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Agency Update - Fall 2023

Grantee Spotlight: Schools Ramp Up with Reusables

Many single-use foodware items contain toxic chemicals that can leach into food, accumulate in the body and lead to serious health problems. To eliminate this risk, while also reducing waste, five school districts in Alameda County are piloting stainless-steel reusable foodware to replace disposable lunch trays, food boats, and plastic sporks with the support of a StopWaste Reusable Foodware grant. Some pilots set up infrastructure to wash the dishes in-house while others use off-site dishwashing services. Continue reading to learn more about the pilots.


Bolstering Collaborative Recycling Efforts

The Alameda County Recycling Markets Network recently convened its first in-person quarterly meeting in three years. The gathering was attended by Member Agency representatives, haulers, and city staff. At the event, participants had the opportunity to tour the Port of Oakland - the fifth busiest port in the U.S. - and learn about its largest commodity by volume exported: recycled paper. Additionally, they discovered that the port's fifth largest export by value is recycled metal.

The purpose of the network is to create space for open dialogue and exchange of ideas around topics such as changing markets, contamination, new technology, and legislation that may have an impact on the recycling landscape. StopWaste formed the Alameda County Recycling Markets Network back in 2018 and this task force has continued to serve as a critical forum for stakeholders to discuss and inform the regulatory process on new legislation like State law SB 54.


SB 54 Webinar for Local Governments

On October 5, StopWaste and the League of CA Cities co-hosted a webinar on how California’s new single-use packaging and plastic pollution prevention law (SB 54) impacts local governments. Under the law, all single-use packaging and single-use plastic foodware sold in California must be recyclable or compostable by 2032. Producers must reimburse local governments for the costs of collecting and processing these materials. The new law will also raise $5 billion from the plastics industry to help mitigate the impacts of plastic pollution, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
StopWaste’s Executive Director and SB 54 Advisory Board Member, Timothy Burroughs, presented alongside Heidi Sanborn of the National Stewardship Action Council and Wes Carter, president of Atlantic Packaging Co and also on the SB 54 Advisory Board. The purpose of the webinar is to help mobilize cities and counties to participate in the SB 54 rulemaking process so that local government interests inform the law’s implementation. Click below to watch the webinar recording.

Urban Farmer Compost Training Underway

Over the last several weeks Alameda County urban farmers and food growers have been digging deep into soil health and compost science content, as well as building community around their respective work growing food for donation and supporting a healthy community food system. These classes are part of the StopWaste Environmental Educator Training (SWEET), a peer-to-peer, experiential course, community engagement and certification program. So far, the class has visited urban farms in Alameda, Livermore, Fremont, Castro Valley, and have even visited a commercial composting site.

Employee Spotlight

Maricelle Cardenas

Program Manager

Maricelle Cardenas is a program manager on the Food Waste Reduction team. She has worked around the world with non-profits focused on international development and environmental education and has an extensive history at StopWaste, first joining the Schools team as a Schools Associate in 2010 and then pivoting into community outreach. Maricelle was one of the first four School Associates that jump-started the classroom education program.

What do you do at StopWaste?
As a member of the Food Waste Reduction team, one of my primary roles is supporting the StopFoodWaste campaign. Our goal is to provide the community with resources and information on ways to reduce wasted food at home. I get to create and coordinate content for our various outlets, such as the website, newsletter, ads, and social media. In order to strengthen relationships for content development and distribution, a significant part of my job is fostering partnerships with community organizations.

We have shifted our approach to work more strategically with community partners by aligning our resources and information with their missions and activities. By incorporating community voices in the content development process, we highlight their unique perspectives and expertise, and receive valuable feedback and guidance. This helps us to create content that resonates with the community and encourages them to take action against food waste.

What are some skills that have helped you succeed in building relationships?

I work with a lot of small organizations, co-ops, and non-profits. Coming from a non-profit background, I understand the significance of community partners in achieving our shared goals. It is essential to treat them as equal collaborators and recognize the unique value they bring to the table. Building strong and fruitful relationships with community partners requires an open and flexible approach, rather than a structured or rigid one. This approach enables us to gather feedback and options, which ultimately leads to successful partnerships.

How has working at StopWaste impacted you?
I have been a part of StopWaste for 13 years and it has been a very personal experience for me. Through all the work I have done in the community, one of the things that stands out is my growth in confidence. As an introverted individual, my time at StopWaste has helped me become more confident and competent. Interacting with a diverse group of stakeholders and community members has taught me how to connect with people and relate to them on a deeper level. I have learned how to form meaningful connections with others through my experiences at StopWaste.

What’s a practice you live by?
One thing that I have incorporated into my daily routine is the practice of being present and mindful.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Spending time outdoors, whether it's hiking or having picnics, is one of my favorite things to do. I cherish both solo adventures and the chance to explore with my kids to teach them about the natural world around us. It’s important to me that they feel comfortable and brave in any environment, from the city to the wilderness. Guiding them and instilling a sense of adventure, especially out in nature, is something I truly enjoy. Having access to safe and open spaces is a true luxury and I believe providing these opportunities for others is super important.