Policy Committee‎ > ‎2009 Meetings‎ > ‎

05.11 Approved Minutes







Monday, May 11, 2009, 5:00 P.M.

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall, Room 421

San Francisco, CA 94102



COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Johanna Wald (Chair), Ruth Gravanis (Vice-Chair), Jane MarieFrancis Martin



1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Commission on the Environment Policy Committee Meeting convened at 5:02 p.m. Present: Committee Vice-Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin; Excused Committee Chair Wald.


2.   Approval of Minutes of the April 13, 2009 Policy Committee Regular Meeting. (Discussion and Action) Upon Motion by Commissioner Martin and second by Vice-Chair Gravanis, the April 13, 2009 Meeting Minutes were approved without objection (Absent:  Commissioner Wald) (Explanatory Document: April 13, 2009 Approved Minutes)


3.   Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Commission on matters that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.


4.   Pharmaceutical Waste - Update on Local, State and Federal Efforts around Collection and Legislation. Speaker: Marjaneh Zarrehparvar, Toxics Reduction Coordinator, Department of the Environment (Informational Report and Discussion)


Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that she works on the residential sector of the Department’s Toxic Reduction program and oversees the household hazardous waste facility located on Tunnel Road.  A discussion was held on the history of pharmaceutical collection as to how we got to where we are today, barriers to collection, and efforts underway at the local, state and federal level to overcome these barriers.  It was explained that pharmaceuticals are the most complicated waste stream that we have had to deal with because they are regulated at many different levels with many stakeholders and partners.  A collection program just can’t be started without following or a change in regulations, and the medicines can’t be recycled, can’t go down the drain, and shouldn’t go in the trash.  The only disposable method available at this time so it does not end up in the waste stream is to ship it across the country (Texas) for incineration. Ms. Zarrehparvar explained that there is not a local facility or one in California that provides this service because of regulations that have to be followed in handling controlled substances and funding required for setting up such a facility.    


Ms. Zarrehparvar explained that the advice for many years was to flush the pharmaceuticals down the drain as a poison control measure so that children and animals would not have access. However, doing so became a water quality pollution problem. In approximately 2002, the United States Geological Survey released the results of a study where they tested water bodies across the country for a few years to see if pharmaceuticals and other products were prevalent.  The study showed that pharmaceuticals and other products were prevalent in about 80% of the water bodies that were tested, which means that sewage treatment plants were not set up to extract the substance out of the waste water.  It was explained that the cost of changing infrastructure all around the country is not feasible.  The advice from any agency that had anything to do with water was to put the medicines in the trash, so a water quality pollution problem became a solid waste solution.  As quickly as the solid waste solution was thought of, the solid waste folks, e.g., the garbage haulers, landfill owners, said it can’t be in the trash, bring it to your household hazardous waste facility. Their assumption was that it would produce a toxic material that would still end up in the waterways, and recommended creating a household hazardous waste collection program.


Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that there were two approaches being considered.  One was to protect the environment and try to set up a collection program, and the other was to do something temporarily that would require funding from industry since government did not create the problem and should not have to fund the problem through taxpayer money. It was explained that many facilities that don’t have collection were trying to research ways to accomplish this task, but came across barriers. 




Rules were researched on what was allowable and many barriers to doing collection were discovered.  The four important barriers to setting up collection programs included collection of controlled substances in hazardous waste facilities, establishing program funding, California Pharmacy Board regulations and pharmacy collection, and establishing a retail partnership with Walgreens.


Funding—industry funded or through garbage rates: the City passed an Extended Producer Responsibility Ordinance which states that industry should be responsible for the waste products that they are receiving revenue from, generating, and selling.  Acting Director Assmann is on the board of the California Product Stewardship Council, which exists to make producer responsibility happen.  Pharmaceuticals is an ideal choice for extended producer responsibility because there is no infrastructure in place, and industry won’t fall back on existing programs as they do with existing infrastructure. Efforts were being made for both retailers and manufacturers to take a role in managing pharmaceuticals and providing funding. The result was there was no political will because the pharmaceutical lobby is huge and very powerful and ended up starting pilots to gather data to analyze in a few years, with no mention of funding.  It was explained that there is already existing data as collections have been done for years. 


Assembly Bill 283, which is a producer responsibility bill for solid waste was discussed as a potential solution.  Acting Director Assmann explained that the bill passed the Natural Resources Committee, is in appropriations and put on suspense because there are questions about fiscal impact.  If those questions get resolved, it will go to the full Assembly and information should be available in a couple of weeks.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that there is a lot of support for this bill and explained that the same companies that are in opposition in California and across the country are funding the same type of programs in Canada because it is required.  If this bill passes, it is believed that pharmaceuticals would be on top of the list because there is no infrastructure in place now, there is such a huge demand for it, and it causes a water-quality problem.  If that doesn’t become available, then refuse rate funding could be considered to create a small collection program; however, it may not be possible because of existing barriers to collection of controlled substances.


Controlled substances and hazardous waste facilities—Unlike other products that have many products in a group (batteries, paint) and the same thing can be done with all of them, pharmaceuticals are different. They are broken down into different categories, and every category has a different kind of regulation. The biggest barrier is controlled substances that have street value and are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency at the federal level.  Nobody can be involved unless someone who is registered with Drug Enforcement Agency (law enforcement) can collect controlled substances.  If a guarantee can be made at the hazardous waste facility that controlled substances would not be collected, there could be a program set up, but the list of controlled substances is very long and facilities do not employ pharmacists to identify what is and isn’t a controlled substance. Because of controlled substances, which make up only 3% of the drugs, the program has to be stopped because the garbage company is concerned with liability. It was explained that the police handle disposal by bringing the controlled substances to an incinerator and doing witness burn.  Commissioner Martin inquired whether it could be burned at home.  Ms. Zarrehparvar indicated that a public education program is not available, does not know of a rule against doing so, but would be concerned about the emissions caused.  Acting Director Assmann and Mr. Westlund, Program Outreach Manager, stated that there are restrictions on what can and can’t be burned in your home.  Vice Chair Gravanis inquired whether burning particular substances would be bad for the environment and produce emissions and suggested that it may be necessary to change or create protective laws.


Commissioner Martin inquired how hospitals manage their pharmaceuticals.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that some pharmacies and hospitals do reverse distribution.  The medicines that they haven’t dispensed can be sent back to a reverse distributor and a refund is issued from the manufacturer.  Anyone else cannot do collection and send it to reverse distributors without law enforcement getting involved in the process.  Commissioner Martin suggested creating a collection site in San Francisco. Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that there is one in the Bay Area, but not in San Francisco because of the cost involved for law enforcement, high surveillance, a caged facility, etc. It was explained that this barrier will hopefully be addressed by the Drug Enforcement Agency who is now seeing this issue from an environmental perspective and is now doing large-scale information gathering with all stakeholders on finding collection methods. 


Commissioner Martin inquired whether the police can be a direct receiver of pharmaceuticals.  Ms. Zarrehparvar explained that the Police Department is not willing to do this in San Francisco because of other priorities. Vice Chair Gravanis recommended that a requirement be established through Board of Supervisors legislation.  Ms. Zarrehparvar discussed Supervisor Chiu’s proposed local ordinance that is on hold because the Mayor’s Office has concerns about how it would be handled through the Police Department. Commissioner Gravanis suggested that better oversight could be addressed in legislation and stated that there has to be a way that police could receive the controlled substances and immediately make them un-consumable.  Commissioner Martin recommended a night deposit box located at the Police Department.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that programs do exist in other places such as the one in San Mateo, but law enforcement has to be the one to remove the substance.   


California Pharmacy Board regulations and pharmacy collection.  Ms. Zarreparvar explained that pharmacists would not have this problem because they can identify the substance they can accept by looking at the container, but California has strict rules about what pharmacies can do.  Pharmacies are also strictly regulated and their regulations do not state that they can collect pharmaceuticals from the public.  The California Pharmacy Board has interpreted that they cannot collect pharmaceuticals.  But after many years of being involved with this issue, they also want to help find a solution.  There is a bill going to the legislature that will allow collection to occur at pharmacies.  However, even if it passes, it does not mean that they will do collection because participation would be voluntary.  The bill also does not discuss funding, but at least discussions can be held around how it would be done.


Retail partnership – Walgreens.  Ms. Zarrehparvar explained that Walgreens has partnered with the Department on many programs and meetings were held with the Department on various solutions; however Walgreens will not respond to this discussion because they are upset with Department programs, e.g. plastic bag ordinance, cigarette ban.  Commissioner Martin recommended approaching other chains such as Rite-Aid.  Ms. Zarrehparvar explained that Rite-Aid was purchased by Walgreens.  It was reported that the Mayor’s Office is working with hospitals to request participation by Walgreens, which may be feasible as hospitals would like to have a green initiative.  The funding would then be decided upon by hospitals and Walgreens. Commissioner Martin stated that Walgreens would be more inclined to participate if a positive side to their involvement could be identified.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that it would bring people into the store that would be inclined to make purchases. 


Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that if industry were willing to fund programs, pharmacy collection and incineration would be implemented. It was explained that another barrier is who is allowed to transport the medicine.  Right now there is resistance to anyone being able to transport it.  The medical waste community wants only hazardous or medical waste haulers to transport it which increases the cost of hauling.


Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that the barriers are being worked on now, but it is a slow process.  There are two options right now for medicine disposal in San Francisco, one is Pharmaca located in Cole Valley who is accepting medicines and funding the collection themselves. The second option is a pilot program that is being worked on through refuse rate funding to implement a pre-paid mailing program to send medicines for incineration in Texas. The Drug Enforcement Agency has allowed the U.S. Postal Service to take unmarked envelopes through the mail.  The rules state that it has to be under a certain volume.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that 1000 mailers were purchased and an effort is being made to reduce cost by having people pour the medicines out of their original containers into the envelope.  The facility that does the incineration will issue a report on how many they got back, what the weight was, and determine what percentage of response was received.  Commissioner Martin inquired whether people could use their own mailer and send it to the same address.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that they could but it wouldn’t be prepaid and would not include all the rules and guidelines of how it should be sealed and handled.  Acting Director Assmann stated that if mailers were shipped randomly, there would not be a tracking mechanism.  


Vice Chair Gravanis recommended ensuring that the envelope is not made of a material that would complicate the air pollution problem, such as plastic bubble wrap.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that people are being asked to take it out of the container and recycle the container.  It was explained that the process is regulated by air agencies in the state and is legal.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that source reduction was considered but not feasible or difficult to do.  Vice Chair Gravanis recommended reexamining the validity of expiration dates and establishing a public education program about what it means.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that agencies are working on that process and suggested that less should be prescribed.  It was explained that there are limited reuse opportunities because of the risks of giving medicine from one person to another, but whenever possible, reuse programs should be considered.  Vice Chair Gravanis recommended influencing the reuse of non-prescription medication.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that this can be done on an individual basis.


Vice Chair Gravanis requested the address of the incinerator and asked whether a person can find online what all of the restrictions are. Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that it is not public information because it is a pilot program with a private incinerator.  Commissioner Martin recommended that the incinerator be asked if they would be willing to independently start a program for the public. It was also recommended that the envelope should be something other than plastic bubble wrap in order to reduce possible emissions.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that the envelope has to be leak proof.  Vice Chair Gravanis recommended using a bubble-wrap envelope for liquids, if necessary, and another without bubble wrap for non-liquids. 


Commissioner Martin recommended working on a program with the new Police Chief when he/she is hired. Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that the Mayor’s Office would be a better conduit on this effort.  Vice Chair Gravanis recommended that the public making the deposit of medicines pulverize the pills and mix them up first so they would not have a street value that would lead to temptation.  Commissioner Martin asked if the public could take back their pharmaceuticals to a city facility, such as General Hospital who is connected with the Drug Enforcement Agency.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that they cannot take controlled substances back. 


Ms. Zarrehparvar explained that a program has to include all or nothing because you can’t tell the public to differentiate. Commissioner Martin recommended creating a list of controlled substances, and the public should know if they have it or that a labeling mechanism be created.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that the current solution is to send it to Pharmaca or call the household hazardous waste program or the garbage company who will send you to the hazardous waste program who will have a list of options and will refer the caller to the mailer option.  Candidates for mailers would be the elderly or disabled.


Commissioner Martin asked if putting the pharmaceuticals in concrete is an option.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that there are waste products that do go in concrete and could be an option to consider.  Commissioner Martin inquired why other countries are able to implement a program and it can’t be applied here.  Ms. Zarrehparvar stated that the issue is with the Drug Enforcement Agency in this jurisdiction and funding, as the programs that exist are funded by industry.  Commissioner Martin inquired whether there are products banned because they are more hazardous to the waste stream.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that there are products that have been banned in commerce because of their toxicity.  Ms. Julia Au, Intern, Department of the Environment, reported on Europe’s efforts to study toxicity, and stated that studies will take a long time because it is important to do them on more than one drug that is found in the water.


Commissioner Martin asked what the Department is doing to address pharmaceuticals that are going through our water treatment plant.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) oversees water quality and indicated that there is no prohibition for putting pharmaceuticals in the waste stream—there is no ban.  Commissioner Martin recommended helping the PUC in recognizing that there is a significant problem that exists that is not being addressed.  Acting Director Assmann reported that pharmaceuticals were found in virtually every river and stream that had been tested.  Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that it would require a change in infrastructure.  Commissioner Martin asked that the Policy Committee hold a discussion with the PUC on where they are on the problem with the pharmaceuticals that are passing through our body and going out in the waste stream.  Commissioner Martin stated that in order to know how to address the problem, the next step should be to do a specific study on our waterway.


Vice-Chair Gravanis asked that the Commission be updated on bills as they go through and anything the Commission can do on a state or local level, such as support Supervisor Chiu’s legislation.  Ms. Zarrehparvar indicated that any breakthroughs would be brought back to the Commission for discussion, especially if funding is received through the Extended Producer Responsibility legislation. 


5.   Discussion of Ways to Increase Public Involvement in Commission Meetings. Speaker: Mark Westlund, Public Outreach Program Manager, Department of the Environment (Discussion)


Mr. Westlund stated that the most critical component of increasing public involvement in Commission meetings would be to select issues that the public may want to engage in.  Several issues that brought about a considerable amount of participation included the plastic bag ban, precautionary principle, feral cats, etc.  It was explained that the public is more likely to participate in action items as opposed to presentations.  Commissioner Martin recommended that there be a focus on selecting agenda items that would be relevant to environmental organizations and or the public and to make sure that those people are aware that the issue is being discussed through outreach.  Acting Director Assmann recommended soliciting feedback from environmental organizations to find out what they are interested in and then bring the issues forward. Many issues that are of interest to large non-profits would be of interest to other people. 


Commissioner Martin recommended agenda setting in advance for a half to full year to assist in the outreach component.  Vice-Chair Gravanis reported that some Commissions actually add future agenda items to their agendas. It was suggested that environmental organizations and the public could be invited to provide input into agenda setting.  Acting Director Assmann recommended creating a short written questionnaire to send to the ten largest environmental groups in San Francisco asking what they feel are the four most important issues that the Commission on the Environment should consider.  Commissioner Gravanis recommended adding information as to the Commission’s purview, constraints, and opportunities so that the group may know what is available to them to advance their particular issue or goal. Commissioner Martin recommended adding examples of what the Commission has been involved with.  Acting Director Assmann reported that the Commission could assist in bringing issues forward to the Board of Supervisors for those groups that are not able to do it directly. Acting Director Assmann recommended including case studies of what the Commission has done that has had an impact, explain how the Commission operates, ask what type of issues they would be interested in, and explain how they could benefit from the process. 


Vice-Chair Gravanis requested that the Commission’s website link appear on the front page of the Department’s website because where it is now (in the Policy heading) is not intuitive.  Mr. Westlund reported that the website is being redone and these changes would be made.  Commissioner Martin recommended adding a site map view of the website.  Vice-Chair Gravanis stated that some issues don’t draw a large crowd, but there should be more people attending meetings.  Commissioner Martin stated that the goal would be for people to participate and propose alternatives and asked if there was another way for the public to provide input without physically attending the meeting, barring broadcasting.  Commissioner Gravanis stated that some Commissions are able to solicit input on their own website, e.g. the agenda provides a link to where comments can be submitted.  Ms. Fish explained that each agenda states that people who cannot attend a meeting can submit their comments to the Commission Secretary. It was asked that this explanation be highlighted on the agenda.


Ms. Fish recommended that the environmental studies departments of universities be contacted to see if they are interested in receiving agendas so that students can attend meetings.  Ms. Fish reported that agendas are posted at the library, on the Department’s website, in front of the meeting room where the meeting is held, and emailed to a subscriber mailing list which consists of approximately 100 people.  Vice Chair Gravanis stated that consideration should be given on how to expand the agenda mailing list. Commissioner Martin stated that people that are going into the environmental field could be attending meetings and suggested issuing invitations to not only universities but to high schools as well.  Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended that universities post an agenda on their bulletin board and to include an agenda reference that would lead people to send an email to the Commission Secretary if they would like to be placed on the agenda list.


Vice Chair Gravanis recommended more broadly publicizing the website so that agendas can be accessed more readily. Commissioner Martin asked that the Commission’s agenda and minutes website link be immediately added to the main page of the Department’s website.  Ms. Zarrehparvar discussed the possibility of a facebook page that would list upcoming events.  Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended including upcoming meetings and topics in the Department’s newsletter that has a large number of subscribers.   Commissioner Martin recommended that staff draft a questionnaire or letter for the full Commission’s review and include a list of organizations to send it to. Mr. Westlund agreed to prepare a draft questionnaire for review at the May 26 Commission meeting.  


6.   Outreach Campaign for Toxics Reduction and Zero Waste Programs.  Speaker:  Mark Westlund, Public Outreach Program Manager, Department of the Environment (Informational Report and Discussion).  Mr. Westlund reported on the press conference tomorrow, May 12, at 10:30 a.m. to be held at the Norcal Facility at 500 Tunnel Road to announce the new recycling rate.  Mr. Westlund reported that there would be a recycling campaign in about a month in conjunction with Norcal called “Recycling Changes Everything.”  The campaign would target people that could be participants in recycling programs but have not made that move yet.  A focus will be on outreach to add composting programs to apartment buildings that have recycling, but not composting.   A component of that program will include advertising that focuses on real San Franciscans.  People would be asked to send in their recycling stories and there will be a corresponding website where people can add their stories (a social network site).  Media will be done online and via pizza boxes and food containers that will include a green cart message.


Mr. Westlund discussed the Toxics Reduction program called “People in Transition” that would focus on people that are moving, graduating, or changing their life in some way and would have the most need for information on how to dispose of household hazardous waste.  Vice-Chair Gravanis recommended making it as easy as possible for seniors. Ms. Zarrehparvar reported that there was a a green home collection program in the San Francisco Sunset District and the volume was tremendous.


7.Announcements. (Discussion)  Commissioner Martin reported on her participation and the success of “Sunday Streets.”  Commissioner Martin asked if the Department promotes the event.  Acting Director Assmann reported that Department staff volunteers at the event and promotes it.  Vice-Chair Gravanis reported on her attendance at the Earth Day event at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area where the Sierra Club, Literacy for Environmental Justice, and other groups held a restoration work party that included weeding, planting, bird walks, and a barbecue.  Vice Chair Gravanis and Commissioner Martin also reported on their attendance at the Earth Day breakfast.  Vice-Chair Gravanis discussed her Channel 2 footage of the Fiesta flower at Yerba Buena Island and stated that she had hoped to promote participation in the Yerba Buena Island Habitat Management Plan, but the footage was not included.


8.   New Business/Future Agenda Items. (Discussion)  A discussion was held about selection of a software program to use for the Policy Committee’s Future Agenda checklist.  Ms. Fish presented an Access version that she had created and a discussion was held on the attributes of this program versus other programs that could be used to accomplish this effort, e.g., Word, Excel, and Google Docs.  Committee members were asked to provide their suggestions for fields to include in the checklist.


Future agenda items discussed included (1) Hunters Point Shipyard Candlestick Point Plan presentation at the June or July meeting that would be confirmed; (2) setting future agenda topics (JM); (3) Urban Accords website update (RG); (4) citywide Bike Plan (JM); (5) Recreation and Open Space Element (JM); Green Cities Best Practices Website after completion in July (full Commission meeting in July) (DA). Vice Chair Gravanis suggested inviting representatives from the Bicycle Advisory Committee and Bike Coalition to attend a Bike Plan presentation. Acting Director Assmann reported that the Commission at the May 26 meeting would be hearing a presentation on ocean projects applications at the Farallones refuge that were rejected because regulations were changed and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is no longer permitting. It was also announced that Commissioner Mok would be returning to the Commission.


Vice-Chair Gravanis reported that she met with Ms. Rosenmoss, Department of the Environment Grants Manager, on the idea of securing a grant to hire consultants to work on the Wildlife Plan, but the prospect fell through because of the current state of the economy.  Vice-Chair Gravanis would consult again with Ms. Rosenmoss on leads for potential funding sources.  Acting Director Assmann reported that the Department is working jointly with the Planning Department to update the Climate Action Plan. It was also reported that a meeting was held with the Planning Department to discuss creating a revised scope and research alternative funding for the Urban Forest Plan. Vice Chair Gravanis asked that the Committee be given an opportunity to provide input into the revised scope and recommended that there be focus on maintenance of street trees and that the focus be expanded once funding is available. Acting Director Assmann reported that the Audubon Society is in the process of collecting data for the Lights Out project, and that data would be collected in conjunction with the migration pattern of birds.


9.Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.


10.  Adjournment.  The Policy Committee meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m.


Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709; FAX: (415) 554-6393


** Copies of explanatory documents are available at (1) the Commission’s office, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., (2) on the Committee meeting website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/policy-committee with each agenda or meeting minutes, or (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709 or via e-mail at [email protected].


Approved:  June 8, 2009






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