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Farmer to Recycle Tons of Fillmore’s Yard Waste

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Fillmore farmer’s plan to mulch up to a quarter of the city’s trash in his citrus grove was hailed by county leaders as the wave of the future for cities trying to trim the amount of waste they dump in landfills.

“Implementing a green-waste recycling program right now is very progressive,” said Victoria Hand, manager of the recycling division for the county’s Solid Waste Department.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to begin the new service Nov. 1.

Hand said similar citywide programs in Ojai and Simi Valley probably would follow before the end of the year.

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The Fillmore program has been described as a simple alternative to piling more waste into area landfills. State law requires that all cities must cut the amount of trash sent to landfills by half over the next seven years or face fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Green waste makes up about one-quarter of the total amount of trash sent to landfills in Ventura County, said Hand, adding that, “recycling green waste will be an important way to meet state-mandated reductions.”

Hand said the biggest problem has been where to put the yard waste once it’s collected. Fillmore will solve that problem by paying a local citrus farmer to take the household yard trimmings, which he will use as mulch on his orchard.

Bill Bartels, the Fillmore farmer who came up with the proposal, said using yard waste on his 30-acre orchard is a perfect way to help the city and his farm.

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“I knew this was a tremendous resource for augmenting my soil, and I knew the city had to meet the state’s mandate,” said Bartels, adding that he’s spent four years figuring out how to use the waste. “I’ve been coming to this for a long time,” he said.

Bartels will charge the city half of what it would pay to dump the waste in area landfills. Depending on the amount of yard waste that is recycled, the city will pay $10,000 to $15,000 each year to use Bartels’ service.

Council member Don Gunderson voted against the contract Tuesday evening, saying he would have preferred to open up the proposal to competitive bids.

The city estimates that 750 to 1,000 tons of yard waste will be recycled each year--an amount that Bartels said would cover only about one acre of his land.

Despite the savings the city expects from using Bartels’ green-waste recycling service, residents will have to pay about $2 more each month, in part for the cost of new green recycling barrels and for hauling the recyclables to Bartels’ orchard. The increase would hike the basic monthly rate to about $20.

County officials consider the increase a nominal fee for such an innovative way of reducing waste.

“This is a prototype for how we deal with all of our trash,” said Ventura County Supervisor Maggie Kildee. “We should look at trash as a resource we can recycle into products and jobs.”


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