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Solutions

March 22, 1992|Ellen Alperstein

Seven years ago, Los Angeles County and Cal Poly Pomona made an unusual swap--land for garbage. The county's Spadra Landfill, which lies between the university and the community of Walnut, had reached capacity and needed more acreage. Cal Poly offered 45 acres if the county would play ecological ball--implement cutting-edge landfill technology and, when the landfill is full, give all 200 acres to the school. Why do academicians want a mountain of suburban garbage? For part of LandLab, a resource management project that will include a community park reclaimed from the landfill, and the adjacent Institute for Regenerative Studies.

"The institute will eventually house 90 students, faculty and researchers," says Edwin Barnes, acting director of the project. The team will generate, with the help of sun and wind, its own energy, raise livestock and grow pesticide-free produce. Subsequent research will be a collaborative affair among Cal Poly scholars, representatives of the AQMD and Southern California Edison. "There are lots of environmental issues we can study," Barnes says, "because landfill garbage is an artifact of our highly consumptive lifestyle. There's no other program like this in the nation."

The landfill still has a few years of life left, but county sanitation engineers and Cal Poly visionaries have already prepped the dump site with protective ground cover, revegetated the landfill slopes with native flora and installed a methane-gas collection system. Such a holistic approach to waste management could put Southern California on top of the landfill heap.

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