News Flash: Entertainment Companies Produce Trash!

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Have you ever wondered what happens to the waste produced by on-location film productions? We have – and we’ll give you a hint: it rarely finds its way into a landfill. The topic of on-location waste may not seem very alluring, but what productions do with the waste they produce has lately become an issue in the City of Los Angeles.

The fact is that, while the film industry generates its share of trash, it has also been at the forefront of implementing “green” practices such as using bio-fuels, recycling and diverting landfill waste. But now, thanks to a new proposal being considered by the City of Los Angeles, the industry may well be facing the loss of its green autonomy.

At a hearing on February 13, 2012, City’s Board of Public Works passed a proposal to create an exclusive, citywide waste hauling franchise system, sending its proposal to the City Council for committee review. The proposal would break the city of Los Angeles into eleven geographic areas and offer an exclusive, multi-year franchise to one company per area for all private waste removal. Currently, the City provides trash pick-up for single-family homes and small apartment buildings, while multi-tenant complexes and businesses contract with private haulers of their choice to have their garbage collected.

FilmL.A. President Paul Audley testified at the hearing about the proposal’s potential impact on the entertainment industry and requested an exemption for filmed entertainment. His testimony convinced Board President Andrea Alarcon to ask for an analysis of the impact on the entertainment industry; the idea is justified by the industry’s unique needs and current environmental practices, which generally exceed the City’s stated environmental goals.

There are currently a half-dozen small, mostly minority-owned waste haulers that cater exclusively to on-location productions. When a location manager on a film or TV series needs a waste bin, they can call one of these companies to have a bin delivered within an hour. These niche haulers also operate at all hours to pick up bins from neighborhoods so trash doesn’t remain overnight. Most of these industry haulers operate specially-designed collection vehicles, which allow them to navigate narrow hillside neighborhoods with minimal noise and disruption. But perhaps best of all, the niche industry waste haulers are able to achieve 100% landfill diversion — their industry clients require it!

Studio-based productions would be impacted by the adoption of an exclusive franchise as well. The major studios have diverse waste streams: The construction and tear-down of sets leaves wood, glass, metal, plastic and fiber debris, and studios have commissaries with food waste and even hospitals with medical waste. If a production vacates a stage, that stage cannot be reused until all trash is removed. Thus, the studios contract with haulers that can handle sensitive materials and pick up and deliver dozens of bins several times per day. As some studio lots have small streets and alleyways, their haulers have devised special vehicles for these purposes.

It remains uncertain whether the exclusive franchise proposal will go forward and whether the proposal will include exemptions for the film industry. Although such an industry exemption is without precedent in L.A. and other cities, this does not make it unfeasible. FilmL.A., the City of Los Angeles and entertainment representatives are continuing to discuss ways to meet the City’s goals and the needs of the industry. If you have thoughts about this topic, we encourage you to share them in the comments below.

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