A Year Ago on Zero Resource – October 2010

Putrescible Waste


This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Putrescible waste is “solid waste that contains organic matter capable of being decomposed by microorganisms and of such a character and proportion as to cause obnoxious odors and to be capable of attracting or providing food for birds or animals (definition from the Argonne National Laboratory).

Basically, putrescibles are the bits of garbage that decompose and get stinky. This can include food waste, used diapers, and pet waste.

If the putrescible waste is removed from the standard waste stream, the remaining household solid waste (packaging, plastic films) and recycling (cardboard, glass, metals, plastics, and paper) is quite clean. As local government recycling programs face budget cuts, there is potential to use this separation of putrescible waste to creatively adjust waste and recycling programs.

If the putrescible waste is picked up pretty frequently (such as weekly), and possibly separated into compostable foodscraps and non-compostable waste (diapers and animal products), the remaining “clean” garbage and recycling could be picked up less frequently. There is potential to increase participation in food waste composting, since folks will want the stinky stuff out of their houses as fast as possible. Since a lot of the cost of recycling programs is the labor cost of pick-ups and sorting, there is also potential to reduce overall costs of program with careful planning of routes and pick-up schedule frequency.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

Update on AC Transit Cuts


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last night, AC Transit’s board of directors voted unanimously to slash night and weekend bus service in an effort to reduce the projected $40 million budget deficit.

Thirty-nine “minor” weekend routes are on the chopping block, but most major weekend routes will be left intact.

Four of the six all night buses will disappear. The only surviving lines will be the 800 and the 801.

According to Berkeleyside, 9 weekend services will be eliminated in Berkeley – the 1R, 7, 12, 25, 49, 52, 65, 67 and the Transbay F.

Another decision on paratransit services was postponed.

The full set of cuts should be posted on the AC Transit site soon.

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Noelle has previously written about the challenges facing AC Transit – AC Transit Cuts (5/25/10), AC Transit Cuts, Part 2 (6/2/10), and AC Transit Cuts, Part 3 (7/8/2010).

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Editorial – AC Transit Service Cuts


*AC Transit is considering options for another 8% of service cuts (effective in August) to meet its budget. Public hearings and comment sessions on the new cuts will be held this Wednesday, May 26, 2p.m. and 6p.m. at 1600 Franklin Street in Oakland. We will be reporting on the new cuts next week.


Regular riders aware by now that several AC Transit lines underwent tweaks to schedules and routes at the end of March, most notably the split of the 51 line to “51A” and “51B” lines that terminate at the RockRidge BART station. Regular riders are also aware that public transit in the Bay Area has seen fare increases across the board in the past year. However, what many riders may not know is that most transit agencies only receive a fraction of their operating costs from cash fares. AC Transit for example, recoups less than 20 percent of its budget from cash fares. So, while it is true that fare rates have seen increases while services have declined, they do not even begin to touch the transit giant’s bottom line.

AC Transit’s pared down route system that went into effect at the end of March this year is just one manifestation of structural changes and deep cuts within the system. The statewide budget crisis has resulted in the loss of significant funding, mainly from State Transit Assistance (STA) grants. AC Transit’s baseline budget for FY 08/09 clocked in at $327 million and was on course to increase; Due to restructuring the FY 09/10 budget will be stripped back to $313.9 million and FY 10/11 is budgeted for $308.9 million.

In any very large organization there must be fat to be cut, and efficiency gains to be had. But why the withdrawal of millions of dollars of funding for public transit at a time when many are forced to scale back economically and possibly even give up their cars? AC Transit- and public transportation in the Bay Area in general- are not alone; major spending cuts for transit can be seen all across the country.

While giving up a car may be great for the planet, it can be a major liability for folks trying to stay mobile in areas of poor transit connectivity. Further, with extended wait times, curtailed hours and pared down routes, public transit may not win many converts-even among those who would like an alternative to driving. It was reported in the San Jose Mercury News that Bay Area public transit lost an estimated seven percent of its ridership within the past year, and the nation is not far behind with a six percent overall drop in public transit usage. This is the classic chicken and egg scenario: if ridership is down as the economy stagnates, funding will be down; If funding is down, service will be down; If service is down, ridership will be down, and so on. How we will restructure this ailing system remains to be seen.