Santa Barbara County is considering construction of a new recycling facility based on a German model that could potentially process 100 percent of the county’s waste.

3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall, county administrator Bill Chiat and Public Works Director Phil Demery presented the estimated $50-70 million solid waste technology system to the Solid Waste Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force at Chase Palm Park on Monday. The three officials recently returned from a trip to Herhof, Germany, where they toured an advanced waste management facility.

The technology is able to produce 100 percent recycling because it processes organic materials in addition to plastics, metals and papers – something that is currently not possible in Santa Barbara County.

Tajiguas, the county’s primary landfill, is scheduled to close in 2005. The county wants to keep it open for another 15 years, or replace it with the new solid waste recycling system at the same location or elsewhere. The proposed system would sort, compost and convert the county’s waste into fuels such as methanol instead of burning it or storing it in the landfill.

According to the field study briefing, the waste recycling process entails a screening prior to shredding, which removes plastics and metals from organic waste. The organic material is then loaded into long sealed bins to decompose and dry out for 7-10 days, which reduces the mass of the product by 55 percent. Recyclable materials are extracted and the remaining product may go through stages of post treatment to produce agricultural products or “stabilate,” a material that can be converted into electricity or methanol. Batteries, the only material that could not be recycled, would still require landfilling.

The cost of 100 percent waste stream recycling is estimated at $60-80 dollars per ton, compared to $48 per ton under the current recycling system at Tajiguas.

Chiat said Germany is generally more advanced in its efforts to recycle. Customers are expected to bring their own bags to grocery stores, and by 2005 there will be no unprocessed waste going into landfills.

“[The Herhof] is a very industrial facility,” Chiat said. “You can build fuel cells out of methanol. Ash can be used in road space material. Virtually nothing is landfilled.”

Marshall said that although mid and north county residents may not be excited about the possibility of having the facility in their community, there is a desire for more progressive recycling technology in the county.

“One concern I have had is being able to maintain the costs of our own waste at what it would cost the community to build a new landfill, which could be $100 million,” Marshall said. “If you look at that and look at what a technical solution would cost, we’re not out of line.”

Chiat said the facility would not necessarily include all the components of the German plants, such as optical scanners to separate glass by color.

“The key thing to remember is that when you take something and burn it, it’s gone forever,” Homer Smith, the county’s principal civil engineer, said. “The county is looking forward at Tajiguas and on one hand saying, we need this because the advanced technology solutions are a long way off and for the long term we can make energy from our waste and not just burn it.”

Smith said the company that builds the recycling facility would be able to profit from the products generated.

California counties El Dorado and Mariposa are considering similar technology. The South Lake Tahoe Waste Management Authority is also in the process of accepting and evaluating proposals for this sort of waste management system.