Santa Barbara County and its residents are doing their share of recycling to ensure that California, in addition to being a golden state, is also a clean one.
In accordance with the Countywide Integrated Waste Management Plan, which was passed in 1989 as part of a statewide effort to reduce the amount of waste deposited in landfills, the county has reduced its solid waste output. The CIWMP, which bases its statistics of solid wastes deposited on 1990 totals, called for counties to reduce waste by 25 percent by the year 1995 and 50 percent by the year 2000.
Santa Barbara County diverted 59 percent of its solid waste in 2000 and 61 percent in 2001. The results for 2002 are still being collected. Santa Barbara County ranks above the state average for waste diversion – around 40 percent.
“I think we’ve been successful because I think we have a really good education program here in the county. I think we have residents that are really interested in doing the right thing and recycling,” county program specialist Jody Rundle said.
I.V. residents can help recycling efforts by simply sorting recyclable material from normal trash. Since apartment complexes in I.V. use large trash bins and are therefore considered commercial, MarBorg, a local waste management company, supplies recycling bins next to all large trash bins. MarBorg currently recycles 70 percent of all material collected from Santa Barbara County.
MarBorg business manager Dark Carlson said implementing recycling in I.V. has been less successful than in other areas of the county.
“The main reason for that is that the business and commercial areas, including apartment complexes, have to request to receive the recycling service,” Carlson said. “There is a cost to receive the service, but we have found that it really isn’t that much more. It is a lot less expensive to pick up recycling than it is trash.”
The dump fee for a ton of trash to be taken to the landfill is $48 per ton, while a ton of commingled recyclables is $5 per ton. Carlson said if a property or land owner in I.V. had two bins of trash collected by MarBorg each week and replaced one of those bins with a commingled recycling bin of the same size, their bill would actually go down.
MarBorg’s policy will require apartment complexes in I.V. to request the separate recycling service beginning early next year. Carlson said people who take recyclables out of bins discourage owners of property and landlords to request the recycling service.
“It really discourages a lot of our efforts to put in recycling containers,” Carlson said. “For the most part, property owners don’t want it, because they don’t want to put bins out if somebody’s going to be going through them and throwing trash around.”
MarBorg is looking into new types of receptacles that would prevent people from searching through them, such as bins that would only allow only one bottle or can at a time and could only be opened by employees. Carlson said such bins might discourage residents from recycling at all if it is too much of a hassle.
Students can do their part by recycling aluminum, paper and other recyclables in any of the “Big Berthas,” the four-in-one recycling bins littered all over campus. A $70,000 grant from the Dept. of Conservation provided the Berthas as well as bikes and a specialized cart to transport the recyclables. There are over 70 Berthas on campus, and students working for the Associated Students Recycling Program use the cart and bikes to collect the large amount of recyclable material deposited daily.
“Most of the bins are collected daily,” ASRP coordinator Taryn Roche said. “We just conducted a time-and-motion study to figure out which ones have the most input and those ones are serviced five days a week, but all of them are serviced at least three days a week.”
ASRP has been funded by student lock-in fees since 1994. Last year, students approved a 75-cent per student per quarter fee for the program. This will generate approximately $38,000 per year.
A.S. does not profit from the money generated from the recyclables. The Community Environmental Council comes to campus and collects the materials free of charge.
“They pick up [the recyclables] from campus and keep the aluminum they get,” Roche said. “They basically cover their own cost, and if there is a profit made it does go back to the school.”
Managing the county’s waste recovery and diversion plans is the Solid Waste and Utilities division of the Board of Public Works. The division currently has around 110 full-time employees and uses 30 percent of the public works budget, which was $46.23 million for the 2002-03 fiscal year. This money comes from a variety of sources, most notably taxes, federal and state revenue, and charges for services of the Public Works Board.
“We have a lot of programs that involve source reduction, recycling and composting,” Rundle said.
Countywide recycling programs include the residential recycling program, the green waste program, recycling of construction and demolition debris, a school education program that sets up recycling centers and educates local schools about recycling, and an electronics recycling program, among others.
Two programs contributing to the county’s success are the commingled recycling program and the green waste program, which deals mainly in materials suitable for compost. In 1997, the county initiated a commingling recycling program, allowing residences and businesses to consolidate their recyclables into a single bin, making it more convenient to participate.
“The other thing we’ve started, which is a major part of our diversion, is green waste collection. In Santa Barbara County we have pretty good weather year round, so we’ve got a lot of green waste. We’ve started a pretty aggressive program collecting it,” said Leslie Wells, the program coordinator for the CIWMP in Santa Barbara County. “It’s all ground up, and a lot of avocado orchards and rose growers use this material.”
Rundle said that the future of recycling in Santa Barbara is as of yet undetermined. A recently conducted waste characterization study looked into the possibility of implementing new programs and facilities to further divert the county’s solid waste and examined how much these new initiatives might cost.
“We’re recycling all the basic stuff right now, but as you start getting more involved or trying to recycle things that aren’t normally covered, it gets a lot more expensive,” Rundle said.
Wells said that barring any major setbacks, Santa Barbara County should continue to divert about 60 percent of its solid waste in future years.
“The biggest challenge for us in the future is related to hazardous waste,” Wells said. “A new rule about cathode ray tubes, which are in computer monitors and television sets, will not allow us to bury them anymore because of the lead that’s in them. We’re setting up different collection programs to collect them, but there’s a huge cost when you treat them as hazardous waste to get rid of them.”