Trash levels down at landfill

CITY HALL — The amount of waste dumped at Scholl Canyon Landfill continues to drop, officials said Thursday, even as regional waste management experts return to studying an expanded site.

From 1997 to 2007, the amount of waste dumped annually at the city-owned landfill decreased by more than 20%, from nearly 500,000 tons to 400,256 tons, according to city statistics. City officials attribute the drop to aggressive recycling and waste-diversion efforts mandated under state law.

Since then, officials said, waste levels have dropped as a result of the recession, they said.

“Trash disposal follows very closely the economy,” said Public Works Director Steve Zurn. “People buy less; they throw less away.”

At the Scholl Canyon landfill, located off the Ventura (134) Freeway, as much as 1,500 tons of waste per day has dropped to 1,000 tons and below, Zurn said.

The decreasing trash levels have resulted in a reduction of income at the landfill, a major enterprise for the city. In previous years, the landfill has generated $8 million annually, Zurn said, but this year, it is projected to generate closer to $6 million.

Even with less trash, the landfill’s projected closure date is not far off, extending its projected life span by just two years to 2022, Zurn said. If the landfill is not expanded, the city may have to ship its trash by rail to a new facility being built 200 miles away.

In order to save the city from paying market rates to dispose of municipal waste and hold on to valuable tipping fees generated at Scholl Canyon, the City Council in 2007 initiated a $750,000 environmental study into a potential expansion of the landfill.

Originally scheduled to be completed sometime this year, the draft environmental impact report was put on hold as the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, the lead agency preparing the report, focused on the dwindling trash levels throughout the county.

Landfills across the county have also seen reductions in waste during the recession, county officials said.

“We were more concerned about the finances of the site than expanding it,” said Chris Salomon, the district’s supervising engineer of planning.

Officials are now back to working on the draft report, which will analyze environmental effects of the potential expansion, he said.

Zurn said city officials are also exploring the possibility of converting trash into energy at the landfill.

“Very little emissions come off of this, and whatever residual product there is primarily a recyclable material,” he said.

Alek Bartrosouf, co-founder of the Coalition for a Green Glendale, lauded the city’s waste reduction efforts, but said he is worried about other waste options the city would have to resort to if Scholl Canyon closed.

“The main concern I have with trash is we might be soon exporting our trash to another landfill by rail, which would significantly increase the cost to residents,” he said.

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