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A CLOSER LOOK

Business Trends : What's chartreuse, yellow and green and curbs waste? : Answer: Irvine's Color-Coordinated Trash Recycling Program

November 12, 1987|MARIA L. La GANGA | Times Staff Writer

Irvine has redefined rubbish, turning trash collection into an exercise in economics and learning along the way that "As ye throw so shall ye reap."

From Woodbridge to University Park, Turtle Rock to College Colony, 7,500 selected households have spent the last two months practicing designer dumping by grouping their recyclable garbage into color-coordinated containers.

Yes, this outpost of order has brought tony trash to Orange County, with a pilot recycling program that local officials hope will ease their landfill problems and eventually contribute to city coffers at the same time.

The system is simple: Early in September, Dewey's Rubbish Service distributed a set of sturdy plastic bins to residents participating in the pilot program--yellow for glass, chartreuse for cans and green for newspapers.

Then came the public relations campaign, complete with "Recycle America" brochures and full-page newspaper ads to persuade Irvine residents not to waste their waste.

And finally on Sept. 14 the chartreuse, green and white Recycle America truck--painted to match the recycling bins--began trundling through the streets of Irvine behind the garden-variety garbage trucks, picking up recyclables.

In the first eight weeks alone, the program picked up 280 tons of reusable refuse: 255 tons of newspapers, 9 tons of aluminum and tin cans and 16 tons of glass.

"It's gone like great guns," said Joe Urban, operations manager at Dewey's. "That's 34 truckloads saved from going to the dump."

Irvine Mayor Larry Agran said that household participation in the program has averaged 44%, leaping to 50% in some of the city's neatest neighborhoods. And he called participants true "urban pioneers more effectively trying to manage our limited natural resources."

With 44% of the 7,500 households participating, the recyclables collected by Dewey's truck average 170 pounds of cans, bottles and newspapers per household, or about 21 pounds per participating home each week.

Agran said the recycling program should go citywide in the first quarter of 1988, allowing the rest of Irvine's residents to join their pioneering neighbors in managing the city's waste.

The program coincides with a new state recycling law mandating the payment of a penny for every bottle or can taken to recycling centers by consumers. The law took effect on Oct. 1.

Irvine's program is the only full-service, curbside recycling effort in Orange County, according to local government officials and disposal companies. It was modeled after a similar project started about a year ago in San Jose.

The truck and bins alone cost about $175,000, according to one Dewey's official, who said he did not know what the program's operating costs will be. The city is charging all households 60 cents per month for the program--including the 16,500 that are not yet participating.

Although Urban said the recycling effort has yet to operate in the black, it is potentially a great deal for the city and the trash company, which will split profits.

But why would the citizenry pay to have their recyclables hauled away when they could take their trash to recycling centers themselves and keep the money their waste brings in?

Convenience.

"How many people really are going to get in their cars and cart papers down to a recycling center?" asked Curt Pelley, who lives in Irvine's Woodbridge neighborhood and regularly recycles his newspapers through the new program. "It's a little bit of a pain . . . but conceptually I have to support it, which is why we do it."

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