Los Angeles’ trash disposal system is currently in the midst of an environmental crisis as the county is running out of space to dump their landfill waste. With one of the largest landfill sites in the country closing in 2013, pressure continues to mount as city officials struggle to find sustainable waste solutions. As of now, the plan is to transport the waste to the Simi Valley Landfill until they can come up with more sustainable initiatives. This has caused environmental concern for local residents as they ponder what’s in store for future generations.
Waste Management Inc. is proposing to add 186 acres to the Simi Valley Landfill located in Ventura County. The landfill is currently permitted to accept up to 9,250 tons of trash a day, including 3,000 tons of solid waste. The proposal would allow the landfill to retain the 9,250 tons of trash, but double the amount of solid waste to 6,000 tons a day, and reduce the amount of recyclables to 3,250 tons. Some of that trash is expected to come from Los Angeles as the county prepares to close the Puente Hills Landfill.
If the plan passes, the city of Simi Valley would receive a $100 million benefit package over 51 years to address potential environmental hazards. Simi Valley city officials voted 3-2 in support of the proposal on May 9th but because the landfill sits on incorporated land, Ventura County Supervisors have the final vote. The vote has been postponed twice now and has been rescheduled to take place on June 28th. There appears to be a disagreement on the surcharge amount for out of county waste. It is unclear of the surcharge that Waste Management has proposed but according to the Ventura County Star, Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett wants a surcharge of $4.50 to $5 a ton on all Los Angeles trash bound for the Simi Valley Landfill & Recycling Center. Bennett believes that the charge is necessary and sends a message that Los Angeles County needs to create its own landfill space and not just dump its trash in Ventura County. Riverside County may have set the precedent for surcharges on out-of-county trash, when it enacted such fees in 1998.
Nearly 40% of the garbage currently dumped at Simi Valley comes from L.A. County addresses in Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and the western San Fernando Valley. While some are in favor of taking on more waste, others are clearly upset with the proposal.
A citizens’ group has filed suit to stop the project, saying it would increase truck traffic, worsen air quality, lower property values and diminish the community’s appeal which is a stone’s throw from the beautiful landscape near the Ronald Reagan Library. Meanwhile, organizations like Don’t Waste LA are concerned with sustainability issues of this project and stress the importance of recycling.
The landfill is permitted to take 822 trucks of trash a day. Waste Management proposed adding 70 more, but reduced that to 20 trucks. An environmental impact report had found the number of round trips would soar from 500 to nearly 1,200 yet Waste Management has said there would be a minimal increase of truck traffic under its plan to expand the landfill.
Utilizing trash trucks may be the traditional transportation method and a temporary solution for waste management, however trash trains appear to be the future. Work on a massive waste-by-rail project near the Puente Hills Landfill is about halfway done. The project is expected to be completed next year but not needed until the end of 2013 when the Puente Hills Landfill closes. The waste-by-rail system will still use garbage trucks to take their trash to a material recycling facility on Workman Mill Road. The remaining trash will be transported across the street to a 17-acre yard and then put on a train. From there it will be shipped 200 miles to the Mesquite Regional Landfill which is the first landfill in Southern California allowed to receive waste by rail.
The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles is responsible for this $450 million project and will have an important decision to make when it comes to setting rates for their services. If they charge too much, companies may stick with the traditional trash trucks and the project could ultimately fail.
Regardless of how many new methods we come up with to dispose our trash, whether it’s trash trains or space shuttles that ship our waste to Mars, we need to do a better job of managing the waste stream and ultimately reduce the amount of waste we produce. Los Angeles claims to have the highest recycling rate in the country, yet they are out of space to dump its trash. These quick fix solutions are only a band-aid on the bigger issue. We must continue to develop recycling programs and shift our focus to more sustainable alternatives.