The Green Gate
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More Trash Being Generated, Offsetting Gains Made in Garbage Diversions
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Every year, Bay Area residents and businesses produce millions of tons of garbage. More than half is sent to landfills, including Altamont in Alameda County, Keller Canyon in Contra Costa, and Kirby Canyon in Santa Clara. Landfills like these pose serious environmental hazards. The good news is that Bay Area counties are doing a better job of diverting garbage from landfills -- mostly through recycling. The bottom line, however, is that residents and businesses are generating an increasing amount of garbage per person, offsetting gains made in diversions. In fact, the Bay area has the second highest rate of per-person garbage generation in the state.

How much garbage is generated in the Bay Area? How much on average do residents produce? How much do businesses produce? How much is kept out of landfills? To find out, NRDC experts examined two different sets of data compiled by the state's Integrated Waste Management Board. The data paint a complicated and problematic picture of Bay Area garbage. Among the key facts:

  • On average, each Bay Area resident generated almost two pounds of garbage per day in 1999, while the average employee generated almost eight pounds per day. Marin residents had the dubious distinction of generating the most garbage per day -- almost three pounds -- while employees in Sonoma County generated the most garbage per day -- more than 12 pounds.

  • During the period 1995 to 1998, the average daily amount of garbage generated increased for both residents and employees.

  • According to data for the period 1995 to 1998 (the last year for which complete data are available), most Bay Area counties are well on their way to meeting the state-mandated goal of diverting 50 percent of their garbage from landfills. This includes Solano, which, until 1998, had by far the lowest diversion rate in this period.

  • With the exception of San Mateo and Sonoma, all Bay Area counties diverted at least 40 percent of their total trash in 1998. Three counties -- Napa, Solano, and Marin -- cleared the 50 percent mark that year. Marin has the highest diversion rate, and San Mateo the lowest.

  • According to government comparisons, the Bay Area has the second highest rate of per-person garbage production among the state's regions.

Garbage Chart

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