Continuing to evolve in diversion methodologies as new technological opportunities are developed, OC Waste & Recycling not only intends to move to covered aerated static piles and integrate feedstock and food waste, but their goal is to also develop source separated organics facilities co-located at the landfill, as well as implement AD, biofuel, and solar power.
OC Waste & Recycling (OCWR) has 287 employees, serving the County’s solid waste disposal needs by providing waste management services, operating public landfills, protecting the local environment, investing in renewable energy enterprises, and performing and promoting recycling to ensure a safe and healthy community for current and future generations. Providing a landfill and resource recovery system that safely manages waste, recycles resources, and protects the environment for all Orange County residents and businesses in 34 cities and unincorporated areas, OCWR also manages one of the nation’s premier solid waste disposal systems and two organic compost facilities, with a third greenery opening in 2023.
Developing Sustainable Operations
At OCWR, they have been using the term “industry transforming” to describe the California state legislation that has been taking shape over the last few years. “That term is not a reach or exaggeration,” says Tom Koutroulis, Director of OC Waste &
Recycling. Legislation began with Assembly Bill 939 in 1989, which set into motion major industry recycling mandates that continue to have significant impacts on cities, waste haulers, and OCWR’s landfill operations. AB 939 required that all jurisdictions divert 50 percent of the waste being generated from going to the landfills. However, now a series of several pieces of legislation have upped the game, such as Senate Bill 1383 that sets goals to reduce disposal of organic waste in landfills, ensuring that food scraps are composted or recovered for human consumption by 2025. “Currently, OCWR has undertaken the unprecedented challenge of developing a regional organic waste management program for the County of Orange,” continues Koutroulis. “We developed local infrastructure and built sustainable composting operations co-located at Orange County landfills to support the recycling of organic materials.”
These activities contribute to meeting diversion mandates as well as meeting California’s statewide goal of diverting organics from disposal to achieve climate change-related reduction targets. The composting operations will also help preserve landfill capacity and extend the lifespan of the landfills for future generations. “To date, OCWR has designed and constructed organic processing facilities at two of the municipal solid waste landfills. A third facility is under construction and is scheduled to be operational in early 2023. The County composting facilities being built ensure a local solution to recycle organic materials long after the landfills have reached capacity,” says Koutroulis.
In addition, OCWR has initiated negotiations for the current Waste Disposal Agreements that will expire in 2025. The current contracts focus on waste collection and disposal in the county landfills, while future contracts will pivot from “Waste Disposal Agreements” to “Waste Infrastructure System Enhancement Agreements”, which will reflect the SB 1383 legislation mandates for recycling and diversion of organic waste. Koutroulis points out, “SB 1383 impacts more than just Orange County, it impacts all of California. At OC Waste & Recycling, we have been preparing for these changes, but meeting the mandates is as much about education in the community as it is about operations and processes.”
Community Partners in Education
On the education front OCWR continues to be active in schools and the community, answering questions from residents, holding public meetings, providing landfill and greenery tours, and creating beneficial infrastructure and resources. OCWR has partnered with the Orange County Department of Education to successfully provide waste diversion education directly into classrooms. “We’re providing teachers with valuable tools to build the next generation of environmental stewards. Our K-12 standards-aligned curriculum focuses on classroom lessons, student activities, and family engagement related to recycling and best practices,” explains Koutroulis. Since 2007, OCWR has also provided $4.6 million in grants to local non-profits and cities to support programs that help divert waste from Orange County’s landfills. These grants helped communities address their own unique waste diversion challenges—from battery recycling to school recycling programs and commercial food waste diversion, they have moved the needle for Orange County’s waste diversion efforts.
Partnerships with Discovery Cube OC, Angels Baseball, and the Anaheim Ducks Hockey Club provide OCWR with the opportunity to teach thousands of students and families countywide about the importance of composting and their role in recycling. “Our combined education programs reach students and families through school garden sponsorships, school scholarships, a county-sponsored, hands-on recycling exhibit, and online education tools,” says Koutroulis. Outside of the classroom, OCWR encourages
organic diversion all year long. “We hosted two free Compost Giveaways in 2022, providing more than 177 tons (i.e., 354,000 lbs.) of compost to our residents. These events raise awareness of the importance of composting in addition to providing healthy organic material back into the communities. Koutroulis points out that as important as it is for OCWR to report on the tonnage accepted and buried each year, it is equally important to count and measure the space in the landfills that did not get filled. “We call this preserving airspace, and our pivot to resource recovery is already paying dividends. The airspace preserved in 2022 is roughly equivalent to the space of more than nine Olympic-sized swimming pools. We also recovered 27,262 mattresses, 2,162 tons of scrap metal, and 16,842 tons of green waste repurposed for composting.”
OCWR is currently working with local jurisdictions on SB 1383 diversion and procurement requirements through developing a platform to build a customer base and secure feedstock supply to support county composting operations. In addition, not only have they launched a webpage to accept requests for compost and/or mulch material for OC residents, commercial businesses, local cities/jurisdictions, and government agencies, but they are also working with OC Public Works, OC Parks, Irvine Ranch Conservancy, and 14 jurisdictions to re-incorporate residential green waste back into their communities. OCWR’s landfills are also focused on converting landfill gas-to-green energy. The ability to recover and put landfill gas to its best and highest use reflects sustainability and a circular economy. “Working with our energy partners, OCWR uses landfill gas to power generators, which, in turn, produced more than 410,000,000 kwh of electricity in 2021. This is enough energy to power almost 69,000 homes in Orange County,” noted Koutroulis.
OCWR’s progress toward efficiency in operations, resource recovery, and environmental stewardship can be seen in their fleet of heavy equipment. In 2022, OCWR converted to using renewable diesel (RD) fuel. Operating 94 off-road heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) powered by a total of 104 engines, it is estimated that the fleet consumes approximately 1 million gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel per year. “After successful completion of a pilot project to explore using RD in HDVs at the Olinda Alpha Landfill, OCWR converted to using RD systemwide. The purpose of RD conversion is to reduce fleet emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM10), and sulfur oxides (SOx),” explains Koutroulis. “All of our activities have contributed to meeting diversion mandates as well as meeting California’s statewide goal of diverting organics from disposal to achieve climate change-related reduction targets. Our efforts will preserve landfill capacity and extend the lifespan of these finite resources, allowing our landfills to still be here for current and future generations.”
Koutroulis says that they are also proud of receiving grants totaling more than $3.3 million from CalRecycle to aid expansion of the Bee Canyon Greenery, as well as expand edible food recovery capacity at John Wayne Airport. They have also achieved the US Composting Council’s “Seal of Testing Assurance” at the Frank R. Bowerman Landfill’s Bee Canyon Greenery and the Prima Deshecha’s Landfill’s Capistrano Greenery. This certification signifies that OCWR’s compost offers the highest standards of compost quality, meeting all federal, state, and local regulations and permitting. OCWR has also won three National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Awards for County Resiliency in 2021:
OC Waste & Recycling AB 939 Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction Grant Program OC Waste & Recycling/OC Department of Education Curriculum-Based Outreach Program Prima Deshecha Landfill Zone 4 Habitat Mitigation Projects
Continuing to Evolve
OCWR will continue to evolve in diversion methodology as new technological opportunities are developed, intending to move from windrow composting of residential green waste to covered aerated static piles (CASP) and then to integrate multiple types of feedstock, such as manure and food waste. Then, the intention is to move on to source separated organics facilities co-located at the landfills, and ahead to anaerobic digestion, biofuel, and solar power. | WA
By the Numbers
OCWR uses the following fleet:
• Dirt Cat
• Trash Cat
• Ripper Dirt Cat
• Trash Compactor
• Wheel Dozer, Loader
• Compact Track Loader
• Excavator, Scraper
• Ejector Truck
• Windrow Turner
• Tarp Machine
• Skid Steer
• Water Truck
• Motor Grader
• Dump Truck
• Compost Screener
OCWR has three active landfills:
• Olinda Alpha Landfill, Brea, CA: permitted to operate until 2036
• Frank R. Bowerman (FRB) Landfill, Irvine, CA: permitted to operate until 2053
• Prima Deshecha Landfill, San Juan Capistrano, CA: permitted to operate until 2102
OCWR greenery operations:
• Bee Canyon Greenery in Irvine is 30 acres
• Capistrano Greenery in San Juan Capistrano is 18 acres
• When completed, Valencia Greenery in Brea will be 15 acres
• All greeneries are co-located within the landfill
• Currently, Bee Canyon Greenery and Capistrano Greenery are receiving about 130 to 200 tons of feedstock material per week
For more information, contact [email protected].