The Blue Barrel

"The Miramar landfill is set to reach capacity by 2013," says Steve South, president of Edco Disposal, a waste-collection and recycling company headquartered in Lemon Grove. "This means we're going to have to recycle more and come up with increased alternatives for different types of processing." Edco, named after Ed Burr, founder and owner, is "a famous, old, family-owned business that has been picking up our trash for what seems like forever -- more than 30 years," says Helen Ofield, vice president for historic sites and installations for the Lemon Grove Historical Society. On Thursday, January 3, South and Ofield will lead a tour of the new plant.

"This is the 30th anniversary of cityhood for Lemon Grove," says Ofield. "On December 19, 1977, the city council debated until midnight on whether to relax the zoning code for Edco, which had just opened. Trucks were coming in, and neighbors up on the hill were irate, and the council decided to limit the use of Edco's property to corporate offices only -- now [Edco is] the last word on trash collection and technology." Edco is the only facility in San Diego that can process mixed-construction demolition debris.

In 1989, state government passed the Integrated Waste Management Act, or AB 939, requiring all California jurisdictions to divert 50 percent of the total waste away from landfills by the year 2000. Currently, according to Senator Alex Padilla, only 62 percent of the state's jurisdictions meet that requirement. Padilla wrote the pending Senate Bill 1020, "Solid Waste Diversion," which calls for 60 percent statewide diversion by 2012 and 75 percent by 2020.

"To accomplish the goals of AB 939, we invested millions to build [recycling] plants, as opposed to building a new landfill," says South. Edco's new ability to receive mixed demolition debris has been critical to the city in the wake of the fires. "A lot of the material generated from the fire, we're receiving it from both the city and the county and sorting through it," says South. "Obviously the fires were a tragedy, and these were not anticipated volumes that would be generated for the landfills. By processing this debris, we're able to minimize the impact of the tragedy." Once it is separated and processed, most of the demolition debris, like concrete and asphalt, is reused locally.

Recyclable waste is received "fully comingled," says South, meaning "the glass is in with the paper, in with metal, plastic, and cardboard." The material is sent over a series of belts and conveyors for mechanical and manual separation. "We have an optic sort, or computer-scanning program that separates [material]. Once the optic eye makes a determination, it sends the reading to an air compressor, which then will blow air and direct some of the material [mostly plastic] onto a different conveyor....

"Typically, if people aren't recycling, it's because they just don't understand that every person makes a difference," says South. "Once people see what we're doing, how you can separate [material] and put it to reuse, then they have a greater understanding of why they should participate. Once we educate people, it's been our experience that they want to do the right thing."

South adds, "Kids are the greatest recyclers. For them, that's the way it is and there's no alternative. My kids, Trevor and Abigail, understand what goes in the blue barrel."

Some well-meaning adults still need to learn the "do's and don'ts" of recycling. Objects not accepted by the facility include plastic bags (many of which can be returned to grocery stores that will send them back to the factories that produced them), wax paper, Styrofoam, ceramics, or any plastic or glass items not labeled "CA Redemption Value" or "CA Cash Refund."

"The most damaging are any fluids -- automotive fluids like antifreeze or bleach," explains South. "They mix with the other material and tend to contaminate loads. Oil can be recycled, but it needs to be brought in separately in a sealed container." The most common mistake do-gooders make is to inadvertently dump a bag of trash that should have been placed in a trash container into the recycling bin. -- Barbarella

Tour of EDCO Recycling Facility
Thursday, January 3
1 p.m.
Lemon Grove Historical Society
3185 Olive Street
Lemon Grove
Info: 619-460-4353 or email [email protected]yahoo.com

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