Recycling in city falls short

Laguna Beach has yet to meet the state's mandate to reduce trash sent to landfills by 50%, and it may get more difficult for the city to meet targets if proposed legislation is passed upping the required diversion to 75%.

The City Council unanimously approved a staff recommendation at the Sept. 19 meeting to research construction and demolition recycling ordinances in other communities and draft one for Laguna.

"A major opportunity exists for meeting the state's waste diversion goals by developing a construction and demolition program," said Liz Avila, city administrative analyst, who presented a report to the council on the city's status and the potential repercussions of not meeting the state mandate.

The state board that oversees the mandate extended in 2005 the city's deadline to meet the mandate, noting the city's need to reduce construction and demolition waste that is going to the landfill, a substantial portion of the city's waste stream.

"But how does the landfill know the waste is from Laguna?" City Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson asked.

No identification for the source of the waste is required from haulers not franchised by the city, Avila told the council.

Michelle Clarke, who represents the city's contracted trash hauler, Waste Management of Orange County, said the ordinance would help.

Educating the public about using only the contracted trash hauler also would benefit the city, said City Councilwoman Jane Egly, who said she had not realized the implications when she hired an outside hauler.

DEADLINE PASSED

The Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 required California cities and counties to reduce by 50% the amount of waste sent to landfills by 2000 or face fines up to $10,000 a day. The state also could issue a compliance order to dictate what programs a jurisdiction must use, without regard to cost of local conditions.

Only 17 Orange County cities met the mandate in 2004 and the average diversion has declined from 47.6 in 2000 to 45.6 in 2004.

Laguna Beach poured an estimated 61,000 tons into the waste stream in 2005. About 95% of the residents participate in the three-bin recycling program, accounting for 49.7% of the recycled waste annually.

However, of Laguna's 572 commercial customers, only 342 participated in the program in 2005, recycling about 6.3% of their waste. Commercial recycling is free.

Lack of space for storing bins and no internal support in the businesses is cited as barriers to recycling.

This summer city staff worked with Waste Management and the Orange County Conservation Corps to coordinate recycling at special events.

Corps members picked up containers and collected bottles and cans at the Music in the Park concert series. Waste Management provided extra bins at the Festival of Arts and Art-a-Fair and complimentary recycling services at the Sawdust Festival, which does not use the company's services.

The county's Integrated Waste Management Department is preparing a report on construction and demolition ordinances adopted by local cities and developing a program model. Both reports will be available soon, Avila said.

City staff will report back to the council in January with a Laguna-specific ordinance.

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