Since 2016, R3 has been engaged by the County of Los Angeles (County) Department of Public Works to audit monthly facility and franchised hauler payments and tonnage reports required by the County. These audits are being conducted pursuant to Los Angeles County Code Chapter 20.88, which requires that all disposal sites, transfer/processing stations, or waste exporters in the County remit a fee based upon the tons or cubic yards of solid waste received, collected, conveyed, or hauled during a calendar month.
The County’s goal for this engagement was to confirm and/or correct the facility and hauler fee payments and reported tonnages. To that end, R3 was contracted to conduct approximately 48 facility and hauler audits annually over the course of four (4) years to complete the following:

  • Facility Tonnage and Fee Reviews – R3 is reviewing and verifying the accuracy of solid waste management tonnage fees remitted to the County by disposal sites, transformation facilities, transfer/processing stations, and/or waste exporters operating in the County (4 per month);

To accomplish the County’s objectives, R3 has been performing these and other tasks:

  • Managing the logistics and communications between County and operator/franchisee staff for monthly verifications and site visits;
  • Notifying the County Contract Manager of any issues related to the cooperation of operators/franchisees;
  • Providing advance notice to each operator/franchisee of documentation required for review at the confirmed date and location, covering the entire verification review period;
  • Conducting scheduled on-site operator/franchisee staff interviews to gain an understanding of operations and internal tracking procedures and confirming that the operator/franchisee has provided all required documents and records necessary for verification;
  • Reviewing and analyzing the required documents and records in order to verify accuracy of fees, tonnages, and other required elements, and identify possible underpayments or overpayments, if any;
  • Working with each operator/franchisee to clarify any inconsistencies between R3’s calculated values and the values submitted by the operators/franchisees;
  • Providing the County Contract Manager with paper and electronic copies of the required documents for each verification; and
  • Conducting all work necessary to the completion of the Findings Report for each verification and submits it to the County Contract Manager within 60 calendar days of each site visit.

The anticipated benefits of this engagement include:

  • Confirmation and correction of the County’s facility and hauler (operator/franchisee) reported tonnages and fees; and
  • Identification of possible underpayments or overpayments to the County

R3 was recently engaged by the City of Santa Monica (City) to conduct an Operational Analysis, Rate Study, and Zero Waste Plan Update for the Resource Recovery and Recycling Division (RRR Division)’s municipally operated solid waste collection and recycling operations. The primary objective of this project is to determine how to continue achieving the City’s long-term sustainability goals and initiatives while preserving the health of the RRR Enterprise Fund. R3 is leading a multi-consultant team (Sloan Vazquez McAfee, HDR and Abbe & Associates) in conducting the following six primary tasks for this engagement:

  • Staffing, Routing and Vehicle Efficiency Analysis;
  • Billing Audit;
  • Technology & Systems Review;
  • Zero Waste Strategic Operations Plan Review & Update;
  • Rate Study & Financial Analysis; and
  • Community Engagement Plan Development.

By working closely with the City and engaging its ratepayers through a robust community outreach process, the R3 Team will provide recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its solid waste operations and determine rate adjustments that may be necessary to sustain the RRR Division’s activities for the next 10 years while supporting the City’s Zero Waste goals.

This engagement includes the following components:

Staffing, Routing and Vehicle Efficiency Analysis: The R3 Team is assessing the efficiency of the RRR Division’s operational aspects by reviewing staffing, routing, and vehicle information and reports, and conducting onsite visits and interviews of City staff and customers. This comprehensive review will include but is not limited to: analyzing the RRR Division’s organizational structure, management system, staffing practices and safety procedures; evaluating routing and schedule efficiency; and reviewing collection vehicle maintenance practices and procedures. R3 will develop recommendations for the City to improve the long-term functionality, productivity, and safety of the RRR Division’s operations and management structure based on solid waste industry practices.

Billing Audit: The R3 Team is determining if the City has been accurately billing all of its residential and commercial customers based on a paper review of billing records in the NorthStar customer billing system as compared to the City’s routing records. The RRR Division currently shares the NorthStar customer billing system, which was designed for the City’s Water Resources Department and provides combined bimonthly billing of water, sewer, and solid waste services. Since the technology was not specifically designed for the solid waste industry, it does not allow for routing solutions, route sheets, or expanded solid waste customer service information, and runs the inherent risk of producing customer billing errors.

Technology and Systems Review: The R3 Team is evaluating the current technology system(s) in use by the City to identify and evaluate the costs, efficiency, and effectiveness of several operations systems enhancements, and to provide recommendations on whether the systems would be cost-effective and beneficial to the City. This review will include a comparison of the capabilities of the NorthStar systems to other billing and routing technology systems.

Zero Waste Strategic Operations Plan Review and Update: The R3 Team is assisting the City in updating its 2014 Zero Waste Plan and recommending additional strategies to further the City’s progress towards its goal of achieving 95% diversion by 2030 in the event that current strategies are not sufficient, or if the Zero Waste goal is determined to no longer be realistic for the City.

For this task, R3 is taking a data-driven approach to assessing the City’s progress toward achieving its Zero Waste goals by using multiple metrics including, but not limited to: tonnage of waste disposed and diverted; the diversion rate; total pounds per person per day (PPD) and CalRecycle diversion rate equivalent; estimated greenhouse gas emission reductions; customer participation; and AB 341 and 1826 commercial recycling compliance. Based on these metrics, the R3 Team will project Citywide disposal through 2030 to determine if the City is on track to meet its 95% diversion goal and recommend strategies to enhance the effectiveness of current programs or implement new programs that will increase diversion in a cost-effective manner. For each Zero Waste strategy recommendation, the R3 Team will provide the City with an analysis of estimated additional diversion and implementation costs.

Rate Study and Rate Model: The R3 Team is determining the sustainability of the City’s current rate structure to continue supporting solid waste operations without depleting the City’s RRR Enterprise Fund, which receives 90% of its revenue from solid waste operations. The R3 Team is conducting a comprehensive analysis of the Fund’s financial forecast, revenues, and expenditures for solid waste and recycling operations over a 10-year planning period and assisting the City in transitioning from line-item to program-based budgeting.

For this task, the R3 Team is developing an Excel-based Rate Model for use by the City to project revenues and expenses, and evaluate current and future rate-adjustment options, including cost-of-service rate options, over an extended planning period. R3 is also conducting a Benchmarking Survey of solid waste rates and service of (a minimum of five) comparable communities, including analysis of how other municipalities have managed the financial impact of Proposition 218.

Community Engagement Plan: As part of this engagement, the R3 Team is also developing a Community Engagement Plan and outreach materials for the Zero Waste Plan and Rate Study Model. The objective is to provide opportunities for residents and businesses to learn about and provide meaningful feedback on changes to the City’s Zero Waste Plan and rate structure to ensure that both meet the needs of the City and its ratepayers.

The anticipated benefits of this engagement include:

  • Recommendations for improving the long-term functionality, productivity, and safety of the RRR Division’s operations and management structure;
  • Verification of the accuracy of residential and commercial customer billing;
  • Recommendations for improving costs, efficiency, and effectiveness of the City’s current technology systems, including billing and routing;
  • Analysis of the City’s current efforts towards achieving its Zero Waste goal of 95% diversion by 2030, and recommended strategies to further the City’s progress towards that goal;
  • Determination of the current rate structure’s ability to support ongoing solid waste operations in the City;
  • Development of an Excel-based Rate Model to project revenues/expenses and evaluate rate-adjustment options over an extended planning period; and

Community engagement process for residents and businesses to learn about and provide feedback on changes to the City’s Zero Waste Plan and rate structure.

Zero Waste Marin Final Report Organics Graphic

The Marin County Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Joint Powers Authority (Zero Waste Marin) represents Marin County, 11 incorporated cities or towns within Marin County, and 12 special collection districts that franchise for hauling services, for a total of 24 agencies. R3 was engaged by the Marin County Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Joint Powers Authority (Zero Waste Marin) to assist in its development of a “Materials Flow & Capacity Analysis” in order to improve its regulatory compliance and long-term planning. This project included an analysis of organic waste processing capacity and tool development to evaluate potential organic waste diversion scenarios through year 2025. The primary goal was to improve Zero Waste Marin’s regulatory compliance with state solid waste and recycling requirements and long-term planning.

Key services R3 performed for Zero Waste Marin include:

  • Supporting legislative and regulatory compliance, specifically reporting under AB 876 and 901 and planning for organic waste reduction under SB 1383;
  • Developing projections for organic waste generation, diversion, and processing capacity in Marin County for a 15-year range; and
  • Developing user-friendly Excel tools for Zero Waste Marin staff that enhance Marin County reporting capabilities and facilitate long-term solid waste planning; and
  • Producing a clear, concise, and readily digestible report, presentations, and other documents incorporating graphics that communicate relevant policy matters to the Zero Waste Marin Board.

To assist in supporting legislative and regulatory compliance, R3 reviewed the Organics Management Infrastructure Planning Calculator used in the 2017 EAR (for reporting year 2016) and assisted Zero Waste Marin in refining the assumptions and worksheet to determine the need for and availability of organic waste processing capacity. This helped Zero Waste Marin characterize SB 1383 compliance related to a 50% reduction in organic waste disposal from the 2014 level by 2020, and a 75% reduction by 2025. R3 also reviewed Zero Waste Marin’s Excel workbook for CalRecycle State Disposal Reporting System (DRS) reports to identify new hauler and facility reporting needs from AB 901, update the workbook for AB 901 preparedness, and assess the AB 901 data gathering system in order to determine what information Zero Waste Marin should obtain directly from the haulers and facilities for Zero Waste Marin assessment calculations.

R3 reviewed findings of the 2012 Environmental Science Associated (ESA) projections of long-term disposal capacity at Redwood Landfill to verify accuracy of disposal capacity in the ESA projections. Using the ESA model, with corrections as necessary, R3 updated landfill capacity projections based on information through 2017.

R3 also developed an Excel-based tonnage scenario modeling tool for Zero Waste Marin that meets legislative and regulatory specifications and builds upon the updated disposal reporting workbook. The Excel tool allows Zero Waste Marin staff to “plug in” scenarios for alternative disposal and materials handling situations, allowing for consideration of various scenarios over time and better planning for future changes.

Finally, R3 prepared a draft and final report, and prepared and delivered presentations to Zero Waste Marin.

Benefits:

  • Characterization of SB 1383 compliance related to a 50% reduction in organic waste disposal from the 2014 level by 2020, and a 75% reduction by 2025;
  • Updates to Zero Waste Marin’s Excel workbook for CalRecycle State Disposal Reporting System (DRS) for reporting under AB 901, including new hauler and facility reporting needs and specification of information to obtain directly from the haulers and facilities for JPA assessment calculations; and
  • A user-friendly Excel tool for Zero Waste Marin staff that enhances Marin County reporting capabilities and facilitate long-term solid waste planning.
Alameda Stakeholder Workshop

R3 was recently engaged by The City of Alameda (City) to conduct a Zero Waste Implementation Plan Update (ZWIP Update) for the City and assess the City’s progress towards its target of 89% diversion by 2020. For this project, R3’s primary objective is to evaluate and, as necessary, expand upon the City’s current diversion strategies and introduce new methods to increase waste diversion as needed to reach its goals and yield reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to support the City’s Local Action Plan for Climate Protection. The steps to accomplish this goal are as follows:

  • Evaluate the progress and effectiveness of City’s current Zero Waste Implementation Plan (ZWIP) using multiple metrics and/or other benchmarks of interest to the City;
  • Develop a set of Zero Waste strategy recommendations that will enhance the effectiveness of current programs, as well as develop new programs that will cost-effectively increase diversion;
  • Conduct analysis of the zero waste strategy recommendations that details the results of each strategy’s estimated additional diversion and implementation costs, and greenhouse gas emission reductions;
  • Organize one (1) community meeting, in consultation and with the participation of the City, that invites the public participation and feedback of interested stakeholders in the ZWIP; and
  • Submit and present the ZWIP Update Report, detailing the methodology, findings, and recommendations.

Project benefits included the City gaining:

  • A comprehensive evaluation of its current ZWIP’s progress and effectiveness; and
  • Strategic recommendations to advance progress towards its 2020 goal of 89% diversion.
MTWS Performance Review for Los Altos - Project Analysts Claire Wilson and Ryan Calkins

R3 was engaged by the City of Los Altos (City) to conduct a Performance and Billing Review of Mission Trail Waste Solutions (MTWS) as included under their Collections Service Agreement (Agreement) to provide solid waste, recycling, and organic collection services for the City. R3’s high level review of MTWS consisted of two main tasks: a performance review and a financial compliance assessment. The primary goal was to determine MTWS’ compliance with the applicable terms and conditions of the Agreement, review the effectiveness of current operations; and identify opportunities for program improvement.

R3 worked with MTWS management and City staff to assess MTWS’ compliance with the reporting requirements and performance standards of the Agreement, as well as verify customer billing rate calculations and service levels, franchise fee calculations, and reported diversion percentages.

R3 utilized a variety of methods in the execution of the performance review, including analysis of relevant documents, on-site and field observations, and interviews. The Performance Review addressed the following major aspects of MTWS’s operations:

  • Collection Service Agreement Compliance Review;
  • Collection Operations Review;
  • Management and Administration Review;
  • Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance, Repair and Replacement Review;
  • Customer Service Review (including customer feedback);
  • Monthly, quarterly and annual report assessment;
  • Diversion Programs, Performances and Good Faith Efforts; and
  • Outreach and Education Services.

R3 conducted the financial compliance assessment to determine that customers are being charged the proper service rate based on their service level; service rate revenues are properly recorded and accounted for by the contractor; franchise fees are properly calculated, paid and received. R3 conducted three tests to accomplish this goal:

  • Test of Subscribers to verify that service subscribers are billed the correct rate for the level of service provided;
  • Test of Revenue Transactions to verify that the billed amounts to City residents and businesses, and the corresponding payments received are properly recorded in the MTWS billing and accounting systems; and
  • Test of Franchise Fee Transactions to verify that the franchise fees are calculated correctly, and based on the correct level of recorded revenues.

Our review found that MTWS is in compliance with the vast majority of the Agreement’s requirements. Collections are performed in a safe, courteous, and cleanly manner; coordination between the drivers, customer service, shop, and management is facilitated by an effective system of work orders; fleet maintenance operations and vehicles have consistently received satisfactory ratings from the California Highway Patrol; and MTWS is operating a sophisticated and professional customer service operation.

We determined that the most significant area for improvement relative to the Agreement’s terms and conditions is in outreach and education, which is not being performed according to the Agreement’s requirements.

Project benefits include:

  • Verification of MTWS’ compliance with the vast majority of the Agreement’s provisions;
  • Recommendations for MTWS’ improved compliance with the existing requirements of the Agreement regarding meeting reporting requirements, outreach and education activities, and paying the City franchise fee and administrative fees; and
  • Recommendations for revisions to the Agreement with regards to HHW collection services, rate requirements, and the billing schedule.
SCWMA Solid Waste 101 Training and Presentation

R3 was engaged by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency (SCWMA) to provide a Comprehensive Guide and Training for SCWMA staff, Member Agency staff and Board members. R3’s primary objective was to present SCWMA and its Member Agencies with the information needed to effectively perform contract management functions and navigate the complex solid waste system as it evolves in Sonoma County, including the potential future shift of recyclable material processing capacity, and the ongoing arrangements around organic waste processing facilitated by SCWMA.

For this engagement, R3 worked closely with SCWMA to conduct two primary tasks. First, R3 team members developed an informational package for the Member Agency staff and Board members in the form of an easy-to-read Comprehensive Guide with illustrative charts, figures, and tables. This guide describes current contracts, their terms and conditions, the entities and relationships, and any other nuances that Member Agencies should be aware of. Intended for long-term use, the guide will be a “living document” that can be adapted and updated by the SCWMA staff as well as Member Agencies. To develop this guide, R3 performed the following tasks:

  • Presented information about the current situation as well as our analysis per each Member Agency;
  • Provided appropriate information in summary form for quick and accessible comparison amongst Member Agencies;
  • Provided a timeline with important milestones for the SCWMA Member Agencies and describing key activities in the solid waste field as well as their responsible parties; and
  • Described opportunities and innovations that may be available to Member Agencies and the SCWMA in the future.

R3’s second task was to facilitate a Solid Waste 101 Training Session for Sonoma County decision makers that presented the information provided in the Comprehensive Guide in an interactive format, and provide a round-table discussion opportunity to address questions and provide solutions to Member Agencies.

Project benefits include:

  • Presentation of comprehensive information about SCWMA as well as analysis per each Member Agency, enabling each Member Agency to easily pick up and use the guide immediately; and
  • An update-able resource for decision makers in Sonoma County to gain a thorough understanding of the current waste management system, the contractual relationships involved both broadly and for their Member Agencies, and how the system might change in the future.

R3 is currently working with the cities of San Rafael, Larkspur, and Ross, the County of Marin, and the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District (Marin Franchisors’ Group or Group) to review their solid waste rate-setting methodology. Project tasks include:

  • Developing a Simplified Rate Adjustment Methodology, in which R3 would work to simplify and streamline the current rate adjustment methodology, including the proposed method of addressing changes and challenges in the industry in the coming years (i.e. where the industry is going, and what the Group and Marin Sanitary Service (MSS) should be planning for) as well as the proposed approach to address potential MSS requested changes to programs and services in non-detailed rate review years;
  • Developing a New Methodology for Recycling Revenues Balancing Account, which would address recycling commodities fluctuations, including how the processing cost and recycling revenue projections might be set at the beginning and adjusted after; and
  • Developing a Methodology for Addressing Commercial Migration, i.e. more recycling and composting results in a smaller garbage cart and lower price, but not less service or cost.

Anticipated project benefits include the following:

  • Lower level of effort and cost for annual rate adjustments; and
  • Improved communications about the rate adjustment process.

On behalf of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency (SCWMA), R3 incorporated key recommendations and findings about organics material processing in the County of Sonoma (County) to compile a Request for Information (RFI) for future compost facilities that might be sited in the County. This RFI was used to aid the SCWMA in developing a strategic action plan to provide for organics capacity throughout the region, simultaneous with the procurement of solid waste services for several jurisdictions within the County. Following this RFI, R3 was engaged by SCWMA to assist in the procurement of an organics material processing facility in the county, as well as provide the SCWMA solid waste consulting assistance.

R3 acted as an extension of SCWMA staff and assisted in the following aspects of this procurement project:

  • Compiled the Request for Proposals (RFP) package and drafted of the program requirements, the processing agreement, and customer rate options;
  • Conducted community workshops and SCWMA Board meetings;
  • Developed a mailing list and issued the RFP;
  • Conducted a pre-proposal conference with potential organics processors;
  • Prepared written responses to questions submitted regarding the RFP, and prepared addenda as necessary;
  • Conducted interviews with the evaluation team;
  • Assisted in the evaluation of responses from processors;
  • Assisted SCWMA staff with the presentation of the results of the evaluation process and staff recommendation to the SCWMA Board;
  • Conducted clarification or negotiation sessions if necessary; and
  • Finalized the processing agreement.

The goals that guided the procurement process included the following:

  • Providing the highest level of service to the SCWMA’s residents and businesses at the best cost; and
  • Ensuring long-term sustainability and successful operations of organics processing facilities utilized by the SCWMA.

R3 is conducting “full service” procurement and solid waste consulting assistance for the City of Piedmont. The City of Piedmont is characterized by high performance in diversion, very high participation in on-premise “backyard” services, and a primarily residential subscription base. The rate structure is “flatter” than most other comparable jurisdictions, with smaller can sizes costing more on average, and larger can sizes costing less on average.

Read more

R3 is currently assisting the City of Livermore in the development of Phase 2 of the City’s Strategic Plan for High Diversion. R3’s project approach moves beyond eliminating barriers to diversion by incentivizing achievement of high diversion goals for all parties, including solid waste haulers, processors and generators. Read more