Glendale's decision to severely restrict the use of its Scholl Canyon landfill may provide the spark to start a trash recycling movement in large parts of the western San Gabriel Valley.
In an effort to prolong the life of its landfill, Glendale decided this month to exclude all but a few neighboring communities from dumping trash at the 430-acre facility.
But as part of the deal, Glendale will require communities that continue using the dump, including Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre, La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose and the unincorporated county areas bordering them, to begin comprehensive waste reduction programs.
"The leverage is the landfill," said George A. Miller, director of public works for Glendale. "If those cities do not reduce their waste, they will not be dumping. . . . Glendale has taken the lead and will set the agenda."
At the top of the agenda is recycling, which could remove as much as 23% of the residential waste now going into Scholl Canyon, according to a recent waste management study.
Miller said Glendale is certain to ask communities to institute voluntary recycling programs and may eventually force mandatory recycling, which would require residents to separate their bottles, cans and papers or face possible criminal prosecution.
Program to Expand
For the past year, Glendale has had a voluntary recycling program involving 1,040 homes, and for the coming year it plans to expand the program to the entire city.
Mandatory recycling may not be far behind, judging from an informal poll of the five-member Glendale City Council.
The council has asked the Public Works Department to study the feasibility of a mandatory program and report back in 12 to 15 months.
But Councilman Carl Raggio said the three-vote majority needed to pass such a plan already exists.
"I don't see anything to stop the city from passing a mandatory recycling ordinance," he said. "The only question left is when."
Councilman Jerold F. Milner added: "Unless there is a significant change in the council, we will have a mandatory program. It's only a matter of time."
If Glendale institutes a mandatory program, it would have a major impact on neighboring communities that dump at Scholl Canyon.
"If we go to mandatory, we would have to request (that) everyone else do the same," said Councilman Larry Zarian. "We have to do something serious. It's not a game anymore."
Glendale's push for recycling stems from a recent waste management study predicting that at the current rate of dumping, Scholl Canyon will be filled to capacity in 10 years. The landfill now takes in about 33,600 tons of garbage a week.
The amount of trash dumped at Scholl Canyon has tripled in the last 10 years, bringing the community to what Miller called "a crisis stage."
To prolong the life of the landfill, the City Council agreed to ban trash from about 45 cities, including Los Angeles, beginning Dec. 28. The ban is expected to extend the life of the landfill to 2012, the report said.
Life to Be Extended
If all the communities that continue to dump in Scholl Canyon institute voluntary recycling programs, the life of the landfill could be extended another year, according to the report.
A mandatory program, however, could extend the life of the landfill by five years beyond 2012 and help reduce waste long after Scholl Canyon is closed.
If implemented, Glendale and its neighbors would be the only communities in the state and among the few in the nation to have mandatory recycling programs.
Other areas include the states of New Jersey and Rhode Island, which enacted statewide mandatory recycling laws this year.
Officials from neighboring communities concede that a mandatory recycling program could spark a public outcry over what Glendale Councilman Milner called the "slightly onerous" intrusion of government.
But officials add that the dwindling amount of landfill space makes mandatory recycling imperative.
"I don't think we have a choice anymore," said Sierra Madre Councilwoman Lisa Fowler. "To not recycle is just burying your head in the sand."
Zarian said he expects the other communities using Scholl Canyon to have little problem starting voluntary recycling programs.
Pasadena, which will be the largest user of Scholl Canyon behind Glendale, unveiled its voluntary recycling program this week.
But the big problem will be trying to get those cities to institute mandatory recycling.
In Glendale's case, Milner and other officials envision a phased-in program that would begin with voluntary recycling and a public education campaign.
Once mandatory recycling began, those who refused to cooperate would first be warned but later might face penalties, he said. Such penalties could include prosecution for a misdemeanor violation or a temporary halt in garbage collection, the waste management report said.
One of the major concerns about mandatory recycling is the difficulty of enforcing it.