Recycling programs in county leave too much behind, new report says |

Recycling programs in county leave too much behind, new report says

Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

A report released Tuesday by the state’s Environmental Protection Agency shows El Dorado County is well below the state average in efforts to transform waste to recycling.

With about 40 percent of all its waste now being recycled in El Dorado County, the state’s agency reports that all city and county jurisdictions have a combined recycle rate of 48 percent.

Last year, more than 34 million tons of material were recycled instead of going to the landfill, according to the report.

The level has quadrupled since 1990, when the Integrated Waste Management Act took effect. The act requires every local jurisdiction to divert 50 percent of its waste from landfills beginning in 2000.

Some cities and counties have surpassed the goal of 50 percent. With a population of 3.8 million, Los Angeles has diverted 60 percent of its solid waste away from landfills, saving 5.7 million tons of resources. Oakland diverted 52 percent, while Riverside has diverted 58 percent.

Some jurisdictions have set their individual goals higher. Los Angeles is targeting a 70 percent diversion by 2020.

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Some of California’s most energetic recyclers also include small communities. Placer County diverts 65 percent of its trash, while towns like Fort Bragg is at 52 percent, according to the report.

The good news, however, is that the state has recognized El Dorado County as making a “good faith effort” in its recycling programs, and recognizes the South Shore for recycling close to 45 percent of all its waste.

“It has been a challenge and we are continuously making improvements,” said Jon Morgan, director of environmental management for El Dorado County. “We are getting an A-plus in our show of making a good faith effort to get those numbers up.”

The reason El Dorado County lags behind the state average is that the numbers that were set in 1990 were arbitrary and not entirely accurate, Morgan said.

Scales weighing the amount of garbage that flows in and out of landfills were non-existent at several landfills the county uses. Those landfills subsequently got scales, and Morgan said it was apparent early on that what the county estimated tonnage and what was actually being dumped was quite different.

Jeff Munson can be reached at