Green Jobs in a Zero Waste LA

The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy proposes to partner with Isidore Electronics Recycling in a project that has the potential to generate tens of thousands of good green jobs in the City of Los Angeles by 2050 and improve the quality of thousands of existing jobs, all while contributing to a cleaner environment.

LAANE’s Don’t Waste LA project has taken the first step in this initiative by winning City Council endorsement of an exclusive franchise system for collection and diversion of waste from customers not served by the City. Currently the city of LA picks up trash at single family and small multi-family homes while private haulers receive city permits to collect waste from all other users based on service agreements with building owners and businesses.

Commercial trash accounts for over 70 percent of the city's waste but neither the city nor the private haulers are subject to any landfill diversion requirements. Private haulers are not required to recycle and the companies are not regulated. Due to this lack of regulation, recycling facilities often create major health and safety concerns for workers and nearby residents.

Most materials are collected together and then sorted by hand, sent off to the Central Valley or overseas for reuse, and not necessarily reused in the most sustainable way. Most of LA’s e-waste is shipped out of the county or the state for processing.

The policy that LAANE proposed and the Council endorsed will establish designated service zones with haulers competing for the exclusive right to service each of those areas. Successful bidders would have to adhere to strict environmental, recycling and labor standards. Recycling will be mandatory and increase exponentially, and the companies engaged in recycling will be held to new high standards. The Don’t Waste LA project aims to make LA a national model for resource management by creating a system that allows us to reach zero waste goals, while insuring that both the new jobs created as a result of recycling, and existing jobs in the industry, are good ones.

We are currently working with the City to prepare the regulations and standards for the new system. We aim for the new system and accompanying environmental review to be finalized and approved by the Council in the next year, followed by the request for proposals process and award of franchise agreements, which begins the transition to the new system. All the new contracts will not be in place and operating until 2017, but the system will begin to be implemented in 2014 as the RFP process starts and contracts are awarded.

Full implementation of the franchise and stopping the export of recycling will result in the creation of at least 14,400 new living wage jobs in processing. The franchise policy will ensure a steady stream of recyclables enabling companies like our partner Isidore Recycling to expand their business, and can lay the groundwork and provide incentives for remanufacturing locally. In addition, incentives could be built into the policy to benefit companies like Isidore. For example, in addition to educating their customers about e-waste, franchisees could be required to choose responsible subcontractors located in LA. With Isidore Recycling, we are proposing to pilot a model for how social entrepreneurs can take advantage of this new policy to expand their businesses and create good new jobs. Our proposal includes: 1) full implementation of the franchise to reach citywide zero waste, improve existing impacted jobs, create 14,400 good new processing jobs, and lay the groundwork for the creation of quality jobs in recycling and remanufacturing: 2) ensuring the franchise policy includes a goal and plan for recycling e-waste (the fastest growing waste stream in the city) in the implementation of the policy in each service zone; 3) a specific marketing plan to educate people and businesses about recycling their e-waste, and to increase e-waste recycling from 20% to 100% by 2050; 4) research on the current landscape of recycling and remanufacture in order to determine which incentives, both through this policy and otherwise, can help seed the expansion of local remanufacturing. Development of the market for recycling and remanufacture in the City will require market-based incentives and a focus on capital investments in order to bolster the infrastructure. It will also benefit from government procurement policies that are more stringent and prioritize higher percentages of recycled content, as well as a database of processors, manufacturers, and material brokers. We will need to do a study on material recovery facilities’ processing standards and the recovery rates for each material that enters a facility. The next step in the e-waste recycling industry in LA is better recovery of minerals, metals and plastics for remanufacture—another source of new green jobs.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

LAANE was formed in 1993 to improve the quality of life and the environment in low-income communities in LA. Using research, organizing, coalition-building, policy advocacy and communications, LAANE has won programs that uplift job quality in local industries, provide health benefits for workers, and increase the number of and access to good jobs as well as training for them. Our work has won policies that link economic development to cleaning up the environment in low-income communities.

LAANE helped to launch the Community Benefits movement in 2001 and built coalitions that won Community Benefits Agreements for major economic developments, guaranteeing a wide range of environmental, economic and other benefits for communities. Our groundbreaking work on the CBA for LAX Airport allocated $500 million to environmental studies and mitigations that have reduced noise and air pollution generated by the Airport.

LAANE’s work on trucking at the Ports of LA and Long Beach established a “concession” program that has resulted in scrapping 16,000 polluting trucks and replacing them with trucks meeting the highest standards for low emissions—reducing truck-caused pollution by 80% to date.

We have won approval of policies to uplift job quality and improve job access and training in construction, including developments at the Port of LA, work under the Department of Public Works, and, most recently, major transit projects planned by the County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. These Construction Careers Policies have already yielded training and employment for thousands of disadvantaged workers and will ultimately reach close to 90,000. One of our newest projects provides for training disadvantaged LA workers to carry out energy efficiency measures in buildings all over the City in partnership with the Department of Water and Power.

Much of our work has been about job quality—beginning with our victory in the 1997 landmark LA Living Wage Ordinance. Since then, we have won other living wage policies and upgraded the original policy several times.

We have produced the highest quality research reports on the industries that we have targeted and on poverty and jobs. We developed a communications program that rivals those of many much larger non-profit organizations.

Isidore Electronics Recycling is in its second year collecting e-waste and training and employing the previously incarcerated. A staff of 6 operates out of a warehouse in northeast LA. Trainees learn to de-manufacture e-waste, repair and refurbish electronics for reuse, staff collection events and operate the e-commerce store. Isidore has collected and/or processed over 110,000 pounds of electronics and earned revenue through e-scrap sales and its Ebay store. Clients include American Apparel, Pitches County Detention Center, LA Car Guy, and Helms Bakery Properties. All employees make at least $10/hour with opportunities for advancement.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

LAANE comes to this project with key partners in place, including Isidore Recycling, which will provide the model for a responsible LA-based industry. We have also partnered with the City Bureau of Sanitation and key political officials including a Councilmember and State assembly member. Moreover, the Don’t Waste LA coalition has some 40 members including labor, environmental and environmental justice organizations, community-based organizations and groups, neighborhood councils, students, and small businesses—including some high road waste haulers. We hope to add more responsible entrepreneurs to the team as the project develops, most notably the businesses that locate recycling and remanufacturing facilities in the City.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Success will mean that 1) a massive waste diversion program is adopted and implemented in a way that yields a minimal 75% diversion rate by 2017, and a 90% diversion rate by 2025, 2) the program is innovative and serves as a model for other regions, and 3) tens of thousands of disadvantaged workers are trained and employed in the revamped recycling industry and the new local remanufacturing industry. In addition, existing jobs in the industries—from collection to remanufacture—will be upgraded to family-supporting standards.

Our criteria for success over the next five-year period are:

1) All of our criteria, including standards for recycling facilities and management of e-waste, are included in the final ordinance enabling the exclusive franchise policy, the implementation plan, and the subsequently issued RFPs.

2) The ordinance is approved by the City Council by early 2014 at the latest and transition to the new system is put into motion in 2014.

3) A major initiative to attract recycling and remanufacturing businesses to LA will be successful, leading to at least five recycling and at least three remanufacturing businesses that locate or remain in the city and meet high standards.

4) The e-waste pilot project will spur more responsible entrepreneurs in this field to start up in LA, resulting in virtually all e-waste being recycled and remanufactured locally.

5) By 2025, the City achieves 90% recycling of e-waste.

LAANE staff has established the baseline data on existing conditions in the waste collection industry, including cleanliness of trucks, job quality, and impact on neighborhoods as well as numbers of recycling facilities and their practices, and the lack of local remanufacturing facilities. Progress following implementation of the exclusive franchise system will be measured against these baselines. The tools we will use to document impact will include city-generated reports, interviews with residents, business owners, and industry workers, and direct observation of the collection system and the recycling and remanufacturing facilities in operation.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

The exclusive franchise that meets our zero waste goals (all waste recycled, composted or otherwise processed) will create over 2,800 new jobs even while 80% of recycling is exported. With robust new infrastructure for recycling and remanufacturing that ends export of recycables, an additional 11,500 jobs can be added, building to nearly 50,000 jobs in these industries in LA by 2050.

While this project can be a huge generator of jobs, if the region does not develop new recycling infrastructure, recycling/remanufacturing will continue to be exported overseas. Absent this change, within the next decade, an estimated 11,500 new manufacturing jobs will be lost— and we estimate that every job sent overseas could mean seven jobs in our region. For example, upon implementation of the exclusive franchise, if plastics and compost infrastructure is developed, it will immediately create 6,000 jobs that would otherwise go out of the country.

LAANE, Isidore and our other partners in this work will ensure that the jobs created in waste hauling, diversion and remanufacture pay family supporting wages, offer health care and are safe and green.

E-waste is one of the most promising areas for job creation in recycling. Now, over 200,000 tons of e-waste end up in landfills annually, though it is toxic and illegal. The benefits of the proper stewardship of e-waste are considerable. Electronics can be de-manufactured for valuable materials such as titanium and platinum. Handled correctly, these increasingly rare commodities, along with other materials, can be remanufactured to benefit LA workers, industry and the community.

LA will benefit from incubating manufacturing businesses that make new products out of high-volume recycled materials like compostable organics and plastics as the demand for high-quality compost from farmers and recycled plastic goods for remanufacture increases. The demand from residents and businesses that prefer products made of recycled materials will boost the economy.

At the core of the issue is making sure we have high-quality materials for businesses that need them the most: processors and remanufacturers. By keeping a "closed-loop" on recycling, we ensure that we have more materials in the recycling stream, we can attract and incubate entire recycling supply chains, and we are able to create more jobs. Part of our research will include exploring promising new policy strategies including government procurement policies and tax incentives as a means of encouraging the expansion of this industry – one that already has created 128,000 jobs in California.

The implementation of the exclusive franchise will not only lead to new job creation and the uplift of existing jobs, the project will include significant environmental benefits leading to a zero waste city, cleaner air due to newly required clean-fuel trucks, and streets that are safer and relieved of nuisance.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In 2050, Los Angeles will be a zero waste city. All waste will be recycled or diverted. There will be no landfills or incineration and the streets will be cleaner.

We envision a new ecosystem for LA where waste and recycling jobs are part of the new green economy; where we reimagine what we view as “trash,” and see it as a potential resource, and where we encounter less waste overall and virtually no plastic or other non-degradable trash. Households and businesses will recycle and compost, there will be no incineration and no landfills. All trash will be recycled by local businesses and made into useful products by local residents paid living wages and provided benefits and clean, safe working conditions. This new system will represent the transformation of a dirty, unsustainable industry into a just and green one that provides tens of thousands of good new jobs in LA.

In 2050, 100% of e-waste will be diverted from landfills and properly recycled. It will be collected and processed within the region, and the materials recovered (metals, plastic, circuit boards and glass) used in local remanufacturing industries. The regional e-waste recycling industry will have grown in public-private partnership between social enterprises, local government and public agencies so that 1) the public is informed and empowered to properly dispose of their e-waste, 2) government and local e-waste companies have the capacity to collect and process the city's e-waste, and 3) local social enterprises will utilize the entire waste stream to train and hire workers in Los Angeles for quality career ladder jobs.

There will be fewer trucks collecting waste and they will be clean vehicles. Their routes will not overlap and they will not be a nuisance in neighborhoods. Rates will be fair and affordable.

Employment in the waste collection, recycling and remanufacturing industries will be high quality with family-supporting wages and full benefits.

There will be at least 50,000 new or improved jobs in the LA recycling and remanufacturing industries and these will be high quality jobs with career ladders.

The e-waste pilot project will spur more responsible entrepreneurs in this field to start up in LA resulting in all e-waste being recycled and remanufactured.

All recycled materials will be reused in the most sustainable way.

All of LA’s recycling and remanufacturing will be done by businesses located in the City that will employ residents.