L.A.'s trash goal: No waste by 2030
Hoping to make landfills relics of the past, the city of Los Angeles wants all 3,600 tons of trash picked up daily from its residents to be recycled or turned into compost or alternative energy by 2030.
Under the plan, the city could make up to $100million annually by sending the extra tons of garbage to newly created recycling facilities around Los Angeles instead of dumping them in landfills.
Known as the zero-waste plan, it's part of the city's vision to move away from using landfills in urban areas by 2011.
"We will not be using landfills," said Reina Pereira, project manager for the city's Bureau of Sanitation, under the Department of Public Works. "The majority of what we throw out could be a valuable resource."
On Wednesday, the department will host a news conference to discuss its ambitious energy goals, which got under way a year ago with public outreach. Community groups, churches, environmentalists and others, meanwhile, have helped create plans to enable the city to reach zero waste by 2030. Those proposals will be released April 26.
Already Los Angeles residents each day put out 1,000 tons of recyclables by the curb for pickup.
Those bins sit beside another 1,800 tons of leaves, tree branches and yard clippings discarded daily in Los Angeles.
Whatever cannot be further recycled or composted from the department's 750,000 weekly customers could be turned into alternative fuels, such as biodiesel or electricity, said Alex Helou, assistant director for the city's Bureau of Sanitation.
"Instead of just burying it in the ground and creating greenhouse gases, we could use it as a resource to recycle, reuse and convert into a resource that could create clean energy," Helou said.
It's too early to say how much money the city could make from these alternative fuels, but there is definite potential to generate revenue, Pereira said.
Already Long Beach converts garbage into electricity for its residents. And it uses about 100 tons of trash from Los Angeles a day to do it and also charges $42.50 a ton to take its garbage, Helou said.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in May released a plan to cut greenhouse gases in the city by 2020. It calls for the city to wipe out carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 19 million tons - or 35percent below levels measured in 1990.
Today garbage from Los Angeles gets hauled to Calabasas Landfill, Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Sylmar and El Sobrante in Corona.
As it relies less on landfills, the city is considering building recycling facilities in each of its six garbage collection districts in Los Angeles and also adding composting sites.
Taking recycling further, future plans include making manufacturers take ownership of packaging their products, which should include recyclable items, Pereira said.
Stores selling cellular phones also need recycling bins for these gizmos.
"Everybody who lives, works and plays in the city needs to participate and do their share," Pereira said. "Not only making the choices of how they recycle but how they purchase products."