Tuesday, September 18 , 2018, 11:20 am | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

County Public Works Plans Revolutionary Change in the Way We Handle Our Waste

Our trash isn’t going away. Neither is our increasing knowledge of the effects trash has on our community nor the higher state standards that we have to meet while handling our trash in the future. The Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project is the proposed next step in addressing the waste management needs of our community in an environmentally responsible way.

In 2002, after the last expansion of the Tajiguas Landfill was approved by the Board of Supervisors, county public works staff was directed to seek out and implement alternative waste management methods for the region served by the Tajiguas Landfill. After several years of research, and a comprehensive procurement process in collaboration with the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang and Buellton, and over 125 public presentations, we are proposing the development of the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project.

This project primarily consists of a materials recovery facility (MRF) that would process the waste currently delivered to the landfill, pulling out recyclables, and organics, and an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility that would convert the diverted organic waste into electricity, compost and other soil amendments. This project is expected to reduce the amount we currently landfill by over 60 percent, putting our community at a recycling rate well above 80 percent.

To be clear, this proposed project is not a replacement for existing recycling programs, but a useful addition that will allow our programs to grow into the future. The new MRF will allow us more control and flexibility over the materials we are currently recycling. The AD facility will allow us to expand existing food waste collection programs and offer additional products to local farmers and residents beyond the 35,000 tons of mulch the county already provides.

One of the many environmental benefits this project offers is the reduction of greenhouse gas impacts equivalent to taking more than 24,000 vehicles off of the road annually. This is a tremendous impact that will help all of the communities participating in this project achieve their respective Climate Action Plans and the State mandated goals of reducing greenhouse gases by the year 2020.

Some of the comments we have received at public presentations over the years have questioned the location of the proposed project. In response to this common question, the draft SEIR has an alternatives section that looks at the environmental impacts of building the facilities that make up the project in other locations, such as building the MRF closer to the urban core of Santa Barbara. The alternatives section also looks at environmental consequences of exporting our waste out of our community. Most of these alternatives have significant environmental impacts. The report itself did not find an environmentally superior option among these choices to the original proposal. It should also be noted, that these alternatives have an economic impact. By our own research, any cost increase that may be caused by this project will be equal to or less than the alternatives studied.

On Aug. 11, the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department released the draft subsequent environmental impact report of the proposed Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project. Input from the public at large through emails, phone calls, letters and public comment has been crucial in developing the goals and criteria of this project. The county Public Works Department would like to continue this dialog through the SEIR process and are asking for all stakeholders to comment on the adequacy of the analysis provided.

Please provide comments on the draft SEIR by Sept. 24 to Joddi Leipner at [email protected] or 805.882.3614. We are also accepting comments by traditional mail at: Resource Recovery Project Public Comment, Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division, 130 E. Victoria St., Suite 100, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.

Click here for a copy of the draft EIR or additional information on this project.

— Mark Schleich is the deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department.

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