The city of Lodi has projected it surpassed a state-mandated goal to recycle 50 percent of all solid waste by the year 2000, though the state has yet to approve that figure.
According to a report submitted to the state, Lodi diverted 54 percent of its waste from landfills in 2000, but the city will have to wait at least two or three more months until the report goes before a hearing.
Assembly Bill 939, passed by the state Legislature in 1989, required cities and counties to lower the amount of garbage it transferred to landfills. Based on the amount of garbage in landfills in 1990, areas had to reduce that amount by 25 percent in 1995, and 50 percent by 2000.
Through a variety of means, including increased garbage rates and added recycling education, Lodi reduced its amount of garbage by 43 percent in 1995.
"There has been a lot of support from the community," City Manager Dixon Flynn said. "We still have a long way to go, and we still have a lot to do, especially with hazardous material."
The city has projected a decrease of 54 percent for 2000, according to the report they submitted to the state, said Roni Java, spokeswoman for the state waste management board.
But because of a backlog of reports from cities and counties throughout California, the state has yet to evaluate Lodi's statistics and numbers to decide whether to accept them.
The 2000 report was submitted to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the agency that monitors waste disposal and is responsible for upholding AB 939, said Rebecca Areida, management analyst for the city of Lodi.
Once the report is submitted to the state, it is then reviewed by a six-member board and goes to a hearing.
"It's a pretty long process from what I've been hearing," Areida said.
That process is being held up because the board has to review reports from 445 jurisdictions, and the board only meets once a month, Java said.
"We've been bringing (the reports) forward in big chunks since January," she said. "Our analyst is expecting that the city of Lodi's diversion success will be heard this fall."
While city officials were hesitant to confirm the 54 percent figure because it has not been approved by the state, Java thought it may be accurate.
"According to the most recent information, Lodi is doing really well," she said, citing the report given the state by Lodi.
Though Lodi met and passed the 1995 requirement with 43 percent, that rate dropped to 29 percent in 1997 and to 37 percent in 1998. City and state officials did not immediately know why those rates dropped.
Some cities see drops because of large freeway reconstruction projects, in which the building material must be thrown away, Java said.
Alex Oseguera, district manager for Central Valley Waste Management, which handles Lodi's waste, said one reason could be that waste from outside of Lodi was transported in.
However, if the current diversion rates are any indication, Lodi is going in the right direction, and recycling programs seem to be working.
"How many faxes do you no longer send because you have e-mail?" Oseguera said.
When AB 939 was passed, the city and Central Valley Waste Management began implementing more recycling programs and educating students. For example, children counted 13 items of trash within a paper bag lunch, whereas a cloth bag with items wrapped in foil cut that number drastically, said Christine Wied, educational and recycling coordinator for Central Valley Waste Management
"We're trying very hard here in Lodi. Our three-cart system was one of the ways we made it easier," she said.
The three-cart system allows residents to sort their trash into garbage, recycling, and lawn and garden waste, and Oseguera hailed it as a big improvement.
Cities and jurisdictions that do not follow the legislation passed in 2000 can face fines of up to $10,000 per day, although Java said no penalties have been imposed yet.
In San Joaquin County, Lathrop was the only area that has been reviewed, and it met the requirement with a 72 percent diversion rate, according to Java.
While most of the 139 cities and counties reviewed had met the 50 percent limit, 25 did not. None have received penalties yet, and Java said the state tries to work with those who come close to reaching the goal.
"Some are really close and have done everything they can, so they get what is called 'good faith credit,'" she said.
Those areas that do not meet the requirements may also receive a formal time extension of up to three years. Fines are only implemented if the cities and jurisdictions ignore the laws and refuse to make a strong effort to abide by them, Java said.
Preliminary reports show that Lodi is still meeting the state's requirements for 2001, Oseguera said, though those figures are not part of the 2000 report made to the state.
"The question is what will happen next. Will the state require that 75 percent be diverted? That's the next big question looming out there," Oseguera said.
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