Today’s post was spawned by this picture from my Facebook “On This Day” memories from 2015. This is me standing on top of a giant pile of garbage. That year I participated in the City of Burbank’s Master Recycling Program. It was a neat program where you were educated and learned about different ways of recycling and waste reduction.
One Saturday we actually had a field trip to Burbank’s Landfill #3 located on Lockheed View Drive up on the hill. A little bit of background on Burbank’s waste disposal history. My house was built in 1938 and was of course one of the Lockheed bungalows like so many in Burbank. Behind my garage is a garbage incinerator which is how trash used to be taken care of. One of these days I’m going to turn it into a planter or something but I’ve been saying that for a decade. When it does happen, it will be a blog post. A short time after that, landfills #1 and #2 were built and handled the cities trash until 1970. (Source Cal Recycle) After that our current landfill, #3 was built and continues to handle our trash until this day. I was told that back in the 1980s they did a study and estimated there were about 50 years left on the landfill but that is also when Burbank started ramping up its recycling program. Now as it stands today, the estimated closure date of Landfill #3 is 2053 and that number can fluctuate depending on the use of the city. (Source Burbank Public Works)
I didn’t know what to exactly expect that day at the landfill but what I saw certainly was not it. I had visions of a big heap of trash, some old guy hoarding copper and drinking beer watching the entire thing like the local municipal dump of my childhood. For a landfill, it’s actually very clean and since this is located very close to residential homes, etc the trash is covered every day and layering with dirt happens to keep the area nice and tidy. All in all for a landfill, it’s pretty neat and unfortunately not normally open to the public.
Before the recycling program I considered myself a pretty avid recycler. I composted and recycled what I could but I still had 2-3 bags of trash a week. After the trip and viewing where my trash goes it parked something inside of me. Now anytime I throw something away I imagine it sitting in a landfill. The same goes for bulky item pickup too (I seriously have nightmares about my old beat up sofa sitting up there!) With very little effort I was able to reduce myself to one small bag a week. I wouldn’t even set out my trash bin every week if it wasn’t for the smell. (I have pets if you catch my drift!) So, with all that being said what did I do and what can people do help out Burbank’s landfill.
1. Recycle (Obviously) – Burbank is a pretty easy city to recycle in. Everything recyclable can go into one blue bin. There are three options of bins. A 32 gallon, 65 gallon and 96 gallon. The city does not charge for a bigger size so I say get the biggest one you can and set it out only when it’s full. There’s reasoning behind that but that’s another blog post all together. The Burbank Recycling Center has a list here and a pretty nifty diagram that shows what can be recycled at the curb and at the center on Flower Street.
Side note- the city DOES charge based on the size of your black trash container so if you have a 65 gallon one that you don’t fill up, get a smaller one and save a few bucks a month! The number to public works is 818.238.3800
2. Find ways to recycle specialty items – A lot of times items go into the trash simply because there is no way to dispose of them locally. A few items that I’ve struggled with personally are clothing in poor shape, old CDs of the printer software type variety, and styrofoam. Thankfully now we live in a world with google and where there is a will there is a way. There are ways to dispose of clothing not suitable for donation. I’ve heard that many Goodwill places will still take it but I have yet to find one. I usually end up putting it in a yellow Planet Aid Bin. I know there is some controversy with Planet Aid since they sell textiles however I personally feel that at least selling the goods to companies that repurpose them into insulation, playground paving and carpet pads just to name a few is better than it sitting in Landfill #3. CD’s can be sent to the CD Recycling Center through the mail. #6 styrofoam / peanuts is tricky… the best solution I have so far is I bring it to my friend’s house who lives in LA and her curbside recycling takes it or I save it to reship stuff. (Lame I know). The point I’m trying to drive home is there are solutions, they may not be as convenient as dropping it in your blue bin.
3. Reusing and reducing – Everyone knows the three Rs. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We also all know to donate our old stuff to charity. What we forget is we tend to focus on the last one and forget about the first two, especially reduce. This is something I’ve struggled with but little changes can make all the difference. I stopped buying milk and orange juice in cartons and buy them in recyclable plastic containers instead. Prewrapped individual packs are great, but terrible for the environment. It’s the little stuff like that can make a huge impact.
4. Food scraps and compost – Instead of throwing food scraps in the trash compost or at the very least throw fruit and veggies into your green bin. I’ve been an avid composter for about 7 years and it really does make a difference. I also found personally doing two smaller shops a week instead of a huge big shop prevents food waste because inevitably I will have a night where I’m too lazy to cook what I’ve planned and order Dino’s.
So there you have it. Typing this out I should retitle this post to “How I went from a pretty good recycler to beyond crazy about it.” Anyone else have any tips? What’s your recycling like?