StopWaste is helping customers better understand the expanded reusable bag law, and encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags to all retail stores. A recently launched social media campaign is informing residents of the new requirements which began on May 1 for all retail stores in Alameda County, and will begin for eating establishments on November 1.
In this issue
Agency Update - Fall 2017
Deputy Executive Director
Tom Padia has been with the agency since 1991, where he serves as the lead staff member for numerous source reduction and recycling programs. He has been the primary staff liaison to the Source Reduction and Recycling Board since its inception and was a delegate to the White House Conference on the future of recycling. His experience includes service in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
Tom Padia is an institution at StopWaste and in the field of solid waste and recycling. Known affectionately as "Encylo-Padia" for his iron-clad memory and in-depth knowledge of the solid waste and recycling industry. His knowledge is nearly matched by his kindness, humility and generosity. (He can turn a phrase or two, as well. See a few or our favorites below).
What do you do here?
I've been at StopWaste for 26 years, as of September. For most of that time, I've been the Recycling Director, and for the last two years I've served as the Deputy Executive Director. I've been fortunate to do a lot of different things in the field such as establish grant programs and the low-interest revolving loan fund, conduct research with Wendy Sommer on Construction and Demolition (C&D) recycling (or lack there of), and serve as liaison to the garbage and recycling industry. Currently, aside from serving as primary staff to the Recycling Board, I participate and advise on a variety of projects, and I am working to hand-off some of my projects, as I will likely retire at the end of 2018.
How did you end up in this field?
It was blind dumb luck. My first career was in the retail wine and liquor business. When I quit drinking, I took a job at Ecology Action in Santa Cruz where I worked for four years. I moved to Oakland for love and took a job as curbside driver for the El Cerrito Recycling Center. From there, I went to work at Californian's Against Waste (CAW) on the passage of the bottle bill (AB2020). Then I had the opportunity to work for NorCal Waste Systems, now Recology, and managed the design and start up of curbside recycling in San Francisco. I had a short stint in consulting. After Measure D passed on the county ballot in 1990, I was hired as the Recycling Program Manager for the Alameda County Waste Management Authority.
How has the Agency changed over the years and what has stayed the same?
The Agency has expanded from a narrow focus on recycling and disposing of solid waste to a more comprehensive focus on upstream, waste prevention, and multiple benefits which include energy and water conservation. The approach has moved from materials-only to something more holistic and sustainable. There have been changes in staff and leadership over the years, but the Agency has continued to be forward-thinking and innovative, with smart and hard-working staff. Overall, it's been a supportive and good place to work.
How has the industry changed?
The industry changes are similar to those of the Agency. It was focused on systems for collection and delivery to landfill, with a small stream of diverting recyclables for recovery. Now there is recovery from multiple streams including C&D, organics, and bulky waste. And landfill is receiving the minority of materials collected.
What are some of your career highlights?
One has been witnessing the progression of curbside collection of recyclables from bundled paper and bucket-style bins, to Alameda County having the largest curbside composting program in the nation with all of our member agencies collecting food scraps. We still have work in getting people to use it though! I can't take credit for this, but seeing our schools program win the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) was gratifying. Building partnerships, working with grantees, and creating long-lasting infrastructure have been highlights. Likewise, watching staff come on board and grow into roles of greater responsibility is heartening.
What do you do when you are not at StopWaste?
I am a hopeless Oakland A’s baseball fan, even though my devotion has been sorely tested these last few years. I enjoy spending time with my wife, attending arts events, and taking the dog for a walk. I'm kind of a homebody and a family guy. I help care for my 93 year-old mother who lives near by, and I have two daughters, one of whom just graduated from college and the other is in her 7th year of teaching special education in the Bronx.
Anything else we should know about you?
I am very proud to work with the great people here and with our member agencies. We have been a pretty high functioning team, working together on a small but important piece of the environmental puzzle.
Favorite Tom Padia aphorisms:
- "You don’t fatten the hog by weighing it more often."
- "I would have made it shorter but I didn't have the time."
- "Progress not perfection."
- "Go A's!"