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Los Angeles Asks Residents To Recycle Food Scraps

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Los Angeles Asks Residents To Recycle Food Scraps

Environment

Los Angeles Asks Residents To Recycle Food Scraps

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block. The City of Los Angeles is experimenting with a way to keep its landfills from filling up. Residents in select neighborhoods are being asked to put their table scraps into recycling bins instead of just tossing the food in the trash. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, some people still need a little persuading.

Mr. EMANUEL MADISON (Recycling Ambassador, Leimert Park, Los Angeles): Are you ready?

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Emanuel Madison goes door to door in LA's Leimert Park neighborhood as a recycling ambassador. His mission, to distribute two-gallon kitchen pails to houses targeted in the pilot program.

Mr. MADISON: I feel like Little Red Riding Hood, only I'm carrying green baskets.

DEL BARCO: Homeowner Larry Roberts gets out of bed to answer the door in his underwear.

Mr. LARRY ROBERTS (Resident, Leimert Park, Los Angeles): Oh, hello. What's up?

Mr. MADISON: Hey, I'm with the City of L.A. and they're launching their food scrap program. Have you heard about it?

Mr. ROBERTS: No.

Mr. MADISON: With the green waste scraps. Actually the city is offering you the green container to separate your household scraps away from your garbage and they would like for you to put...

Mr. ROBERTS: How do you define household scraps, man?

Mr. MADISON: Household scraps would be like eggshells, meats, you know, types of vegetables, bones...

DEL BARCO: Madison tries to give Roberts the city's sales pitch. He can put his food scraps in the new small containers and eventually dump it into a bigger recycling bin for lawn clippings. But Roberts points out he's already dragging three bins to the curb as it is.

Mr. ROBERTS: And essentially, they're all- it's all garbage.

Mr. MADISON: Right.

Mr. ROBERTS: And, you know, and you want to sit- you want me to have a meal…

Mr. MADISON: Correct.

Mr. ROBERTS: OK, separate my garbage…

Mr. MADISON: Correct.

Mr. ROBERTS: Which I'm already separating my cans and bottles...

Mr. MADISON: Correct. I just I want to say…

Mr. ROBERTS: Which I'm already separating my grass clippings from my trash?

Mr. MADISON: Yes, sir.

Mr. ROBERTS: OK.

Mr. MADISON: Yes, sir.

Mr. ROBERTS: What next, man? Do I need to sift through my feces as well?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MADISON: I haven't heard any plans for that.

Mr. ROBERTS: (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

DEL BARCO: The real plan is to try to divert 600 tons of wasted food that go to the landfills every day. The new pilot program would have nearly 5,000 L.A. households join residents in San Francisco and Seattle. Those cities have been separating table scraps for years and recycling it into compost. To understand the process I started by visiting L.A. Solid Resources Processing Division and its manager, Paul Blount.

(Soundbite of coughing)

Mr. PAUL BLOUNT (Operations Manager, Solid Resources Processing Division): It stinks.

DEL BARCO: This is where it all happens. This is where the garbage comes from all over the city. It gets dumped in this transfer station to get hauled off to the landfill.

Mr. BLOUNT: We're taking in probably somewhere between 2,000 and 2,600 tons a day.

DEL BARCO: People have thrown out diapers and vegetables and…

Mr. BLOUNT: Yeah. There's a lot of recyclables in this pile. Look at that green waste there. See the leaves?

DEL BARCO: In with the grass clippings and leaves, the so-called green waste, there's also tons of food. LA says those table scraps are a resource that can be recycled. I saw how the city's already doing it with other organic materials.

(Soundbite of a truck backing up)

DEL BARCO: The yard trimmings from all over Los Angeles are brought to this canyon here in the San Fernando Valley that used to be a landfill. Now it's a place where they make compost.

Mr. JIM KIRS (Superintendent, Solid Waste Disposal): We collect it. We separate it. We grind it and ship it out to the farmers.

DEL BARCO: What's your name, sir?

Mr. KIRS: My name is Jim Kirs. I'm a solid waste disposal superintendent. We're standing on landfill right now. There's probably about, oh, 250 feet of trash under us right here where we're standing. There's so much more that goes into the landfill that could be recycled.

DEL BARCO: Back on the streets, L.A. is depending on its recycling ambassadors to win over skeptical Angelenos like Robert Stinson. He's not interested in using the new green pails.

Mr. ROBERT STINSON (Resident, Los Angeles): No, I don't need it. I give my scraps to my dog.

DEL BARCO: But most people seem pretty happy to comply.

Ms. LILY ANN YAMAKA (Resident, Los Angeles): You know, it's not that hard to do, you know.

Unidentified Man: It isn't.

Ms. YAMAKA: I just put it next to my kitchen trash there.

DEL BARCO: Lily Ann Yamaka, who's 85 years old, says she's eager to do what she can.

Ms. YAMAKA: The environment, I'm really interested in it, because- for the future generation. The young people should be, too.

Unidentified Man: I think so.

Ms. YAMAKA: If they want to have a planet left.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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