South Shore, state lag behind recycling goals |

South Shore, state lag behind recycling goals

South Shore’s refuse company is in much the same situation as the rest of California’s recyclers in regard to achieving state-mandated goals.

South Tahoe Refuse is increasingly diverting waste from landfills; however, it likely won’t achieve the state’s requirement of 50 percent by 2001.

“Our figures are heading in that direction, but I would estimate we won’t be able to make 50 percent diversion,” said Jeanne Lear, recycling programs/safety officer of South Tahoe Refuse.

She said the company is trying hard to increase its diversion rate and, therefore, likely won’t be subject to the $10,000-a-day fine the state could order starting in 2001.

State law requires agencies to divert 50 percent of their waste from landfills by Dec. 31, 2000. A report released this week says only 67 of 450 communities have met that goal. The statewide recycling average is 33 percent.

”Basically, the low-hanging fruit has been picked,” said Bruce Olszewski, director of the Center for Development of Recycling at San Jose State University. ”The more industrial a city is, the harder it is to meet that goal. There is not a simple and easy solution for this.”

While the numbers are far below the goal, the mandate has caused significant change.

It has kept more than two years’ worth of garbage out of landfills since 1990. It has conserved enough energy to supply every home in the state for 18 months. And it has saved more than 600 million trees, equivalent to a forest more than twice the size of Yosemite National Park.

One problem with recycling is its cost. The ultimate incentive in the business world is the bottom line, and it still costs more to recycle than to throw away.

Lear said South Tahoe Refuse diverted about 32 percent of its materials in the first half of 1999.

The state’s way of calculating the diversion ratio differs from South Tahoe Refuse’s. California bases the diversion rate on a base year and adjusts its calculations to accommodate growth. The diverted rate isn’t necessarily a percentage of the amount of garbage collected.

South Tahoe Refuse’s 32-percent is actually 32 percent of the garbage collected.

South Tahoe Refuse – a private company serving South Lake Tahoe, Stateline and Meyers – built a Materials Recovery Facility in 1995.

Inside the MRF, workers operate machinery as well as separate trash moving along a conveyor belt. Cans, plastic jugs and even refrigerators are compacted and bailed and shipped to places where there are markets for them.

Wood – including lumber, old pallets and dead trees – are transported daily to Minden, where the wood is used for composting.

Lear said one of the difficulties for South Shore’s recycling effort is disposing of food waste and large objects such as carpet or couches. Additionally, the state’s calculations use weight, and wet food and couches are heavy items – as opposed to aluminum cans, for which there are good recycling markets.

About 40 percent of South Shore’s garbage comes from residents; the rest comes from commercial operations, which include resorts and construction. South Shore does not have curbside recycling. It likely would not be extremely effective because it would affect less than half of the waste. And participation in curbside is typically only about 50 percent.

On South Shore, residents are encouraged to separate their recyclables, making separation easier for workers in the MRF.

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