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Proposed California bill would bring recycling to more apartments

Los Angeles Recycling Center
We often hear about how people are choosing renting over buying a home. That might help with the finances, but for people who care about recycling it can lead to a new problem. In California, less than 40% of the 7.1 million apartment dwellers can recycle at home.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) has sponsored a bill to change the landscape for tenants. He joined with representatives of organizations supporting the bill in a news conference Friday at the Bella Vista Apartments in Woodland Hills -- which Blumenfield said “demonstrated it can be done and done efficiently” -- to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the legislation. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed an earlier version of the bill.

Recycle2Blumenfield’s bill (AB 818) would require owners of buildings with five or more units to provide recycling services. The bill has the support of the California Apartment Assn., which represents thousands of landlords.

“Recycling is one of the easiest things people can do to protect the planet,” said Mike Young, political and development associate at the California League of Conservation Voters. “Why would you make it harder for people to do the right thing?”

Blumenfield’s office reached out to the apartment association, said John Popoch, senior field representative for Blumenfield. “We really want to make this work.”

Recycling brings “enormous benefits” to apartment owners -- in good will and economically, because sending trash to a landfill costs more than sending it to a recycler who makes a living by sorting and selling materials used to make other things.

But some landlords are resistant, saying they don’t have space for the recycling bins or collection trucks, have trouble getting their tenants to sort the trash or their buildings have garbage chutes that don’t suit recycling.

Only 15% of the waste generated in California apartment buildings is diverted from landfills. For single-family homes, it's more than half. State law requires communities to divert at least 50%.

In Los Angeles, 180,000 apartments don’t have recycling in their buildings, according to Bureau of Sanitation statistics. But the City Council is considering making it a requirement as the city works toward a zero-waste goal.

Blumenfield came up with a way to work with landlords. But if no recycling plan can be agreed upon, the building can be exempted from the regulation, he said. And it will be the recycling companies, which have incentive to make it work, that will certify a building’s inability to institute recycling, he said.

And obstacles to recycling will diminish with time, he said, adding that a simple solution to a lack of bin space might be to use bins that are divided in half, with one side for garbage and one for recycling.

Waste Management is building a $40-million recycling facility in Sun Valley that could provide 70 long-term jobs, said Douglas Corcoran, director of operations for the company. Blumenfield’s bill, he said, is “good for the environment and good for the economy.”

ALSO:

Hopes for improving recycling at apartments

Recycling: More confusing than it should be

Can you recycle that? Some answers

-- Mary MacVean

Photos, from top: At the Los Angeles Recycling Center. (Credit: Ricardo De Aratanha / Los Angeles Times); at the news conference on the proposed recycling law are, from left, Ryan Minniear, executive director, California Apartment Assn., Los Angeles; Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield; Douglas Corcoran of Waste Management; and Mike Young, political and development associate, California League of Conservation Voters (Assembly Democrats).

 
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