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City moves toward zero-waste status

April 16, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — Trash could become a thing of the past in Burbank as the city is rapidly moving toward becoming a zero-waste community, officials said.

“Zero waste is the goal, but whether or not human beings in an independent society can get to throw away zero trash is unknown,” Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford said.

In an effort to address the unknown, Teaford and staff members around the city are preparing a report she plans to present to the City Council on April 29 about ways to decrease commercial, residential and citywide waste.

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The city’s zero-waste plan calls for a reduction in household trash, yard clippings and paper, the elimination of certain kinds of plastics and an increase in recycling efforts from residents, businesses and city officials, she said.

The plan would not impose mandatory reductions but will act as a guidebook for a city constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce its carbon footprint, Teaford said.

The city is studying ways to eliminate polystyrene foam, a generic Styrofoam, and in October the city asked employees to use tap water instead of water bottles during official meetings and City Hall proceedings to cut down on waste.

But significant challenges remain, said Teaford, who hopes residents and businesses will heed the city’s conservationist calls and is expected to set 2040 as the year by which the city can achieve zero waste.

“This is a plan and a program that will take several years to roll out,” she said. “We can’t just go after one item and expect to hit zero waste. People can leave yard clippings on their lawn so it goes back into the Earth, people can consume less and, in terms of technology, ask themselves, ‘Do I really need to buy this item?’ We all love the newest gadgets, but do we have to have a new phone every six months? We’re left with an awful lot of electronic waste.”

Since the city began collecting recycled materials in 1982, and began using automated trash can arms to lift its trash bins in 1993, curbside pickup of recyclables has grown slowly, said Kreigh Hampel, the city’s recycling coordinator.

“We’re at half the capacity we could be if everyone participated,” he said. “If everyone was recycling, we could get to twice what we normally do.”

Last year, the city generated 9,000 tons of recycled material, though as much as 25% of all refuse found in recycled bins are not recyclable, he said.

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