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Cities Pitch Into Recycling in an Effort to Ease Landfill Crisis

March 19, 1989|CRAIG QUINTANA | Times Staff Writer

Every week, an elderly Duarte widow hauls recycling crates full of cans, bottles and newspapers to the curb for collection. Usually, she looks for help. If no one's available, she does it herself. But she doesn't mind.

"I think it's a noble venture, but we're a little late in the game," she said, assessing the curbside recycling program Duarte started in May. "With the landfills filling up and the way things are these days, it's taken too long for us to get going."

About 2,650 Participants

Once a week, the woman, who asked that her name not be published, and an estimated 2,650 other Duarte residents participate in one of six such voluntary programs operating in the San Gabriel Valley. With a crisis in waste disposal expected by 1992, a growing number of cities are turning to recycling to reduce the amount of refuse and to keep disposal rates from skyrocketing.

The San Gabriel Valley, county officials and disposal companies said, has more curbside recycling programs in place or in the planning stage than any other area of the county.

Duarte, Arcadia, Claremont, Diamond Bar, La Verne and Walnut have programs and Pasadena is experimenting with a pilot project. Other cities are expected to adopt programs within a year. Outside the San Gabriel Valley, seven cities in the county have adopted curbside programs.

Recycling awareness may be heightened in the San Gabriel Valley because of three local landfills fast approaching their capacities.

"It's really a hot topic out here because of the landfill closures," said Jennifer Kellogg , recycling coordinator for Websters Disposal, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., the nation's largest disposal company. The company operates programs in Diamond Bar, La Verne and Walnut.

"When you have a landfill in your back yard, you're looking for ways to keep it going or ways to keep it from expanding. People out here are really keyed into the issue."

The BKK Landfill in West Covina is expected to close as early as 1992, and--under an agreement with the city--must cease all dumping operations by 1995. Spadra Landfill near Pomona will reach the capacity permitted by the county sometime before the year 2000, according to county officials. Puente Hills, the area's largest landfill, will reach its permitted capacity in 1993.

In addition, the Azusa Land Reclamation Co., which was slated to reach capacity at its landfill before 1991, received approval late last year for an 80-acre expansion. The Main San Gabriel Valley Watermaster, a local water conservation board worried about possible ground-water contamination, fought the expansion and has an appeal pending with the state.

Recycling Eases Burden

The county's landfill system is expected to reach its capacity in 1992 unless recycling and alternate disposal methods are developed to slow the process, according to Bill George, recycling coordinator for Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. Currently, 45,000 tons are dumped each day, and the amount is expected to reach 60,000 tons within three years, George said.

"We will reach a point in 1992, when there will be more refuse put out than can be buried in a day," he said.

The public and some city governments have staunchly opposed waste-to-energy plants primarily over pollution concerns, making recycling one of the best alternatives for extending the life of county landfills, George said.

In April, 1987, the developers of a large waste-to-energy plant in Irwindale withdrew their proposal after facing stiff opposition from residents, a coalition of seven San Gabriel Valley cities and Miller Brewing Inc., which operates a brewery near the proposed site. The state Energy Commission, which had been in the process of reviewing the project, subsequently voted to kill the proposal.

'Readily Recyclable'

While no panacea, recycling "can make a big difference," George said. Each day, about 20% of normal household garbage is "readily recyclable" material suitable for curbside pickup, George said.

Aside from the county landfill problem, Pasadena, San Marino and South Pasadena are facing pressure to decrease the amount of refuse they generate because of restrictions Glendale has imposed on users of its Scholl Canyon landfill. In hopes of extending the landfill's life, Glendale officials have given an ultimatum to landfill customers to reduce their total waste output by 5% starting in 1990.

In its most popular form, curbside recycling generally involves residents of single-family households separating their newspapers, glass and metal cans from their normal rubbish. Participation in all San Gabriel Valley programs is voluntary, although each city adds the cost of the program, usually about $1, to the trash bills of all residents.

Profits from the sale of recycled products are most often returned to the residents in lower trash bills or rebates, but the returns have generally fallen short of paying for the costs.

"There is no ideal program," said George, in assessing the various programs in the San Gabriel Valley.

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