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Agency Update - Winter 2023

StopWaste Offers $1.1M in Grants for Waste Prevention

We just launched our latest grants round, and this year, we increased available funding from $700K to $1.1M for projects focused on innovative approaches to preventing waste, building upstream infrastructure, and supporting local communities in Alameda County. Going beyond waste prevention, grant funding is designed to support efforts that boost resilient community food systems and address pressing issues such as food insecurity.

The six grant categories are: 

  • Food Waste Prevention & Recovery (up to $20,000 per grant) 
  • Surplus Food Donation Equipment (nonprofits only, up to $10,000 per grant) 
  • Community Food Systems (up to $10,000 per grant) 
  • Reusable Foodware ($5,000 to $50,000 per grant) 
  • Reuse & Repair (up to $20,000 per grant) 
  • Reusable Transport Packaging (up to $10,000 per grant) 

Businesses, nonprofits, school districts, and institutions are eligible for funding unless noted otherwise. Applicants are encouraged to reach out to StopWaste staff to discuss proposed projects and ask questions. The last day to apply is March 3, 2023.

Single-Use Foodware Rules in Effect

All retail food facilities and food delivery platforms are required to provide single-use foodware accessories and condiments upon request only under California law AB 1276. This new law went into effect on January 1, 2022, to reduce waste and pollution created from single-use items. Foodware items covered by the law include single-use utensils, straws, chopsticks, stirrers, and condiment cups and packets, including those made from bioplastics, compostable plastic, bamboo, and paper.

Bilingual Stop Food Waste Winter Campaign

StopWaste recently ran a new Stop Food Waste campaign in English and Spanish, featuring food storage and food saving tips for making the most of food and extending shopping budgets. The campaign targeted a broad audience throughout Alameda County including younger, cost-conscious, and Spanish-speaking residents. With input and feedback from community partners, it featured different creative concepts with tips on reviving wilted lettuce, cooking wrinkled tomatoes into sauce, and blending what's in your fridge into a smoothie. In addition to promoting the campaign on larger advertisement platforms, we shifted to also promoting on smaller community-based digital platforms like Nextdoor, Patch, 510 Families, Edible East Bay, and Oaklandside/Berkeleyside.

Enforcement for SB 1383 Underway

We’ve now begun enforcement for California State law SB 1383 which is implemented locally as the Organics Reduction and Recycling Ordinance. So far, StopWaste has sent out Notices of Violations (NOVs) to approximately 900 commercial and multifamily accounts countywide that lack the required compost and/or recycling collection service. These letters are the final notice before a fine is issued. Separately, for member agencies that didn't recently send out their own non-compliance letters, StopWaste mailed about 2,800 letters to accounts with two or more cubic yards of total weekly collection service that do not yet have the required services. These letters help member agencies comply with the requirements of SB 1383 but are not part of the official enforcement process (and do not lead to an eventual fine). Some sites qualify for waivers and are not required to add compost collection service. To date, StopWaste has received 2,200 waiver requests countywide, with approximately 600 received in just the last month. On February 9, we will engage with haulers and other field representatives to inform them of the enforcement and education process.

Employee Spotlight

Jennifer Luong

Finance Services Manager

What do you do at StopWaste?  

I manage the day-to-day operations of the Finance Department at StopWaste. My role is to keep the Agency’s finances intact and make sure that the financial books are in compliance with all government requirements at the local, state, and federal levels. I do my due diligence to make sure every single penny is accounted for, including everything that the Agency brings in and everything that it spends out.  

Once a year, the Agency gets audited by an outside firm. They look at every single transaction in our books and verify and clarify to make sure everything is correct before they issue our financial statements. Last year, we submitted our entry to the Government Finance Officers Association for the 2022 Awards for Excellence in Government Finance and won our first Financial Reporting Achievement Award. This year we got a clean audit as well, and we will be entering for an award once again.   

To sum it up, I support anything that is financially related at StopWaste, whether it is receiving revenue or paying an invoice. I also oversee payroll and benefits—our team makes sure that employee benefits are accurate, and that they are paid correctly and on time.  

What skills do you need for your role? 

In finance we expect to get audited a lot so keeping a clean financial record and consistency are key. We make sure to document everything, which is why we’re sticklers when it comes to payments, and we request a lot of information because we make sure we have all the details. 

Besides technical accounting skills, soft skills are very important. You need to know how to approach people and know what kind of conversation to start. Knowing each person’s communication style and preference is very helpful. Some people prefer a softer approach where you work your way up to the finance questions in your conversation, while others like to get straight to the point without much conversation. And, even though most of the time I’m sitting at my desk crunching numbers, I try my best to understand the operations of the Agency’s programs. I keep my eyes and ears peeled when walking down the hall or passing through the kitchen to get updates on programs or grants. 

What is your favorite part of working here?  

It’s very unique. I’ve worked in different industries like private, technology, and local government, but StopWaste’s organizational structure is unique. Each program and project is like its own entity and I get to learn about the Agency’s different projects. It’s also small enough that you can approach everyone, but big enough for you to take on new challenges and learn something new. 

How has working at StopWaste impacted you? 

Professionally, StopWaste has challenged me to grow in my role. StopWaste is made up of three different entities: Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, and the Energy Council, which means we keep three different books unlike municipal governments with only one book. At StopWaste we combine the three books into one at the end of the year for our financial reporting—that can be challenging.

Personally, StopWaste has made me conscious of my actions and now I always take a step back before I toss things into a bin. Everywhere I go, I look out for the compost, recycle, and landfill bin. I also run marathons and race a lot, and now whenever I go to my races, I’m conscious of all the cups that people throw on the ground. I do bring my own reusable water bottle and that way I don’t feel guilty about wasting more cups. I’m hopeful that someday we’ll find a way to introduce reusables to races and marathons.

Do you have a life motto that you live by?  

Work hard, play hard. I work hard, but when I play, I play very hard. I’ll go on a 50-mile ultra-race in extreme stormy weather. Before the pandemic, I used run a lot of ultra-races running 50K once or twice a month, but I’ve since scaled back. It’s the way I balance life and stress.  

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?  

I love to run and work out to help keep my mind and my body clear. I especially like trail running. I recently ran the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December. Anytime I go out for a run, it helps to clear my mind. It's the time I have to myself to get fresh new ideas. If I’m stuck on a problem at work, I can’t solve it by sitting. But if I go run for a few miles, my mind starts clearing up and things start making sense. I like to do cardio outside and when I do strength training and conditioning, I stay indoors. I try to squeeze workouts in whenever I can but generally, I do strength and conditioning once or twice a week and run five times per week. I run at least 10 miles each time and usually go to Lake Chabot, Marin Headlands, or Berkeley.