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L.A. seeks to boost recycling, while U.S. lags

February 1, 2011 |  4:27 pm



In Los Angeles 65% of the trash gets diverted from landfills, and the goal is 70% by 2013, according to city officials. That puts L.A. at the top of big-city efforts.

Nationally, Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash in 2008, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Only about 61 million tons of that trash got recycled.

Recycling began in L.A. with a 1983 pilot program, but residents are often still puzzled about whether to put something in the black bin for garbage or the blue one for recycling. One reason for the confusion is a new wave of products that look like plastic but are made of cornstarch or other materials. Some of these products can go into a compost facility, and some don't actually break down, officials at the Sanitation Bureau said.

"There is no such thing as a perfect green product," says Scott McDougall, president of TerrChoice, an environmental marketing company.

For more information on what is happening with garbage in Southern California, read The Times' special Home section on trash. We try to answer specific questions about recycling and what residents should do to cut down on the amount of stuff going to landfills. In the first column, we spell out what to do with the box once the pizza is gone. Writer Susan Carpenter also takes a very close look at her own trash for a month.

RELATED: Time to refuse those unwanted, unrecycled phone books?

                Plastic bags to be banned in unincorporated L.A. County

                Recycler launches e-collective to recycle electronics

-- Mary MacVean

Photos: Here's a look at what actually happens to the stuff Angelenos drop into their blue recycling bins. About 65% of it can be recycled, according to Michael Lee, an environmental engineering associate with the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation. These photos come from a recycling center near L.A.'s Chinatown, where 20 to 30 trucks of blue-bin trash arrive every day. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times