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Aimed at Conserving Scarce Landfill Space : City Launches Voluntary Recycling Plan

December 08, 1988|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

Balloons and a marching band marked the beginning this week of Glendale's voluntary citywide recycling program--the largest in Southern California--despite a glitch that left dozens of barrels of tin and aluminium cans sitting uncollected at curb sides.

Glendale city officials said about 20% of the residents in La Crescenta participated Monday in the first day of voluntary collections by contributing cans, glass containers and newspapers.

The goal of the program is to reduce the amount of trash that is dumped at Scholl Canyon Landfill, Glendale's only municipal dump. Without recycling, Scholl could reach capacity within 15 years, said George A. Miller, director of public works. An estimated 10% to 20% of household trash is composed of reusable materials, he said.

Snafu at the Outset

The city marked the event with a celebration brunch for about 100 officials, dignitaries and other guests Monday at the Clark Community Center in La Crescenta.

Despite months of preparation, the recycling program ran into a snafu when one collection worker, who apparently misunderstood the city's directions, passed up barrels that contained both aluminium and tin cans. The worker mistakenly believed the two types of cans had to be separated before pickup, city officials said Tuesday.

Miffed participants in the program complained to city officials, who quickly dispatched drivers in city pickup trucks to retrace the route and gather cans from barrels that had not been emptied, said William Gibson, a sanitation supervisor.

"As can be expected on the first day of any program, there were glitches," Gibson said. "It was very disquieting for people who had gone through the effort to participate. We tried to get back to them as soon as possible," he added. "People can lose interest real quick."

7 Tons of Waste Collected

The first day netted 7.35 tons of reusable household waste, including 800 pounds of cans, 7,000 pounds of glass and 6,900 pounds of newspaper, said Jim Kuhl, city recycling coordinator.

The newspaper collected during the first day alone was enough to save 60 trees from being chopped down, said Ron Schweitzer, general manager of CR & R Recycling, an Orange County contractor that is providing the collection service.

The trucks will travel various routes throughout all residential areas on the usual trash-collection days.

The program is the first of two phases aimed at providing collection of recyclable items throughout the city. The first phase offers curb-side pickup every two weeks for all of the city's 28,000 single-family residences, Kuhl said. City officials hope to expand the service to multiple-family residences within a year.

A pilot program was initiated by the city 2 years ago involving 1,000 households in the northwest area of Glendale. About 25% of the families there have participated, making it a success, city officials said.

The city expects to pay $196,000 for collection costs for the recycling program during the first year, but will save $102,000 in the operation of its traditional refuse service, Kuhl said. "That does not include the savings we can realize by extending the life of Scholl Canyon, which are immeasurable," he said.

The city has bought four trucks especially equipped for the recycling pickup service with beds divided for separate collection of cans, glass and newspapers. The trucks are operated by employees of CR & R, which sells the material to recycling specialty firms, said the company's Schweitzer.

Glendale has joined hundreds of cities nationwide seeking alternatives to get rid of trash that is rapidly depleting landfills, Schweitzer said. "All cities seem to be interested."

He said the increasing popularity of recycling has created a new obstacle--that of finding a market for the materials collected. "There is a fixed demand for the commodities, and that is a very major concern to us." The price paid by recycling firms for newspapers, for instance, has dropped dramatically within the last year, he said.

Decreased revenues for newsprint as a result of the glut on the market forced a group of Woodland Hills residents in the San Fernando Valley last week to abandon an energetic private recycling project in a hilly area of 10,000 homes. The price paid for newsprint in that project dropped from $80 a ton when the program began last February to $10 a ton.

Glendale is protected from price fluctuations during the first year of its program because an agreement with the contractor provides that the city receive a flat $25 a ton for recyclables, Kuhl said. However, the program could be affected in the future, he said.

Schweitzer said that in some areas of the country--New York, for example--cities and companies are forced to pay collectors to haul away used paper. "Every city uses a vast amount of paper and should be using nothing but recycled paper," Schweitzer said.

Glendale has been using recycled paper for several years, officials said.

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