Trash efforts not going to waste

CITY HALL — Glendale has exceeded an ambitious citywide recycling goal two years earlier than expected, officials said.

For the past 10 years, at least 50% of all city waste was diverted from landfills through an assortment of city recycling programs, according to state law. But in 2006, Public Works officials challenged the city to bump up the so-called waste diversion rate to 60% by the end of 2011.

Calculations on trash and recycling levels show that the city diverted 61% of all trash from landfills in 2009, according to figures released Friday.

"It's certainly a great achievement that makes us really proud," Public Works Director Steve Zurn said Monday. "We couldn't have done this without the tremendous support and participation of the public."

Zurn attributed the city's success to an expansion of commodities accepted at the city's recycling centers and an increased focus among commercial customers, with more than 1,000 additional recycling bins distributed in the past few years.

The figures were also boosted by an increase in people dropping off redemption goods, such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, scrap metal and cardboard, he said.

"To a certain extent, it's a reflection of the economy too," Zurn said.

The achievement comes as Public Works officials develop a new long-term waste-reduction plan to eliminate the disposal of trash at the city-owned Scholl Canyon Landfill, which is set to reach capacity in about 12 years.

City officials will host a series of community meetings on the plan in the coming months to gather input and share more information, Zurn said.

If the landfill is not expanded, the city could be forced to ship its trash by rail to facilities hundreds of miles away.

A major component of the plan will focus on efforts to convert waste to energy at the landfill, which City Council members advocated for in April when they allocated $200,000 to fund research on emerging waste-conversion technologies.

"It's something that has to happen," Councilwoman Laura Friedman said. "It needs to be a goal. And I think it's realistic given the technology."

City officials are also looking into expanding Scholl Canyon Landfill to extend its life span in the meantime, but say waste conversion is the more sustainable option.

"A waste-conversion program is critical because you get to the point where the last remaining bit of refuse can't be recycled and has to be disposed of," Zurn said.

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