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Trash or Treasure?

Solid waste, or trash, is a function of the human experience. Everyone on the planet produces and is affected by solid waste. According to the Story of Stuff, for every can of trash a person discards, 70 cans of trash were created by the consumption of resources, production process and distribution of products. The most obvious side effect to excessive solid waste is the loss of developable land to waste disposal facilities. As the world’s population continues to grow so does waste production and the demand for landfill sites in close proximity to population centers. As a result of land development pressures, many communities have begun redeveloping former landfill sites into viable parks, homes and businesses.

Unfortunately, landfills are not without their downsides. Some landfills, which contain hazardous substances, have resulted in health concerns for the residents, or required constant monitoring and management to prevent dangerous methane build-up and offsite migration or leaching into the water supply. Even though advancements in landfill technology have greatly reduced public health and safety risks, many people do not want to live atop or next to a landfill. In addition, sealed landfills have been proven to preserve garbage much longer than open-air, tilled facilities, thus the lack of waste decomposition delays redevelopment in the future.

The limit of available land and the environmental effects of landfills are not the only concerns. Trash isn’t cheap. The volume of waste generated and the frequency of waste services that are required for disposal is a constant cost burden as well, for private citizens and government alike.

Finally, an increase in solid waste is the result of more consumption, including the consumption of natural resources, resulting in increased levels of resource scarcity and pollution. According to the U.S. EPA, “Between 1960 and 2006, the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled from 2.7 to 4.4 pounds per day.” The modern age of service and automation shield people from the process or life cycle of the products we use, so people often buy, use and discard without reflection on the process or associated costs. In fact, every bag of trash in the ground can be tracked to the use or loss of a natural resource. For example, the cup of coffee you bought on the way to work can be traced to water and energy used to grow the beans and process the coffee.

The creation of the cup and lid required energy, trees and synthetic materials. The loss of trees and production of the lid also affected the quality of the air we breathe. When the cup is discarded in a landfill, it requires space in the ground, unless it is burned (polluting the air) or possibly submerged (polluting the sea). If not properly sealed in a landfill, the collected waste can eventually leach unwanted chemicals (from the plastic lid) into the water supply and/or vent unwanted methane gas (from paper waste) into the air. In other words, the world is a small place and natural resources and the environment are connected to everything we do. The limited supply of land, cost of disposal, and environmental impacts make waste reduction a formidable, global and local challenge. So, what are our options?

Our options are quite simple. We as a people need to Reduce our consumption whenever possible. It is also critical to Reuse our products as much as possible, maximizing the life cycle through extended use or donation can have a tremendous positive impact on our landfills. Finally, Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! Continual support and innovation in recycling will hopefully, in time, lead us to a sustainable solution for our solid waste.

In essence, waste is a choice between trash and treasure. We can continue to waste our land, money, health and environment, or we can conserve our resources by changing the way we live and consume.

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Don’t Trash the Law

California lawmakers are serious about reducing waste. Since the Integrated Waste Management Act (Assembly Bill 939, 1989) created CIWMB and set State expectations for waste jurisdictions, waste has more than doubled, up from 38 million tons in 1988. Even with such striking increase, California waste management has successfully supported equally impressive growth in the State’s population and prosperity. AB939 required 25% diversion by 1995 and 50% for 2000. Collectively, jurisdictions in California diverted 52% of solid waste from landfills in 2005, more than 46 million tons, an increase of nine-fold since 1989.

Legislative trends continue to lead California toward greater increases in solid waste diversion. The new Wiggins’ law, Senate Bill 1016, will take effect on January 1, 2009. It updates AB939, making reporting more accurate, efficient and timely. Jurisdictions will now be required to report per capita disposal rate, equivalent to 50% diversion from January 1, 2007, as opposed to reporting a lump sum diversion total, based upon 50% of the year 2000. The new law will also reduce the frequency of review for compliant jurisdictions.

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Reducing Waste in Orange

In accordance with the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), the City of Orange promotes Zero Waste in California, targeting the reduction of the State’s estimated 92 million tons of annual waste. The City and its private partners strive to meet zero waste through extensive solid waste diversion practices, which reduce solid waste flowing to landfills, by either reducing production of waste, reusing existing products, or recycling materials for the production of new products. Orange has successfully complied with State law, achieving 59% diversion as of 2006.



California Integrated Waste Management Board

Solid waste is an on-going challenge for Orange and for California. In 2007, the City’s total solid waste stream was 227,401.52 tons, of which 163,869.09 tons were deposited in regional landfills and the remaining 63,532.43 tons were recycled. Currently, Orange has no active landfills; however, as the oldest city in the county, Orange is home to the greatest number of closed landfill sites.


California Integrated Waste Management Board

Through CR&R, Incorporated, the City diverts a wide variety of materials. Monthly average diversion in 2007 equated to 48.99% for residential waste and 22.29% for commercial. Orange can do better! The City can’t do it alone. It needs your help. If you don’t already, begin living by the mantra – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!



California Integrated Waste Management Board


California Integrated Waste Management Board

California Integrated Waste Management Board

Make a difference! Join your fellow neighbors in reducing the City’s daily solid waste below 2.5 pounds per person per day. Over the last decade, Orange residents have trended toward that per capita goal. Together, we can achieve it.


Business owners we also need your help to improve the waste problem in Orange. The trend for employee waste is on the rise. Please review your practices and consider implementing waste reduction programs throughout your organizations. Together Orange can make a difference.

California Integrated Waste Management Board

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