SCWMA Solid Waste 101 Training and Presentation

R3 was engaged by Zero Waste Sonoma (ZW Sonoma, formerly known as Sonoma County Waste Management Authority), to provide a Comprehensive Guide and Training for ZW Sonoma staff, Member Agency staff, and Board members. R3’s primary objective was to present ZW Sonoma and its 9 Member Agencies with the information needed to effectively manage their solid waste contracts and navigate the complex solid waste system as it evolves in Sonoma County. This included addressing the potential shift of recyclable material processing capacity and the ongoing arrangements surrounding the organic waste processing facilitated by ZW Sonoma.

R3 developed Comprehensive Guide that describes current solid waste contracts, their terms and conditions, the entities and relationships, and any other unique solid waste system nuances of which Member Agencies should be aware. Intended for long-term use, the guide is a “living document” that can be adapted and updated by ZW Sonoma staff and Member Agencies. The Guide consisted of a reader-friendly informational package with illustrative charts, figures, and tables regarding the solid waste systems in place in Sonoma County.

To develop this Guide, R3 performed the following tasks:

  • Presented the information about the County’s existing solid waste system and analysis of each Member Agency’s individual systems, including legislative updates, customer rate benchmarks, and mechanisms for effectively managing a contract;
  • Provided summaries of the above information for quick and accessible comparison amongst Member Agencies;
  • Provided ZW Sonoma and Member Agencies with a timeline to achieve important diversion milestones and described key activities and their responsible parties in the solid waste industry; and
  • Described applicable solid waste opportunities and innovations that may be available to Member Agencies and ZW Sonoma in the future.

R3 also facilitated two Solid Waste 101 Training Sessions for Sonoma County decision makers that presented the information provided in the Comprehensive Guide in an interactive format and included round-table discussions to address questions and provide solutions for Member Agencies.

As a result of R3’s work, Zero Waste Sonoma gained the following benefits:

  • Presentation of comprehensive information about the history of solid waste in Sonoma County, important solid waste specific legislative updates, customer rate benchmark, and mechanisms for effectively managing a contract;
  • Easy-to-read format enabling immediate utilization by each Member Agency; and
  • An updatable 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 may change in the future.

In 2017, R3 was engaged to conduct a comprehensive Rate Methodology Review on behalf of the Marin Franchisors’ Group (Group), which is made up of the cities of San Rafael and Larkspur, the Town of Ross, the County of Marin, and the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District.

R3’s primary objectives were to streamline and simplify the Group’s rate-setting methodology in order to address recycling commodities fluctuations and complete a meet-and-confer negotiation process to resolve $1.15 million in accumulated losses from the processing and sale of recyclable materials since the recycling market crash.  R3 worked with the Group and franchised hauler, Marin Sanitary Service (MSS), to revise the existing rate methodology to meet the following primary goals:

  1. Establish a resolution for over $1 million in losses in the Recycling Reserve Fund carried by the company since the recycling market crash;
  2. Develop a new model for handling recycling costs and revenues to replace the Recycling Reserve Fund that would add greater certainty for rate-setting in the future; and
  3. Revise the overall methodology for setting rates to achieve goals of streamlining, simplification, rate stability and recognition of the value of recycling and composting.
  4. Establish performance metrics and tracking to better understand qualitative outcomes of MSS’ operations and outreach; and
  5. Revise and institute formal succession planning and assignment language and documentation.

In parallel with the Rate Methodology Review, R3 also conducted a rate survey of the surrounding jurisdictions, and was engaged by the Group to review MSS’s 2018 Rate Application and 2019 Cost-Based Rate Application.

Due to the anticipated new methodology, the Group and MSS had planned to complete a complex cost-based rate adjustment for 2018 rates so that the new streamlined rate setting methodology could take effect for 2019 rates. However, it was determined that results of the review would not be available in time, so the Group and MSS agreed to revert to the index-based rate adjustment process for 2018 rates in order to stay on schedule for the 2018 rate adoption process. The Group retained R3 to conduct a detailed review of MSS’s 2018 rate application to review the basis of MSS’s projections, and to recommend adjustments in keeping with the terms and conditions of the Agreements. Based on the detailed rate review, R3 determined that a rate increase of 5.57% was appropriate to compensate MSS for its projected 2018 expenses – a significant decrease to MSS’ proposed rate increase.

In 2018, R3 reviewed MSS’s cost-based rate application for a 2019 rate adjustment, and determined that an overall rate increase of 9.56% was appropriate to compensate MSS for its projected 2019 expenses including the treatment of prior recycling losses or future recyclables processing costs and consideration of negotiated outcomes of the meet and confer process, with varying increases for each Group Agency, which vary slightly depending on the amounts and types of franchise and other fees set by each agency.

As a result of our assistance, the Group gained the following benefits:

  • Stable and predictable rates for the next 5 years, and a firm basis for rate control in future years;
  • Significant saving on consultant costs and staff time to conduct the of the annual rate adjustment process (anticipated annual 70-80% reduction in time and costs);
  • Improved accuracy and transparency of the rate adjustment process;
  • New performance metrics for outreach and education as well as regular operations, billing, and customer service; and
  • A revised rate-setting methodology designed to address rate fluctuations, while maintaining an emphasis on responsible solid waste management, good value to customers, and reduction of waste to landfill, including:

On behalf of the Zero Waste Sonoma (ZW Sonoma, formerly known as Sonoma County Waste Management Authority), R3 was initially engaged to compile a Request for Information (RFI) for future compost facilities that might be sited in the County of Sonoma (County) which was used to aid ZW Sonoma 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.

R3 was subsequently engaged by ZW Sonoma to assist in the procurement of an organics material processing facility in the county. R3’s project goals were to:

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

R3 compiled, drafted, and issued the RFP package for ZW Sonoma, and provided technical assistance to the proposal evaluation team by assisting in the proposal scoring and analysis of the County’s long-   and short-term options. Through our analysis of 11 submitted proposals, R3 gained insight on the processing costs for organics, including commercial source-separated food waste, mixed green and food waste, biosolids, and manure. Based on the analysis, R3 recommended the award of one contract to Renewable Sonoma for the construction and operation of an organics processing facility to provide organics processing throughout the Sonoma County region.

In addition to assisting with procurement tasks, R3 also provided ZW Sonoma with a valuable financial analysis of the impacts of the various proposals submitted based on location, County fees, waste delivery requirements, flow control and available programs.

R3 Consulting Group Now Offers:

Disaster Debris Management Planning Assistance to California Cities

No one is ever completely ready to handle a natural disaster, but with our help, you can avoid spending unnecessary funds, resources and time in the event of a disaster. We specialize in creating disaster debris management plans that are unique to your community, meaning you’ll have a plan in place when you need it most. Not only that, but municipalities with disaster debris management plans will be prepared in the event of a disaster, meaning time and energy are maximized, along with potential for FEMA reimbursement if protocols are followed. Let us help you navigate through the complicated process of disaster debris planning and make sure your FEMA reimbursement dollars are maximized.

Last month FEMA extended its Alternative Procedures Pilot Program which allows for up to an extra 2% of federal cost share reimbursement on money spent.  The opportunity to participate in this pilot program will be available through June 2018.  There is no better time than now to start planning.

Once we complete your plan and it is reviewed by FEMA for this program, the municipality will be eligible for this additional 2% reimbursement – money that you would have otherwise been spent out of pocket if no plan was in place.

Our plans are:

  • CalOES Approved
  • FEMA Approved
  • Guaranteed to participate in the Public Assistance Alternative Procedures Pilot Program (time dependent)

FEMA timeline of disaster reimbursement

(Above: FEMA timeline of disaster reimbursement)

More About Our Process

We will consider:

  • The type of disaster(s) that may potentially occur in your community
  • Your staffing levels and who would play certain roles when a disaster occurs
  • Your opportunities for procuring various contracted disaster debris management services
  • Potential sites in your limits that could be used for temporary debris removal and storage
  • Public information examples

Our process includes:

  1. Meeting with you to obtain base level data and confirm expectations of our services
  2. Providing the jurisdiction with a Draft 1 disaster debris management plan (DDMP)
  3. Reviewing the draft DDMP with the jurisdiction
  4. Providing the draft to CalOES, who will review the plan for completeness
  5. Revising the draft based on CalOES comment and provide a new draft to CalOES (this may take multiple iterations)

CalOES will forward the draft plan to FEMA once it has approved the plan. Once FEMA has approved the plan, you’re all set!

DDMPs are essential for:

  • Saving time and money
  • Having a quick and effective response to and preparation for a disaster
  • More efficient use of limited resources, including staff time

“Congratulations – that was an awesome plan. It was the best one I’ve ever reviewed.”   – Melinda Stehr, CalOES

R3 assisted the City of Piedmont with franchise extension negotiations with the City’s hauler, Republic Services (Republic). During negotiations, Republic requested unacceptable rate increases, and R3 subsequently recommended going to bid.

R3 subsequently conducted a competitive process to procure high-quality services for garbage, green waste, and recyclables collection and processing and also conducted an operations and billing review of the City’s franchised hauler, Republic.  Among other tasks, R3 conducted a survey of rates and services for comparative communities, fully reviewed the current Agreement, established a set of recommendations for the new Agreement, and organized the City’s “deal points” for potential inclusion in an extended and restated Agreement.

City Council approved staff’s recommendation to proceed to negotiations with Republic, and R3 scheduled negotiation meetings and submitted letters to Republic for clarification of their proposal and stances on various negotiation items. The second round of negotiations resulted in Republic being selected for the solid waste collections contract.

As a result of our negotiation assistance, the City gained the following benefits:

  • The provision of on-premises “backyard” service at a surcharge equivalent to the costs of providing these services, except for physically disabled residents, who pay curbside rates;
  • A new fleet of collection vehicles;
  • Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) pickup at curbside;
  • Payment to the city of $75,000 (escalated by CPI) per year to fund the provision of commercial education and outreach services by the City or its representative; and
  • Bulky item pickup provided twice per year for up to 6 cubic yards per event for single-family residents and provided to multi-family residents at the request of the property manager.

Using our combined experience developing high diversion franchise agreements, designing state-of-the-art, community-based social marketing and outreach methods, and evaluating the effectiveness of solid waste diversion programs throughout California, R3 collaborated with our subconsultant, Cascadia, to prepare the Phase 2 Strategic Plan for High Diversion for the City of Livermore (City). R3’s project approach moved beyond eliminating barriers to diversion by incentivizing achievement of high diversion goals for all parties, including solid waste haulers, processors, and generators. Phase 2 built upon the City’s prior success by enhancing current generator-focused programs and requiring haulers of solid waste to share in both the responsibility and reward for diverting waste from landfills. High diversion program options were assessed based on what would cost effectively divert the most tons from disposal.

Through observation of select diversion programs in the field, interviews with the City, LSI, StopWaste and select waste generators, as well as review of detailed tonnage reports and subscription levels, R3 developed a high-level baseline analysis to measure the effectiveness of current diversion programs. Building on this analysis, R3 developed a recommended set of programs with the greatest potential of diverting waste from landfills during – and beyond – the five-year planning horizon. R3 created a set of recommendations that focus on ways in which the City can enhance the effectiveness of current programs, as well as develop new programs to cost-effectively increase diversion for the City.

Additionally, R3 estimated the amount of additional diversion that could be realized by each of the recommended new programs and estimated the cost for each program and the cost per ton that each program will divert. R3 also performed a high-level evaluation of the relationship between LSI’s rate structure and successful diversion behaviors.

Project benefits the City gained include the following:

  • Identification of opportunities to encourage and reward achievement of high diversion goals for all stakeholders;
  • Strategic planning for higher diversion grounded in a data-driven approach;
  • Pursuit of diversion opportunities that most effectively move tons out of landfills per dollar spent; and
  • Responsibility and reward for diverting waste from landfills is shared between the City and its franchised waste hauler.

R3 provided negotiation services to the City of Berkeley, who was seeking to arrange for the recyclables processing services currently provided by Community Conservation Centers (CCC). R3 provided support in the negotiation of a short-term contract with CCC to continue to provide recycling processing services as the City begins redevelopment of one of its solid waste facilities and the development of long-term solid waste policies via a Zero Waste Plan.  R3’s objective was to facilitate a contract that provides the City with a greater level of operational and financial accountability from CSS and resolves outstanding matters of dispute, including amounts owed to the City by CCC per the terms of the current contract.

For this engagement, R3 conducted the following main tasks:

  • Established clear objectives and refine initial positions with respect to the City’s key interests and desired outcomes from these negotiations;
  • Updated analysis of recyclables market conditions to provide the City with detailed cost estimates of hauling/processing recyclable materials at other facilities;
  • Led negotiation sessions with the City and CCC over the course of three half day negotiations;
  • Attended meetings with City staff, prepared negotiation session agendas, and attended negotiation sessions (phone and in-person);
  • Reviewed and analyzed cost and program data presented by CCC and made recommendations to City staff;
  • Drafted a new recyclables processing agreement for review by the City and CCC;
  • Facilitated five (5) rounds of revision and comment by the City and CCC; and
  • Assisted City staff in the preparation of a staff report to the Council presenting the results of these contract negotiations.

As a result of R3’s assistance, the City gained the following benefits:

  • Excel workbook of recyclables market conditions estimating hauling/processing costs for three alternative recyclables processing facilities;
  • Negotiation and finalization of a short-term contract between the City and CCC that clearly addressed CCC’s operational and financial accountability;
  • Creation of a compensation structure that takes into account revenues lost from the impacts from China’s National Sword while providing assurances for the City that its hauler will be able to collect and market materials;
  • Resolution of the amounts owed by CCC to the City per the contract (~$800,000);
  • Cessation of CCC’s periodic requests for special payments from the City, which had been made outside the terms of the current agreement; and
  • The creation of a coterminous Agreement with the City’s Agreement with Ecology Center for the City to make an educated decision of the future of its Agreements.

In early 2016, R3 was engaged by the City of Rolling Hills Estates (City) to conduct a Performance Review of their franchised hauler, Waste Management (WM), with the objective of assessing WM’s collection operations prior to the Franchise Agreement’s (Agreement) expiration.

Overall, WM received a positive review, although R3 found that they were out of compliance on vehicle weights and diversion standards, and they were substantially undercharging for manure collection and processing, which in turn negatively impacted their other required services.

Rather than seeking competitive bids, the City opted to work with the hauler to correct the compliance violations and renegotiate the contract, because of the City’s unique service requirements (e.g., unlimited multiple container sizes for recycling and organics at no cost; required use of smaller collection trucks; and required no-cost service for hard-to-service areas). R3 subsequently worked on the City’s behalf to negotiate the new Agreement, which assists the City in complying with state legislation (e.g., AB 939, AB 341, AB 1826, and AB 1594), prevents negative impacts on customer rates, and includes these beneficial features: a very specific public education program; a contamination monitoring and reporting program; and universal rollout of organics to all commercial and multi-family customers as a base service requirement.

R3 is currently assisting the City with modernizing and streamlining the language in the City’s municipal code to include legislative requirements for recycling and organics diversion (AB 341, AB 1826, SB 1383, and AB 1594).

R3 was engaged by the City of Half Moon Bay to provide full service assistance with the City’s procurement of solid waste collection and street sweeping services. The City identified the following goals, among others, which R3 addressed as part of the RFP process:

  • Improving the quality of contractor reporting content, including tracking of special events and public education activities undertaken by the contractor;
  • Considering the possibility of new customer rate structures;
  • Potentially implementing a “Vehicle Impact Fee” to recover the cost of street deterioration caused by collection operations;
  • Exploring new programs such as residential organics, and expanded commercial organics collection, and including applicable program requirements as part of the RFP process;
  • Considering street sweeping schedule changes to meet the requirements of new storm water plans.

R3’s procurement assistance services for the City included:

  • Reviewing City and current contractor resource documents, working with stakeholders, and compiling the RFP package;
  • Developing collection program requirements, the franchise agreement, minimum contractor qualifications, and a mailing list of potential proposers;
  • Preparing evaluation criteria, providing written responses to questions submitted regarding the RFP, and preparing addenda as necessary;
  • Conducting the pre-proposal meeting, evaluating responses, conducting interviews, and checking references of proposers;
  • Attending City Council meetings, assisting with the presentation of the results of the evaluation process and staff recommendations, and finalizing the franchise agreement.

As a result of R3’s assistance, the City gained the following at the conclusion of the procurement process:

  • A dedicated recycling specialist;
  • Food waste collection and processing for all customers;
  • Two HHW drop-off collection events for the City; and
  • An implementation plan designed to lay out the foundation for new services and facilitate a smooth transition before the start of the new contract.


Plastic Bales

Zero Waste Plan & Community Engagement

The City of Menlo Park (City) engaged R3 (with subconsultants Abbe & Associates and Cascadia Consulting Group) to assist in the creation of a comprehensive Zero Waste Plan (Plan). Motivation to create a Zero Waste Plan stemmed from implementation of the City’s Climate Action Plan, which named zero waste as a key strategy for reaching the community’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 27% by the year 2020 from 2005 levels.

R3 developed a comprehensive Plan that provided a guide to residential, commercial, and City programs, and included cost estimates for the proposed Zero Waste programs to be incorporated into the rate structure. R3 also prepared an economic analysis and implementation plan, highlighting the Zero Waste Plan steps for 5-, 10-, and 20-year milestones, as identified by the City.

In an effort to engage the community in the important decisions coming before the City Council, R3 also designed a robust Community Engagement Process to allow residents and businesses to learn about the Zero Waste draft policy and draft rate structure, ask questions, and provide input before they went on to the City Council. This included designing an outreach strategy, providing content to be presented in the City’s specific marketing format, facilitating two public workshops, and presenting at community engagement meetings.

The City successfully adopted R3’s Plan and approved solid waste rate funding of $300,000 annually for Plan implementation services, which R3 is currently providing.

Rate Restructure Analysis & Revision

R3 was tasked by the City to develop a revised rate structure to calculate rates based on cost-of-service information provided by the City’s franchised hauler (Recology). R3 facilitated a transparent rate setting process, producing rates which aligned to cost-of-service and supported the City’s Zero Waste goals by preserving incentives to divert solid waste from landfill, including financial incentives for waste reduction.

The rate structure developed by R3 achieved several objectives, including:

  • Development of an incremental methodology to move rates towards a cost-of-service rate model that aligned rates more closely with the fixed and variable costs of providing solid waste collection, transfer, processing, diversion and disposal services;
  • Preservation of incentives to divert solid waste from landfill, including financial incentives for waste reduction;
  • Avoidance of higher-than-necessary rate impacts to small-quantity waste generators, resulting from aligning rates with the cost-of-service by keeping certain rates flat, rather than reducing them; and
  • Ease of future implementation during rate-setting processes, including the ability to conduct annual indexed adjustments (not subject to Prop 218) as well as the potential for City administration of the rate setting process (or, at least, minimum consultant involvement).

One innovative aspect of the methodology is the calculation of rates based on a set annual contractor compensation amount – which is adjusted annually based on indexes and other straightforward factors – and current subscription levels for solid waste container sizes and frequency. This approach has the effect of adjusting for customer account “migration” in collection container subscription levels (reduced volume and/or frequency) on an annual basis, and also allows for rate adjustments that are specific to each container size, and not a universal percentage increase to all container sizes. This is important because over time, universal application of increases has the effect of widening the gap between the rates for larger vs. smaller subscription levels, which creates a positive feedback loop of further migration yielding greater rate increases, further widening of the rate gap, and so on.

Another key aspect of this methodology is that it provides a means of calculating rates for services related to each of the primary solid waste streams (generally including recycling, organics, and garbage/trash). Calculating rates for each of these three service areas is important, as it demonstrates to policy makers and ratepayers that there are costs for providing diversion services (recycling and organics) and that those costs are generally comparable to landfill services (garbage/trash). Even if adopted rates are still set in keeping with current convention (i.e. based on landfill container size), setting rates based on the costs of providing diversion services establishes a logical and defensible approach to rate setting, and also provides the basis for setting rates for recycling and organics service in the future.

On-Call Solid Waste Support

R3 is currently providing on-site staff support.

Tasks include the following:

  • Updating the City’s Solid Waste and C&D ordinances to require recycling and organics collection to increase diversion and meet the requirements of AB 341, AB 1826, and SB 1383;
  • Developing a Reusable Foodware ordinance;
  • Managing the City’s contract with Recology;
  • Helping the City develop, implement, and enforce a program for their zero waste building and occupancy requirements;
  • Providing on-site work one day per week;
  • Conducting a bimonthly call with City Staff and R3 Staff, for the term of this agreement;
  • Active tracking of permit applicants in the process;
  • Active management of auditors and audit requirements;
  • Reviewing and evaluating policy options for updating the City’s construction and demolition ordinance culminating in a final policy memorandum;
  • Providing support for 2020 rate setting, based on the rate structure already developed by R3 for the City; and
  • Other as-needed assistance.