At a well-attended news conference Tuesday in front of the Fresco Community Market in Highland Park, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood in front of a city garbage truck, next to an array of carton-packaging waste, and announced a large-scale expansion of the citywide recycling program, which will now include food and beverage containers.
Together with a representative of the Carton Council, an industry group that manufactures and helps recycle cartons, and the interim president of the Board of Public Works, Andrea Alarcon, the mayor announced that starting immediately, the city's blue bin recycling program will accept clean food and beverage cartons as part of Los Angeles’ commitment to becoming the nation’s first zero-waste city.
Currently, the Bureau of Sanitation recycles 65 percent of the city’s municipal solid waste—trash generated by residents and businesses—making Los Angeles the number one city in the U.S. in terms of recycling initiatives, Villaraigosa said. "But one day, this city will be the first to be a zero-waste city," the mayor added.
Tilted "On the Road to Zero Waste," the city’s recycling expansion plan calls for 70 percent of the 10.1 million tons of solid waste generated every year to be recycled rather than dumped in landfills by 2013.
According to a handout given to media at the news conference, the new carton-recycling plan will serve 750,000 single-family households and 430,000 multi-family units under the city's blue bin program.
There will be no additional cost to the city or to residents, who will now be able to dispose all manner of empty cartons—from dairy, juice and soup to soy milk, broth and wine—in their recycling bins.
The mayor urged multifamily units to step up their participation in the program, pointing out that there’s greater potential for such units to recycle their trash. "So if your apartment is yet to sign up, it's as easy as dialing 311,” Villaraigosa said, directly addressing multifamily unit dwellers. "311 will connect you with citywide recycling to deliver bins for free and pick [trash] up on a regular schedule. It's really that easy."
As news cameras rolled, a smiling Villaraigosa symbolically started tossing the array of beverage cartons on display into a blue bin. To much applause from officials, the public and media members, the cartons were promptly emptied into a waiting city garbage truck.
After the news conference, the mayor was given a tour of the Fresco Community Market. He stopped at a deli and ordered a tuna salad sandwich to go.