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South Tahoe recycles, piece by piece

Andy Bourelle

Beer bottles, aluminum cans, milk jugs, cardboard boxes, large appliances and old issues of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

It all goes in the trash; none of it goes in a landfill.

Although South Tahoe Refuse does not have traditional curbside recycling, more than 25 percent, on average, of the South Shore’s garbage is diverted from the landfill.



“We’re certain our facility is above average in our recycling compared to other jurisdictions in California,” said John Marchini, South Tahoe Refuse vice president. “This is a very productive recycling effort.”

In June this year, South Tahoe Refuse handled 9,080 tons of garbage. More than 2,868 tons – 32 percent – was recycled. On average from July 1997 through June 1998, 26 percent was diverted from the Reno landfill where the company’s garbage is shipped.



At South Tahoe Refuse, magazines, plastic soda bottles, paper, tin cans, wood of all types and chunks of asphalt are separated. Inside the Materials Recovery Facility – known as MRF – workers operate machinery as well as separate trash moving along a conveyor belt. Even refrigerators and ovens are compacted and bailed into box-shaped bundles and shipped to various places in the United States for recycling.

Inside the facility, ventilation and misting systems are in place to cut down on the odor and the amount of dust.

South Tahoe Refuse – a private company serving South Lake Tahoe, Stateline and Meyers – built the MRF in 1995. South Tahoe Refuse decided the MRF was the best way for South Shore to divert its trash.

There were numerous reasons for using the MRF rather than other common recycling efforts such as curbside recycling, stated Jeanne Lear, South Tahoe Refuse recycling programs safety officer.

About 40 percent of South Shore’s garbage comes from residents. The rest comes from commercial businesses. Curbside recycling is for residential areas and would not address 60 percent of the problem.

Curbside recycling just allows for a “cleaner sort” of the trash.

Snow removal also makes curbside recycling difficult, and the program requires different trucks and more crews.

“What we try to do is deliver a program that addresses residential areas and also allows us to target a lot of commercial businesses,” Lear said.

Curbside recycling, which typically has about 50 percent participation, also requires the use of MRF.

Many commercial businesses and casinos separate their recyclable materials, and contractors can bring in large loads of metal, wood and asphalt at discounted rates. An office paper route is in place, where South Tahoe Refuse workers visit 120 participating companies and pick up white paper.

The South Tahoe Refuse Recycling Center, 2140 Ruth Ave., accepts recyclable materials and offers California Redemption Value for materials with proper symbols.

Wood – including lumber, crates, old pallets and dead trees removed from the Tahoe Basin – are transported daily to Minden. In the valley, Bently Agridynamics and Full Circle Compost run the wood through a chipper and put it into rows of compost.

Marchini said South Tahoe Refuse would like to improve its recycling program. One of the center’s main goals would be able to improve handling wood and yard waste materials.

The company was unable to find a site this year where materials could be stored and chipped before being shipped to Minden. Chipping them at Lake Tahoe would allow easier and less-frequent shipment, cutting costs. Each day, two trucks drive to Minden loaded with bulky trees, logs, lumber and other wood materials.

Marchini said South Tahoe Refuse also would like to see its office paper route expanded.

Lear and Marchini said it is hard to compare its recycling program to other communities because of numerous variables. Other facilities can be located in more residential, industrial or agricultural areas and require different types of programs.

“A lot of people understand the importance of recycling and think curbside is the way to go, and they are effective programs, but MRFs are common,” Marchini said. “You have to have them for curbside anyway. What’s good about this system is there’s 100 percent participation.”

For more information about South Tahoe Refuse and its recycling effort, contact Jeanne Lear at (530) 541-0366.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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