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April 7, 2010 > County implements strategies to reduce waste, improve environmental sustainability

County implements strategies to reduce waste, improve environmental sustainability

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell and Laurel Anderson

Santa Clara County advances its environmental sustainability efforts to proactively reduce waste by instituting a new recycling and composting program and an internal strategy to stop purchasing single-use plastic and paper bags for internal County and public events.

âWeâre committed to developing initiatives that will lead to zero waste in County government operations,â said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith on March 29. âEvery measure we implement, no matter how big or small, brings us closer to our goals of reducing our negative impact on the environment and achieving overall environmental sustainability.â

As an early member of the Bay Area Climate Change Collaborative, the County is implementing internal initiatives to achieve zero waste by 2020 and developing strategies to help other local governments reach the same goal.

According to the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program, 60 percent of the litter found in Bay Area creeks is plastic. The County will no longer purchase single-use plastic and paper bags and County departments and agencies will cease to use them at internal and public County events.

âSanta Clara County is setting the example that there are few reasons why single-use bags are needed,â said Ken Yeager, President, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. âI hope other government agencies will follow our lead.â

This strategy is in line with an initiative to ban single-use, carry-out bags in unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County where an extensive public education campaign is underway. The County is also collaborating with local and regional jurisdictions. Yeager intends to bring an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors in the future, asking his colleagues to consider a ban on single-use, carry-out bags in unincorporated Santa Clara County.

Other initiatives to reduce waste within the County organization include the implementation of a new, mixed recycling and food waste composting program at County facilities. The goal is to divert 75 percent of County facility waste by 2015, waste that typically goes to landfills. Doing so could reduce County-generated greenhouse gases from waste disposal by 1,525 metric tons, annually. Additionally, an innovative method of handling bagged-waste will reduce the number of journeys by waste-disposal trucks, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle exhaust.

âEncouraging County employees to compost and recycle is a critical strategy to divert refuse from our landfills,â said Smith. âWeâre trying to change long-established habits in our daily lives that lead us to automatically dispose of everything.â

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