The City of Los Angeles was among the first in the nation to jump on the recycling bandwagon, introducing its first pilot program for residents in the early 1980s. Rick Spang, superintendent of the city's Solid Resources Citywide Recycling Div., says the City of Angels has made great strides since then. The amount of solid waste being diverted from local landfills has steadily increased and recyclable materials are now being collected in a cost-efficient manner with the city's “clean” fleet.

”California is a very progressive state,” says Spang, “and has always had an interest in environmental conservation. In 1989 Assembly Bill 939 — the California Solid Waste Management Act — was passed, requiring local governments to divert from landfills 50% of their waste stream by the year 2000. We're now one of the few cities in the state certified as having reached that goal.”

The biggest leap the city made in collections was moving from manual separation of recyclables to “Blue Bin” single-stream automated recycling. With the introduction of 90-gal. blue bins in 1998, residents no longer were required to separate their own recyclables, which increased participation dramatically.

Recyclables are taken to one of six material recovery facilities under contract with the city, where automated equipment is used to separate the various components, such as glass, aluminum and paper products. “We collect about 867 tons of material from residential homes each day,” Spang states.

The city of Los Angeles also has a yard trimmings recycling program. Grass, shrubbery and trees, Spang notes, account for 31% of the waste stream. The city picks up 1,700 tons a day in yard trimmings, which are either processed at city-owned mulching and composting facilities or sold to independent contractors.

State-of-the-art Peterbilt Model 320 refuse trucks make up most of the city's recycling fleet. Spang says the availability of creature comforts like air conditioning and air-ride seats has increased tremendously in refuse trucks. The Peterbilt 320 model also has a low-entry cab, which makes getting in and out of the truck easier for operators of manual front and side-loaders.

“The preponderance of our fleet consists of Amret automated loaders,” Spang reports. “Built in Ontario, the units are very versatile and have high-speed collection abilities. The major advantage is that drivers do not have to dismount the truck in order to make collections. With the automated ‘grabbers’ it takes about 10 seconds to make a collection. Our drivers are averaging 150 containers an hour.

“We also have 24 rear loaders in the fleet, 40 front loaders for collecting bulky items like household appliances and furniture, along with 57 semi-automated trucks, which sit on a two-axle chassis and are capable of carrying 6½ tons legally. The purpose of this smaller truck is to go into tighter areas, where traditionally we would have used a two-person rear loader. We've replaced 45 rear loaders with semi-automated trucks, which make us more productive by allowing us to use the second person on another route.”

To reduce noise pollution, the recycling division is experimenting with a new hydraulic pump on the Amret bodies that operates the lift mechanism with the engine idling. Spang notes that they are also moving to alternative fuels as the result of federal approval of South Coast Air Quality Management District rules requiring public agencies in the greater Los Angeles area to make a gradual transition to clean-fueled trucks and buses.

“We had ten test trucks operating last year with dual-fuel engines from Caterpillar. The C-10 305-hp. engines operate on 85% natural gas, with a small volume of diesel injected to provide ignition. They allow us to operate our equipment without sacrificing performance, yet they are CARB certified to the 2.5-gm NOx level. We plan to purchase another 125 of these dual-fuel trucks over the next several years,” Spang reports.