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Award Proves County Public Works’ Efforts Don’t Go to Waste

Santa Barbara County's integrated waste management program is recognized with top national honors.

Santa Barbara County’s Public Works Department has earned top honors for its integrated waste management program from the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Competing against municipalities across the United States and Canada in the category of Solid Waste Management Systems, the county’s system, according to SWANA, “is no small accomplishment given the excellent quality of this year’s nominations and the challenges faced by many of the programs and operations in the solid waste industry.” The award, said Public Works deputy director Mark Schleich, encompasses everything from facilities and operations to programs and outreach.

“In 1995, our diversion rate was only 30 percent and today Santa Barbara County is at 69 percent, making us one of the leaders for waste management recycling in California,” said 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, the board chairman. “Our Public Works employees who have worked so hard with the community to achieve success are to be congratulated for receiving this national award.”

“We’re aiming for 100 percent diversion,” said Schleich. “And that’s going to take a lot of work.”

Currently, county Public Works, along with the city of Santa Barbara, is in the middle of a big push to get a waste conversion facility on the ground to divert the county’s trash before it winds up in the Tajiguas Landfill, which has about 13 years left in it. The department has just completed a feasibility study for the multimillion-dollar project and is considering its options. On Aug. 18 the agency will be consulting with local elected officials to hash out details about what might appear in the department’s Request for Proposals.

“We envision that these vendors will spend several hundreds of dollars in preparing proposals, so we’re trying to have as much information that they would need, and that we’re as clear as we can be about what we’re asking for,” said Schleich. Not only would the chosen vendor be spending millions of dollars on the facility, Public Works will be committing funds to the project for up to 20 years.

“It’s a big project, so we’re taking the time to make sure we get it right,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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