Recycle Rex would be proud: Isla Vista residents are some of the best in Santa Barbara County at disposing of their waste, according to a recently released report on local recycling programs.
The unincorporated portion of Santa Barbara County, which includes I.V., UCSB and portions of Goleta, recycled 64 percent of the waste it generated in 2004, according to an announcement made by the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. at a press conference last Friday. It took county officials two years to analyze the data from 2004 and come up with the percentage, which puts Santa Barbara County’s overall recycling rate in the top 10 percent of California’s counties.
According to a press release from the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept., unincorporated Goleta recycles such a high percentage of the trash it generates because it has a large population and is home to its own landfill and recycling center. Carpinteria has the second-highest recycling rate in the county, with 61 percent of its waste being recycled in 2004.
Leslie Wells, program manager for the Santa Barbara County Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division, said the success of recycling efforts in the local area can be attributed, in part, to commingled recycling bins. She said the commingled bins, which allow people to put all of their recyclable waste into one container, are available throughout the unincorporated part of Goleta.
“What accounts for the high recycling rate is a combination of residential and commercial efforts,” Wells said.
UCSB is also partially responsible for the high percentage because the university sponsors many recycling programs, including the placement of recycling containers all over campus and in the dorms, Wells said.
“UCSB has a number of excellent programs to encourage recycling,” Wells said. “They have a lot of containers available to give students a convenient opportunity to do the right thing.”
While the local residents that collect and recycle cans and bottles in I.V. do help to ensure that some waste ends up in the recycling bins, students do most of the recycling in the area, Wells said. She said many residents of unincorporated Goleta, including students, are motivated to recycle because they are aware of the need to cut down on the amount of trash they generate. The county also made a specific effort to encourage I.V.’s property owners to provide recycling facilities for their tenants because the area has such a large population.
“The county has actively marketed its recycling program to property owners in Isla Vista,” Wells said.
Wells said the recycle rate in Goleta was at 11 percent in 1989. That year, the state mandated that all of California’s 58 counties and their 400 jurisdictions individually reach a 50 percent recycle rate by the year 2000, she said.
Following the mandate, more people in California became conscious of the shortage of landfill space and the impact of waste on the environment.
“The community started to freak out that we were going to run out of landfill space,” Wells said.
There have been many improvements in the recycling programs in the area since the state mandate in 1989, Well said. She said programs that help encourage people to recycle waste generated during construction, demolition debris and the trash that is generated during landscaping and yard work are all partly responsible for the increased recycling.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said he thinks it is important for the whole community to get involved in recycling, since the entire community benefits when waste is reduced.
“Everyone can contribute to the effort in their own individual way,” Firestone said.
Wells said she thinks Santa Barbara County is an example for the state and the country when it comes to environmental issues. She said she thinks recycling is vital because it helps to make sure that scarce resources get reused, instead of wasted.
“Recycling is important because it is about stewardship of our natural resources,” she said. “It is an action that anyone can take during the course of a day to ensure the re-use of a natural resource, rather than creating additional waste.”