Residents Join Effort To Reduce Waste

Posted on September 6, 2012 by  
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Draeger’s Market in downtown Los Altos is among the local businesses that have joined the city’s model waste-reduction program. The goal is to reduce the amount of trash hauled to the landfill by composting organic food and yard wastes and increasing recycling.

“It’s a win-win situation – good for our bottom line and for the environment,” said Ron Piazza, Draeger’s manager. “While garbage pickups cost us money, composting and recycling are free.”

In 2010, the Los Altos City Council awarded a 10-year contract to Mission Trail Waste Systems that includes expanded recycling, organics and household hazardous waste collection. According to Mission Trail officials, the city’s overall landfill diversion rate in 2011 reached 71 percent.

“It’s my hope that we will reach 75 percent this year and 78 percent (required by the contract) by the end of 2013,” said Teresa Montgomery, Mission Trail public relations manager.

Implementation was seamless, according to Albert Deras, Draeger’s receiving clerk.

“Once you learn what to do, it becomes automatic,” he said.

Mission Trail representatives visited the store to conduct a free waste assessment and provided composting and recycling bins. As staff was trained in the new system and the store’s recycling and composting ramped up, Mission Trail supplied more bins and the store’s garbage disposal decreased accordingly.

“We went from four dumpsters a week to just one,” Deras said. “The cost savings and positive environmental impact made it well worth our effort.”

While participation in recycling/organics collection programs is a vast improvement over simply throwing everything in the garbage to be landfilled, it’s even better to implement policy and programs that eliminate waste, Montgomery said. For example, many local grocery stores reward shoppers for bringing their own bags rather than using disposable plastic or paper bags. Incentives include weekly drawings for store gift cards, five-cent bag rebates and donations to local nonprofit groups.

“We’re delighted with Mission Trail – they’ve managed a significant program conversion and made excellent progress in the past two years,” said Don Bray, Environmental Commission chairman. “The commission will continue to work closely with Mission Trail to understand and define how the processes work.”

If there’s room for improvement, it’s with Los Altos businesses.

Passerelle Investment Co., a real estate development company located in downtown Los Altos, is ahead of the pack. Two Passerelle tenants – Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Bumble – participate in the composting and recycling waste initiative. The company sponsors a sustainability education program for employees and tenants.

“Mission Trail has made it so easy,” said Brooke Ray Smith, Passerelle planning analyst. “Free composting and recycling saves businesses money, thus improving their bottom line.”

Margie Suozzo, GreenTown Los Altos chairwoman, commended the city council and the Environmental Commission for their decision to expand recycling and composting in Los Altos.

“Thanks to Mission Trail’s single-stream recycling and food waste composting, we saw an immediate and significant increase in Los Altos’ diversion rate. Everyone who participates is ensuring the health of our community today and for future generations.”

Peg Champion is a member of GreenTown Los Altos and principal of Champion Organic Communications. For more information, visit ChampionOrganic.com or greentownlosaltos.org.

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