Five years ago, recycling trash was hailed as an idea whose time had come.
Today, environmentalists, sanitary engineers, politicians, business managers and homeowners agree that recycling is here to stay--a trend riding on an ever-rising crest of public awareness and participation.
"There's been recycling ever since the Bronze Age," said Mark Ringelberg, a spokesman for Westside Recycling of Glendale, a veteran trash management firm. "Now, its a nonstop industry."
In the past six months, recycling appears to have caught on in the foothill communities of Glendale and northeast Los Angeles, Ringelberg and others said.
Business at Westside Recycling has doubled, said Ringelberg--twice the statewide increase in the volume of recycled beverage containers.
The first fiscal year of a city-sponsored curbside recycling program in Glendale ended in June with more than double the amount of contributions expected in the most conservative projections.
A pilot recycling program in neighborhoods of northeast Los Angeles will be greatly expanded starting next month because of the success of the program there, Los Angeles officials said.
Even big business has hopped on the bandwagon. "Everywhere we go, we get stampeded by people wanting to assist" in company recycling programs, said Kym Murphy, corporate vice president of environmental policy for the Walt Disney Co. of Burbank, which has 50,000 employees nationwide. "We're just getting started."
Eyeing a steady stream of drivers pulling to the curb of Westside Recycling to drop off bags of reusable cans, glass, plastic bottles and newspapers, Ringelberg said business has never been better. "We get movie stars to street people and everyone in between," he said.
The increase is partly attributed to a state law that went into effect in January, boosting the refund value of recyclable bottles and cans from a penny per container to a nickel for two containers. The public conscience also has been tweaked by a $4-million statewide campaign and widespread media focus in April on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, officials said.
"We have a crisis going on in the state with the number of landfills slated to close by the end of the century," said Ralph Chandler, who oversees recycling operations for the state Department of Conservation. He has called for "an aggressive stand" to divert the amount of trash and to extend the life of existing landfills.
Industry officials said Glendale is a leader in taking that stand. The city has launched one of the most aggressive programs for curbside recycling in the state and has pressured neighboring foothill communities to follow suit.
More than 4,000 tons of trash were diverted from Glendale's sole landfill--Scholl Canyon--in the past year because of a citywide curbside recycling program, said Steve Zurn, a city administrative analyst. That's more than twice the figure projected by city and county engineers before the program began in December, 1988.
At Glendale's request, neighboring communities such as La Crescenta, Montrose and Pasadena also have started curbside recycling programs to reduce the amount of refuse dumped at Scholl Canyon in an effort to extend the life of the landfill. Results have not yet been tabulated, Zurn said.
Scholl Canyon in April became the first landfill in the state authorized to use "green waste"--grass clippings and other landscape materials--to cover layers of trash at the city's landfill, Zurn said. The compost will speed decomposition of trash in the landfill and compact the amount of space required for disposal of landscaping materials--the most voluminous residential waste.
In northeast Los Angeles, a city-sponsored recycling program started a year ago for 15,000 families will soon be expanded to another 24,000 homes in Los Feliz, Atwater, Silver Lake, Glassell Park, Echo Park, Highland Park, Mt. Washington and other areas, said Angela Franklin of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.
About 40% of the residents in those areas participated in a pilot program for the past year, she said, contrasted with about 50% citywide. Participation in city-sponsored curbside recycling on the Westside was about 60%, Franklin said, while participation in a pilot program in the San Fernando Valley was 25%.
Zurn said 40% of single-family residents in Glendale are now participating in the curbside recycling program--double the amount originally anticipated. The city is the first in the state to expand the program not only to single-family homes, but to apartment and condominium residents, Zurn said.
Residents at two-, three- and four-unit apartments can now recycle trash, as well as those at 136 buildings in the city with five or more units, Zurn said. The city's goal is to extend recycling soon to all of the 1,813 multifamily buildings in the city, Zurn said.