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LA County unveils a 10-year plan to divert 75 percent of trash from landfills

Photo by Suzy Morris via Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan Tuesday to divert 75 percent of its trash from landfills by the year 2025.

Called a Roadmap to a Sustainable Waste Management Future, the plan's waste-reduction strategies includes building a plant to capture methane gas produced by decomposing food, lumber and yard waste - and turn it into compressed natural gas - which can power cars or facilities. Officials said this kind of organic waste comprises about 60 percent of area landfills.

"This is going to be a huge change for the county because we have to figure out how it is going to be collected, and how it is going to be processed and then to build the infrastructure to convert," said Pat Proano, of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. He said the county intends to have the first facility up and running in five years.

Los Angeles County already diverts about 50 percent of its trash from landfills.

The new plan is aligned with new state laws that require businesses to cut back on waste - including one requiring restaurants, grocery stores, schools and other food providers to recycle food scraps starting in 2016. The law will go into effect in stages, starting with businesses that generate eight cubic yards or more of organic waste per week.

The recycled food scraps must be hauled away and recycled by special trucks and facilities to ensure proper health and safety standards, said Ron Saldana, executive director of the Los Angeles County Disposal Association. His trade organization represents the companies who will do this work.

"It really requires a whole new infrastructure," he said. "And it's going to take some money, and its going to take some time to be able build up to that infrastructure, but it's already starting now."