Tale of two landfills - Page 7

With a pair of giant corporations vying for control of San Francisco's trash, will our zero waste dreams ever become a reality?

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San Francisco has trucked its trash to the Altamont landfill since 1987
PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS

David Pilpel, a political activist who has followed the contract, agreed that San Francisco officials can't simply walk away from Altamont and call it a green move, but he would like to see the city use rail rather than trucks. "Instead of putting stuff on long-haul trucks, put it on a rail gondola and haul it around the peninsula to Livermore," he said. "The Altamont expansion was for San Francisco's purposes. So to say now, 'We'll go elsewhere,' is lame."

Sally Brown, a research associate professor at the University of Washington, acknowledges that landfills have done a great job of giving us places to dump our stuff and can be skillfully engineered to release less methane and capture more productive biogases.

"However, we are entering a new era where resources are limited and carbon is king," Brown wrote in the May 2010 edition of Biocycle magazine. "In this new era, dumping stuff may cease to be an option because that stuff has value. and that value can be efficiently extracted for costs that are comparable to or lower than the costs — both environmental and monetary — associated with dumping."

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on the contract later this year, deciding whether to validate the Department of the Environment's choice of Recology or go with WM. Either way, lawsuits are likely to follow.

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