such as) further infrastructure enhancements,” Curtin said.

He said staff can’t finalize the new trash rates until some missing data are released in September, but he anticipates the plan to go before the City Council for approval in January.

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