The Future of Recycling is Coming to West Hollywood

West Hollywood has a chance to adopt the future of recycling in the months ahead.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

joninla April 07, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Jimmy - I both remember the plan to use M.U.R.F recycling process being sold to us by Athens Services at a monthly per person fee. I think the use of this technology is a no brainer. It will make recycling easier for everyone who spends time separating recycled trash from regular trash, but more importantly it will make everyone become 100% recyclers without any effort. Back when ... I thought the fee absurd since Athens clearly stands to profit greatly from the return on the recycled materials they would sell and to charge the city was a rip off and long ter excessive windfall to Athens. Even so, back when, I still thought this was a no brainer and this weathy city (with so much money to waste they have to really look for overpriced pork to spend it on, e.g. Quarter Million to put Sal's name on a fountain) the city shoud pay any fee that such a really positive environmental recycling process would bring. Finally - just because of WeHo history, I smell something fishy and it's not from the trash. I say let's go for it (and see how the money side ends up flowing to the Council's discretionary budget spenfing.
Pastor Scott T. Imler April 10, 2012 at 03:41 PM
This may be a net positive for WEHO, particularly if it gets more usefuls recycled, but something about it leaves me a cold. Frankly, is seems to be an escalation of "nanny state-ism" to take folks off the hook and just let government contractors clean up after us. Good eco-stewardship doesn't begin at the recycling bin. It begins at the point of purchase; exercised through our consumer choices; what we buy, how its packaged, what we carry it home in. When we're responsible for separating our own trash we become more aware of the enormity of our personal trash production and also and more likely to change our unsustainable habits. We already suffer from a "just flush it" and let someone else worry about it mentality. And in the case of Athens’ M.U.R.F., which my husband visited as an Environmental Science and Policy professor, that someone else will likely be a young undocumented minimum wage worker. Will the City require adequate workplace protections? We won't buy jeans made in Chinese sweatshops or puppy-mill dogs but we're going to celebrate that the least of our brethren will now scrounge through our dog-shit, kitty-litter, broken glass, rusty razors, and used condoms? I'm not sure I'm down with that. There are few chores in life that are best left to each individual. In any event the Athens contract is always an interesting read, particularly its monopoly provisions and no service / pay anyway clauses. The garbage guys have it wired.
me April 10, 2012 at 06:46 PM
who monitors athens so they don't take the easy way out and dump it all in the landfill???....also, a lot of waste is wet/disgusting, so it would seem like that would ruin newspapers/boxes etc for recycling, but i guess there's a net benefit in the end, as long as they actually do what they say.....yes, i'm the "DA" (devil's advocate)
Pastor Scott T. Imler April 11, 2012 at 08:57 AM
Correction - The last sentence of the second paragraph of my comment above should read: "There are a few chores in life that are best left to each individual."
Scott Schmidt April 11, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Thank you, everybody for the feedback, and for raising your questions and concerns! As a free-marketeer, an "open system" is preferable from a consumer choice standpoint--but given the impacts on street infrastructure and traffic, West Hollywood has gone with an exclusive franchise. Our local businesses have had the "mixed waste" system for years now and have significantly increased what gets recycled. The bottom line is that MUCH more can be recycled than bottles, cans and newspapers--but that is most of what gets sent into the blue bins. A "free market" solution would be to have West Hollywood residents put everything into the blue bins... Which would have the same net results, in theory. And to answer "me"'s question... There is state and city-mandated reporting about what goes where and in the case of Athens, who does not own a landfill, there is no incentive to landfill recyclables (even if the recyclables had no value). Again, thanks for the feedback...and be sure to speak up and speak out!


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