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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Santa Cruz County residents demand more recycling and waste reduction

Where does your trash end up? Is a landfill an appropriate land use in the Coastal Zone? Is building another landfill or shipping trash to a Monterey County site a 21st century solution for disposing of solid waste?

Santa Cruz County residents forcefully expressed their opinion on these issues at a standing-room-only meeting at the 784-seat Henry Mello Center in Watsonville on September 2. The meeting was called to solicit comments on 23 sites proposed for the next Santa Cruz County landfill. Sites in Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Monterey and San Benito Counties had been selected by County Public Works staff and the Integrated Waste Management Task Force, composed of elected officials and representatives of all the cities and the county.

Early in the meeting 10 sites were deleted from consideration. Residents of areas still under consideration gave testimony lasting three more hours. Many corrections were offered to the data presented by the staff on rainfall levels, fault zones, aquifers, domestic water intake, well levels, recharge areas, endangered species, road dimensions, traffic volumes and collision figures.

Most speakers came in defense of a particular site or area, but all were united in calling for a "21st century solution" to the County's growing solid waste problem. Landfills were characterized as an outmoded approach, no longer appropriate given the volume and composition of modern trash. Few spoke in support of sending trash to the Marina landfill, despite the fact that administrators of that facility had solicited Santa Cruz County's business.

In the last half-hour, a motion to dismiss from further consideration an additional seven sites left only three. Finally, as substantial testimony had been received regarding the geologic, Land Trust status, and environmental justice aspects of the remaining three sites, the Task Force unanimously declared all the sites unsuitable for landfill use.

The Task Force will recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they explore alternatives to landfilling, including collecting household kitchen waste with greenwaste for composting, expanded commercial and residential recycling, and waste conversion technology.

The only real solution to the growing problem of waste generated by the increasing population in Santa Cruz County will be found by reducing consumption while increasing recycling. The Santa Cruz Group of the Sierra Club has requested that Santa Cruz County redirect funds from landfill site acquisition and proposed road modifications needed for a new landfill to efforts that will increase recycling and reduce solid waste.

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