Daily News of Los Angeles (Calif.) (pg. 4), June 24, 2005


PU Daily News of Los Angeles (Calif.) (pg. 4) DA June 24, 2005 AU Plans For Trash Unveiled -- Smith Wants More Recycling

By Kerry Cavanaugh

Just days before the City Council renews the Sunshine Canyon Landfill contract, Councilman Greig Smith unveiled a plan Thursday to end Los Angeles' reliance on dumps by expanding recycling, converting waste into energy and paying tax incentives for businesses using trash in manufacturing.

In his 20-year plan, Smith envisions a city where less than 10 percent of the 38,000 tons of waste generated daily by its residents and businesses would end up in landfills.

"The enlightened cities of the world are moving to such a new paradigm," he said at a news conference in Granada Hills, the community that abuts Sunshine Canyon Landfill.

"As America's second-largest city, we must lead this paradigm shift - not wait, as has been the city's history -- until there are no options left except dumps."

Dubbed RENEW LA -- or Recovering Energy, Natural Resources and Economic Benefit From Waste for LA -- the plan is Smith's answer to long- standing community opposition to Sunshine Canyon Landfill.

He plans to introduce the first steps of his plan to the City Council on Tuesday -- the same day it is expected to renew the city's five-year contract with Browning-Ferris Industries, owner of Sunshine Canyon.

While dump opponents noted the plan provides no immediate relief from landfills, they were supportive of Smith's ideas -- and also skeptical of whether there is the political will to carry them out.

"The concept is very sound. It will all depend on if this one is implemented by ordinances with teeth," said Mary Edwards, a member of the activist North Valley Coalition. "We don't want this to languish on a shelf somewhere, which happens with a lot of lofty ideas."

But Smith said he has already met with six of the 14 other council members, and they've agreed to co-sign more than a dozen motions designed to increase recycling and ease the development of trash- conversion plants throughout the city.

"We have to get beyond the thought that the trash we create just magically goes away," said Councilman Eric Garcetti, who praised Smith's plan as the best researched policy initiative he's seen on the council.

"Politically, people know the clock is ticking. We can, as a body, decide to put that off for one more group of council members to deal with, but I think this body has the will to change this once for and all."

Outgoing Mayor James Hahn had vowed to find alternatives to dumping the city's residential trash in Sunshine Canyon after 2006. But Waste Management, the other bidder for the city's business, withdrew from contention after accusing city officials of dragging their feet, leaving only BFI.

City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who takes over as mayor on Friday, said he supports key aspects of Smith's plan, and would direct the Bureau of Sanitation to increase recycling from apartments and businesses.

"Councilman Smith and I support many of the same principles that will guide our future work, including becoming a zero-waste city, expanding recycling programs to maximize waste diversion and aggressively pursue new technologies that will end the city's reliance on landfills, specifically Sunshine Canyon Landfill."

Councilman Bernard Parks, who supports renewal of the Sunshine Canyon contract, said Smith's plan could have a major impact on the way the city handles its trash in the next decade. "I think he's on the right track in looking at this over a long period of time," Parks said. "We said from the beginning that this is not an issue that could be resolved between now and renewal of contract with Sunshine Canyon in 2006."

Officials say Angelenos currently recycle about 62 percent -- or 24,000 tons -- of the 38,000 tons of trash generated daily. Under RENEW LA, 93 percent of all trash would be diverted from the landfill.

The first steps include requiring businesses and apartment complexes to recycle 50 percent of their trash by 2010.

Then the plan calls for the development of seven waste conversion plants, one in each region of the city, so the northeast San Fernando Valley would no longer be bearing the bulk of the trash burden. They would be funded with part of the $4 million-a-year franchise fee paid to the city by BFI.

These plants would take garbage -- food waste, yard trimmings, paper, perhaps plastics -- and use advanced heat or biological processes to break them down into usable materials, such as gas, electricity or compost.

There would be some residual material and some items that can't be recycled that would still have to go the landfill.

Under the plan, at least one plant would be built by 2010, most likely in the Valley so Smith could lead by example and show residents that conversion plants can be nondescript, unintrusive and odor free. One plant would need 5 to 10 acres zoned for medium-industrial use.

Smith acknowledges it will be difficult to find available land in Los Angeles to build these plants and even harder to convince neighbors to support projects in their communities.

"That is my job. I have to sell it. It's not just political will that's been lacking but community will," said Smith. He spent two years developing the blueprint and visited trash conversion plants in Europe.

At the state level, some politicians have tried to put the brakes on conversion technologies.

Jon Myers with the California Environmental Protection Agency said some groups have raised concerns about potential pollution and the agency is preparing a report on the issue for the legislature.

"All the science isn't in yet. What is the ramification of providing this energy. Are we putting something in the air? And let's make sure that we're not polluting our water."

But Chip Clements, an environmental consultant who helped prepare RENEW LA, said the plants are proven technologies in Japan and Europe, which have strict air and water protections.

"We really believe these plants will be good neighbors and people will be surprised by how little impact they have."

Kerry Cavanaugh, (818) 713-3746 kerry.cavanaugh(at)dailynews.com


Here are highlights of City Councilman Greig Smith's plan:

--Give every home a composting bin.

--Base the existing sanitation-equipment fee on the size of residents' black bin. The larger the trash can, the higher the cost.

--Have sanitation workers inspect blue recycling bins and tag those with contamination.

--Require recycling among private haulers that serve apartment buildings.

--Require curbside recycling for small businesses.

--Require supermarkets to switch to biodegradable plastic bags.

--Establish a "green" business ranking system, like the letter grades given to restaurants.