Throwing out trash will require more thought for Santa Monica residents as the city works to divert more garbage—almost all of it—from area landfills.
Officials are talking about making it mandatory to place cardboard and plastic water bottles into a recycling bin, not a trash can. The city might also require residents to separate yard clippings and food scraps into a city-provided green collection container.
"Instead of discarding the materials, these are potentially valuable resources," said Michelle Leonard, a consultant working with city to draft a Zero Waste Plan that could radically reduce the amount of refuse dumped in landfills.
The goal is by 2030 to divert 95 percent of all garbage collected in Santa Monica into recycling and processing plants that convert waste into energy, heat, and fertilizer.
"We’re not talking about getting to no waste, we’re talking about not wasting anything," Leonard said.
Banning certain types of waste from trash cans are among a number of radical changes proposed in the plan, a draft of which was presented to the City Council for the first time Tuesday night. The city's Resource Recovery & Recycling Manager Kim Braun described it as beautiful and detailed.
She acknowledged the plan will require some major "behavioral changes."
In 2011, Santa Monica generated 360,000 tons of trash—or about 3.6 pounds of garbage per person, per day—and diverted 77 percent through waste prevention, recycling and composting, according to a recent report from city staffers. The 2030 goal is 1.1 pounds of garbage per person, per day.
Some of the facilities needed to meet the goal, such an anaerobic digestion plant that would convert methane from decomposing food scraps into electricity, do not yet exist near Santa Monica.
In addition to mandatory recycling and composting, the plan—which would also affect businesses and construction and demolition crews—calls for the city to reduce how often it picks up trash. While blue recycling and green bins for food scraps would be picked up weekly, the traditional black cans would be collected every other week.
"It will be a lifestyle change, but it won't be all that difficult," said Hillary Gordon, who chairs the Sierra Club Los Angeles Chapter's Zero Waste Committee.
The club recently surveyed 23 cities in Los Angeles to see how they are dealing with food scraps and yard trimmings, known in waste parlance as "organics," and found only three—the city of Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale—have zero waste plans.
Many cities, Santa Monica included, do already have sustainability or climate action plans, which cast a much broader net and encourage composting and recycling as only one in a number of ways to reduce a community's impact on the environment. Plans that hone in on zero waste specifically are "the most well thought out and the most ambitious," said Gordon.
Mandates like the ones proposed in Santa Monica are not in every zero waste plan, Gordon said. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, offer incentives instead.
Ninety percent of what is thrown in the trash "still has tremendous material" that can be re-used, recycled or converted, she said.
"We want to get to the place where we do not have land fills ore incinerators," Gordon said. "To get there, we have to reduce how much waste is getting to those places. What we call trash is really full of valuable resources."
To view more details and the target rates of Santa Monica's Zero Waste Plan, click here.
How would you feel if the city made it mandatory for you to separate recyclables, trash and "organics?"