Prior to 2021, the Town was a founding member of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA - 1982). The SBWMA was a Joint Powers Authority of 12 local government jurisdictions (Atherton, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, County of San Mateo and the West Bay Sanitary District). Through a JPA, local jurisdictions could establish strategic oversight and management of service providers that collect, process, recycle and dispose of materials as Assembly Bill 939 (1989) loomed on the horizon. AB 939 changed the way that solid waste was processed and imposed local mandates related to reduction, recycling, and reuse of products in the waste stream.
State mandates triggered changes in collection and processing requirements and the SBWMA created a model franchise agreement that all members ultimately adopted with Recology, a solid waste collection and processing vendor. In addition, the SBWMA took control over the processing of solid waste and recyclables. Taking on debt, the SBWMA built, owns and manages the Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos. The cost of the facility is borne by all member agencies.
Over the last 30 years, the land use demographics (commercial, industrial, and residential) of most of the larger SBWMA member agencies has changed dramatically. This caused a significant shift in the solid waste profile being processed at the Shoreway Facility and in turn caused an increase in the costs for each member agency due to changes in processing costs, expansion costs, and the costs of State recycling and composting mandates. However, Atherton’s land use demographic and requirements did not change. But, as a member of a Joint Powers Agency and co-owner of the Shoreway Facility, the Town’s cost, and thereby the resident’s costs, increased anyway.
In 2018, the Town began evaluating its continuing membership in the SBWMA and its continuing franchise with Recology. The Town was aware of several new pieces of State legislation on the horizon, such as SB 1383, that could significantly impact local costs and would require further expansion of the Shoreway Facility. The SBWMA began to evaluate ways to expand its facility and, over the Town’s objections as a singular voting member, opted to incur another $20 million in debt to fund the expansion.
In 2019, the Town opted to move forward with a proposal to exit the SBWMA by December 2020 as a means of stemming the potential for significant cost increases to Atherton residents. The Town entered a franchise agreement with Greenwaste Recovery beginning January 1, 2021, ending its long-term relationship with the SBWMA and Recology.