Thousand Oaks' Recycling Program Recognized by State

Thousand Oaks, CA - Ask a Thousand Oaks, California, resident what the "3 R's" are and you may get a surprising answer - "reduce, reuse and recycle." Residents and businesses of Thousand Oaks have shown a commitment to environmental practices during the past 12 years. In recognition of the City's commitment to recycling programs, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which in the past, has recognized the city as a model program statewide, has honored Thousand Oaks for its 66 percent diversion rate at a recent meeting of the board.

"We are extremely fortunate to have a very supportive community with regard to environmental programs, and two private refuse haulers— G.I. Industries and Newbury Disposal— who are fully committed to recycling and waste reduction," said City Manager Mary Jane V. Lazz. "Residents have so many opportunities to recycle a wide variety of items such as beverage containers, junk mail, empty aerosol cans, yard trimmings and phone books. Those who create less waste pay lower trash rates as well."

"Our contract with our waste haulers creates many incentives for residents and businesses to recycle, and requires the companies to provide many free programs that other communities have to pay for," added Ms. Lazz.

Mike Smith, Operations Manager of GI Industries, commented, "Our parent company, Waste Management Inc., is known nationwide as an environmental leader, especially through our use of natural gas collection vehicles, many of which are used on Thousand Oaks routes. We also have a strong commitment to service excellence and want to ensure that our city customers are satisfied with our collection services at all times."

Newbury Disposal is about to open a state-of-the-art sorting facility that will improve Thousand Oaks recycling rates even more through improved separation of materials, especially from commercial and temporary bin accounts, according to Vice-President Jim Harrison.

"The city boasts some impressive recycling numbers; for example, in 2001, residents recycled more than 26,600 tons of yard trimmings. Between 2000 and 2002, the residential curbside recycling program, the largest in Ventura County, grew 16 percent. And comparing landfill disposal in 1990 with that in 2000, the city reduced trash sent to landfills by 66 percent," Lazz explained.

Community businesses are encouraged to recycle through a rate structure that provides lower rates for recycling. "We are particularly proud of our rate incentives for businesses to reduce their waste," said Public Works Director Donald H. Nelson. "Our collection companies offer reduced rates for businesses that recycle a certain percentage of their waste stream, and a majority of city businesses take advantage of these savings."

Thousand Oaks' staff also promotes purchase and use of durable and recycled content goods, by making items such as thermal mugs and canvas bags available for low-cost public purchase. Yard trimmings, which accounted for almost 30 percent of the city's waste in 1990, is reduced through a mulching mower subsidy program and frequent free compost workshops and bin sales. "Grasscycling" is also promoted, and free compost and wood chips are made available on a regular basis to the community.

"In response to a recent state law banning landfill disposal of cathode ray tubes found in televisions and computer monitors, the city developed the first "E-Waste" program in Ventura County. A recent drop-off event collected a record 97,000 pounds of used computers, monitors, televisions, and other electronic waste," Mr. Nelson said.

The program includes free curbside collection of E-Waste from GI Rubbish and Newbury Disposal, and drop-off facilities at Gold Coast Recycling Facility in Ventura, and the Del Norte Recycling Facility in Oxnard.

Other innovative programs offered by Thousand Oaks include a "Community Enhancement Program" that provides neighborhood groups with dumpsters paid by the city, a grants program that funds various waste reduction and recycling projects, and free community clean up events that are held twice a year (more than 300 tons were collected in 2001 and most was recycled.)

The city also offers an extensive monthly hazardous waste collection program for small businesses and residents. The program collects up to 30,000 pounds of toxic waste each month and is the largest program in the County. Through an Internet-based appointment process, participants are able to use the program with little delay or waiting.