When the West Hollywood City Council convenes in May, they have a unique opportunity to embrace the future of waste management and redefine how we think about trash and recycling. Before our city leaders will be a proposal to process all waste from apartments and condominiums in the city for recycling before anything goes to a landfill—and to do it at no cost to city residents.
Currently, all solid waste at apartments and condos is separated at the source. What residents determine is recyclable gets processed at a materials recovery facility, and whatever isn't goes into the county landfill. All business waste, on the other hand, gets processed as if it were a blue bin. In a way, West Hollywood businesses recycle everything.
Recycling, reuse, and reduction are guaged in "diversion rates," which is a measure of the amount of a city's solid waste that does not go to a landfill. Since all West Hollywood commercial trash started to be treated as recyclables, our city's diversion rate has increased nearly 10 percent, yet our 62 percent diversion is a long way from the state-mandated 75 percent we will need to meet by the end of the decade.
Compared to our apartment-dwelling neighbors in Los Angeles, who recycle just 60 pounds of trash per unit, per year, West Hollywood residents are quite diligent. Yet because of many factors, including some people who still do not recycle as well as confusion about what can be recycled, West Hollywood sends 10 tons of recyclable materials to the landfill per day.
In exchange for a contract extension, West Hollywood's franchised trash-hauler Athens, is offering to process all residential multi-family waste as recycling before any of it goes to the landfill at no additional cost to residents. In the proposed contract re-negotiation, the city also stands to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in other services offered up.
Residents will benefit from the proposal as they will no longer have to think about their trash—everything will be processed for recycling. There will only need to be one bin—in the home and in the parking garage.
The environment will also benefit from moving to the mixed-waste model. Not only will our city be sending significantly less to local landfills, but by eliminating separate pickups for trash and recycling, collection routes can be streamlined. Athens projects they will be able to eliminate the need for one trash truck on our city's streets—gone, along with all the congestion that trash trucks cause on our narrow roadways.
A Los Angeles City study found that a single trash trucks asserts 9,000 times more stress on city streets than a typical SUV. Eliminating the need to pick up trash separate from recyclables will significantly reduce the stress on our local streets, along with the number of potholes.
A few years ago, sending all of a city's solid waste to be processed for recycling would have been considered innovative. The future of recycling has arrived already in San Jose, San Francisco and nearly two dozen cities around Southern California. It's time for West Hollywood to catch up to the future.