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The Trash-Weary Take to Recycling : Thousands Pitch In to Salvage Reusables

November 01, 1990|SUSAN GEMBROWSKI

Mark Beckett always cared about the environment, even though he and his family filled up trash cans at about the same rate as other folks. They recycled newspapers, but not much else.

When Solana Recyclers began curbside collection in their neighborhood, though, the Becketts began acting in earnest. In the last year, they have cut their landfill trash output in half. They recycle glass, plastics, aluminum and other reusable materials though curbside pickup and biweekly visits to a Solana Recyclers collection site in Encinitas.

Beckett, who recently began volunteering at the "I Love a Clean San Diego" recycling hot line, says he now believes the most important thing individuals can do for the environment is recycle their own garbage.

"Only one person is going to fix it, and that's each one of us," he said.

The Becketts are among a growing number of North County families who are actively recycling. Approximately 120,000 households in North County now participate in curbside programs to recycle more than 5,400 tons of trash monthly.

That's trash no longer headed for the San Marcos landfill, which is almost full.

All North County cities have recycling programs, many begun only this year. Recycling is an idea whose time seems finally to have come: it is being mandated by state and local governments and it has struck an emotional chord with an increasingly trash-weary population.

"Public acceptance of recycling was 15% in the '70s, 30% in the '80s and is 80% in the '90s--the decade of the environment," said Richard Anthony, principal solid waste manager for the county.

Anthony said one reason for the change in attitude: the realization that the San Marcos landfill was reaching capacity eight years before predicted.

The trash dump, which was opened in 1979 and initially was expected to last until 1999, is expected to be at capacity by next summer unless a controversial plan to expand it is approved. A related proposal to build a trash-burning energy plant has been stalled for years.

Meanwhile, as county officials look for sites for new landfills--and meet with cries of outrage from potential new neighbors when they think they've found one--the urgency of producing less trash in underscored.

A resurgence of interest in recycling began in 1987, according to Anthony. Three years ago, the County Board of Supervisors mandated a 30% reduction of landfill waste by 1992. In 1988, the supervisors approved a countywide recycling plan that estimated 1.8-million tons of trash could be recycled annually.

Then last year, state legislators passed a bill requiring every city and county to reduce landfill trash by 25% in 1995 and by 50% in the year 2000.

Most of the recycling programs in North County are city-operated in conjunction with trash collection. The exceptions are the nonprofit Solana Recyclers, which services Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas, and the city of Poway, which is served through a program operated by Poway High School's Emerald Brigade Marching Band.

Here's what North County communities are doing to reduce their contribution to the trash pile:

CARLSBAD Curbside recycling currently serves 40% of the 26,492 households in Carlsbad, according to Luci Romero, city senior management analyst. Two containers were provided for each home in a phase-in program which covered a three-month period from June to August.

Coast Waste Management collects newspapers, glass, tin, aluminum and plastic, mainly food and beverage containers, which generate approximately 20 tons of recyclables per month, Romero said. Residents are billed $1 per month for the weekly service.

The program has a 78% monthly participation rate, according to San Diego County statistics. Expansion of the program to multifamily units, including condominiums, townhouses and apartment buildings, and to area businesses is in the planning stages, with implementation scheduled to occur by January, 1991, Romero said.

DEL MAR Solana Recyclers provides curbside recycling citywide to 2,289 of the 2,648 total housing units, including single- and multifamily homes, for a total of 86% served.

The program, which began in 1987, generates 33 tons of recyclables per month including aluminum, glass, newspaper and plastic.

Charge for the biweekly service is 55 cents per month. Monthly participation rate is 61%, according to Robert Haley, yard manager for Solana Recyclers.

Approximately 25 Del Mar businesses participate in an organized recycling program, according to Jack Taylor, commercial and institution recycling manager for Solana Recyclers. A recycling program at Del Mar City Hall generates 300 pounds of white paper, aluminum cans and newspaper each month, Taylor said.

ENCINITAS Solana Recyclers has operated a citywide curbside program since October, 1987, which currently serves 15,639 of the 20,925 households or 89%. The program generates 298 tons of newspaper, glass, aluminum and plastic per month from single- and multifamily homes.

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