Worn out shoes, banana peels, old toothbrushes, scratched CDs, or extra-wide boba straws are just some of the items you may find discarded by Alhambra residents. Separated into three distinct bins, or hurled into shared multi-family dumpsters, each week our trash is reluctantly dragged to a back alley or curbside location, hauled away by garbage trucks, and conveniently forgotten.
Although we part with our waste without much thought, I wanted to follow our trash as it begins a long and complex journey after being picked up by Allied Waste and Consolidated Disposal Services. I talked to Elizabeth Martinez of Consolidated Waste Services about the process, which involves a large fleet of trucks, a couple of transfer centers, a state-of-the-art material recovery facility, a few landfills, and even large international shipments.
The first stop for all of Alhambra’s refuse is Allied Waste Services’ East Los Angeles Transfer Center. This is where unsorted trash, recyclables, and green waste are each consolidated into 18-wheel trucks before being sent out to different locations.
Alhambra’s residential waste goes on its way to the Sunshine Landfill in Sylmar, where it is compacted, buried, and covered with layers of Alternative Daily Cover (ADC). The city’s residential green waste, which includes lawn clippings and compostable material, is used either as an ADC at the Puente Hills Landfill or as a land amendment for a North Hills Recycling site.
Items that get placed into the blue recycling bins, as well as unsorted multi-family and commercial waste, go on a different path and eventually end up at a huge material recovery facility (MRF) in Anaheim. Each day the MRF, which recently received a $20 million system update, sorts 6,000 tons of recyclable material by type, compresses it into huge bales, and packages it to be shipped domestically and abroad for processing. Non-recyclable materials that get filtered out along the way are eventually deposited into the Olinda-Brea Landfill.
So next time you throw away that old apple core or that piece of junk mail, think about their long journey out of your trash and recycling bins and across Southern California!