December 3, 2005

CA AB 1090 - VICA Supports Conversion Technology

On September 1, 2005, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County wrote a position paper supporting AB 1090, a California state Bill concerning Solid Waste Diversion Credit for Conversion Technology. Their paper is a concise explanation of the background and merits of the bill...


Position Paper Supporting AB 1090 Solid Waste Diversion Credit
for Conversion Technology

Position: The Valley Industry and Commerce Association strongly supports the concept of providing diversion (recycling) credit for conversion technologies, as proposed by AB 1090 (Matthews). AB 1090 is a two-year bill which will not be heard again until January 2006, but since interim hearings on the issue are anticipated to occur this fall, VICA felt that it was appropriate to take a position at this time.

Providing diversion credit for conversion technologies recognizes that our municipal solid waste stream is a resource capable of producing electricity, fuel and other byproducts (such as liquid fertilizer), which reduces our dependence on declining fossil fuel reserves and can help to preserve space in existing landfills. The issue of establishing conversion technology plants throughout the City of Los Angeles is also discussed in Councilmember Greig Smith’s RENEW LA plan.

Background: Many people know that organic materials--also known as biomass--can be used to produce compost and mulch. But organic materials can also be used to produce electricity, fuel, other industrial products and paper. Each year, California generates over 20 million tons of organic waste, of which about 6 to 8 million tons are composted and mulched. Out of this, about 1.5 million tons are used as feedstock for the traditional biomass-to-energy industry.

But what about the almost 15 million tons now landfilled each year? These materials including wood that cannot be composted, and low-value paper residuals from material recovery facilities for which there is no recycling market demand, currently are sent to landfills. New conversion technologies such as hydrolysis, gasification, and anaerobic digestion have the potential to address these materials. AB 939, as passed in 1989, does not allow recycling credit for conversion technology. Unlike in 1989, today’s new technologies convert various kinds of wastes, like agricultural wastes, wood-based wastes, and other post-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW), in a non-combustion environment, into positive uses.

AB 1090 seeks three changes in the law that would help promote these technologies, as follows:

• Conversion Technology Definitions: Definitions would be added for “conversion technology” and “conversion technology facility” which distinguish them from disposal and incineration. Corresponding amendments would also be made to the “transformation” definition, and to the “gasification” definition to correct scientific inaccuracies in the statute.

• Placement of Conversion Technologies in the Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy: This bill would update the integrated waste management hierarchy by replacing the Act’s “Recycling and composting” tier with a new tier designated as “Recovery through recycling, composting, conversion technology or other beneficial use technologies”. This change would distinguish conversion technologies from disposal and incineration in the priority of waste management practices, but would not automatically qualify these technologies for diversion credit.

• Diversion Credit for Conversion Technology Facilities: The final section of the bill would add a provision allowing local conversion technology projects to be eligible for diversion credit, consistent with conditions adopted by the California Integrated Waste Management (CIWMB) in 2002. Specifically, it provides that diversion credit may be granted on a case-by-case basis if the Board holds a public hearing in the jurisdiction in which a facility is proposed and makes specified findings regarding compliance of the project with all State minimum standards, its preservation of the recycling infrastructure, and its environmental and economic enhancement of the local integrated waste management system.

AB 1090 amends the Integrated Waste Management Act to incorporate new and emerging non-combustion thermal, chemical and biological technologies. These amendments reflect over five years of research, study and public input by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), in conjunction with the UC Davis and UC Riverside. The amendments adapt some of the findings and recommendations of the recently completed studies mandated by Matthews’ bill AB 2770 of 2002.

Economic Impact: Passage of AB 1090 will provide local governments with additional approaches to diverting waste from landfills by encouraging the implementation of conversion technologies.

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