Oakland city workers inspect trash bins to help fight climate change. Here's how it works

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Thursday, March 7, 2024
Oakland city workers inspect trash to help fight climate change
Oakland city workers inspected trash cans around the city for proper sorting to ensure a healthy environment.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland workers went around the city Wednesday, inspecting trash cans. These workers wanted to make sure Oaklanders were properly throwing away their garbage. This means putting items in their right places of compost, recycling or trash. It's the third year Oakland is doing this. It stems from SB 1383, one of the many laws the state uses to fight climate change.

"It's the short-lived climate pollution reduction act," said Rebecca Parnes, a senior recycling specialist with the City of Oakland. "Which requires that all residents, businesses and apartment buildings have three streamed sorting for trash compost and recycling and that they use it correctly."

We followed them around while they went to trash bins and dumpsters to see if things were in the right place.

"The list of properties we visit is from Waste Management, so we are following their routes in general," said Chinoso Uzowihe, Parnes' partner and also a recycling specialist. "We are looking at each bin. We hit scan, and we get a picture of what is in the bin."

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The first stop we went to was an apartment near Jack London Square. That apartment was doing a good job at sorting its trash but the compost was empty. Uzowihe and Parnes assume if the compost bins are not that full, there is a good chance people are putting it in the trash, which is not good for the environment.

"Sorting your food scraps for composting is the easiest thing folks can do at home to minimize their impact on climate change," Parnes said. "When food scraps are buried in the landfill, it releases methane which is the most potent greenhouse gas."

Plus, it is not just about composting. Recycling is a big part of it. After the apartment, we following them while they inspected two dumpsters behind a business. They plan to leave notes to the business because that trash was not sorted correctly. Many items were in the recycling that should've been in the trash, including styrofoam and a large plastic bag.

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"It is not recyclable," Parnes said. "It does seem to be made of plastic, but in Oakland, the only plastic we recycle are bottles, tubs and jugs, and this is clearly not any of these three things."

Their message to everyone is to read the labels correctly on which items go in which bins. They say it has a large impact on the future of our planet.

"People in the end are responsible for making the right choice, so the more labeling we can do so people see the value and importance of it the better," Parnes said.

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