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EARTHWATCH

The Day After : Old mattresses and appliances and even the dried-out Christmas tree can be recycled.

December 26, 1991|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

'Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house . . . there is more stuff than you know what to do with.

There's a new bed for the kids. But what to do with the old one? Maybe there's a new washing machine, "a gift from Santa to the family." But what about the old one? And then there's the Christmas tree. Where's it going when it's dried out?

It's time to think recycling. Don't just wait until the last minute and put a big mess on the curb for the trash collector.

You can recycle more than you know--if you think a minute and make a phone call or two.

Ventura County is lucky in having facilities for recycling almost everything. And if you have something exotic--such as the shed full of plastic gardening pots the former owner of my house left me--there are recycling hot lines to call for advice.

The pots, by the way, ended up at a nearby plant nursery that was delighted to have them. I had called the Ventura Regional Sanitation District and asked for advice.

Kitty Dill and her colleagues at the district are wise in the ways of waste.

"These things are valuable and should be treated as such," she said. "We get a lot of calls from people at holidays and other times when families gather. Sometimes they are clearing out the garage. They don't know what to do with a lot of the stuff in there. They should call us."

One of the items to which she'll probably refer you is a sensible compendium called "21 Tips You Can Use to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle at Home."

Which is another way of saying there are things you shouldn't toss out at all. Reuse them in new ways.

But if you think that the item might be enjoyed by someone else, there is another county-published guide I mentioned last summer, listing thrift shops in every community and the type of goods they're looking for.

Dill's colleague Mike Ewens got me thinking about the "industrial" aspect of recycling.

It's not just the bottles and cans that are going back into the manufacturing mainstream these days.

"I move mattresses out of my recycling center a hundred at a time. They're taken to Corona and elsewhere and reconstructed for resale."

He went on to tell tales of such humble things as ceramic toilets collected during Ventura City's low-flush campaign being crushed and used for paving.

"They settle down better than rock," he said, referring to the smoothness of the paving surface that results.

Tires are a topic of interest to Graeham Watts, Thousand Oaks recycling staffer.

"We used 177,000 old tires--ground up and mixed with asphalt--to resurface local roads. The state of California gave us an award for this last month."

The industrial demand for used tires is so robust that early next year, Thousand Oaks will start a special pickup service for this type of recyclable.

"White goods (old appliances) will also be included because our haulers have found markets for them," Watts said.

The reuse of materials that used to go into the landfill has grown so much that the guides to products made of recyclables are now coming out annually.

If you've heard rumors that there's a glut of recycled items, ignore that. Keep on separating your trash and recycling.

One thing you're doing is making "post-consumer" commodities such as paper and metal so inexpensive that manufacturers can afford to switch from virgin material. Thus we save the forest.

Dill told me: "Last year, if you asked a printer to fill your order using recycled paper, it was a problem. This year, they're saying, 'OK, we've got it.' "

For a fascinating catalogue of what's being done in our state with recycled material, get the "Shopper's Guide to Recycled Products."

Another eye-opener is a new Ballantine paperback that just arrived in local bookstores--"Shopping for a Better World--A Quick and Easy Guide to Supermarket Shopping."

It gets into specifics about which products are really made with the stuff you're recycling and which only put in a little so they can advertise it as "recycled."

If we shop cleverly, we can encourage more manufacturers to utilize the things we're going to be recycling this day after Christmas.

A DAY-AFTER-CHRISTMAS RECYCLING GUIDE

Tree recycling: Camarillo, 388-5380; Channel Islands Beach, 985-6021; Fillmore, 524-3701; Moorpark, 529-6864; Ojai, 646-5581 or 654-3935; Oxnard, 984-4700; Port Hueneme, 986-6507; Santa Paula, 933-4213; Simi Valley, 583-6753; Thousand Oaks, 496-8679; Ventura, 650-0884.

Appliances: functioning, 654-2889, ask for "Ventura County Thrift Store Directory," some have free pickup; non-functioning, Oxnard Metals Co., 483-0512.

Mattresses: drop off at Santa Clara Recycling Center, 4105 W. Gonzales Road, Oxnard.

Recycling hot lines: Ventura Regional Sanitation District, 658-4630; Ventura County Solid Waste Management Department, 654-2889.

Reference guides to recycled products in everyday use: "Shopper's Guide to Recycled Products" published by Californians Against Waste, (916) 443-8317; "Shopping for a Better World--A Quick and Easy Supermarket Guide": Ballantine paperback, $4.95 at Ventura County bookstores.

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