Full stream ahead

Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful’s Waste Stream Tour

Tom Donovan of RT Donovan shows off his composting operation.

Tom Donovan of RT Donovan shows off his composting operation.

Photo By ashley hennefer

For a video of this year’s tour, visit the RN&R Green Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RNRGreen.

After a night of rain, the smell of wet cardboard, trash and compost was prevalent during this year’s Waste Stream Tour, organized by Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. The annual tour takes local green leaders to locations throughout the region to demonstrate different ways waste is handled—in some cases, handled poorly.

Eight people participated in the tour, some from local businesses, nonprofits or state agencies. Christi Cakiroglu, executive director of KTMB, said she invited the candidates running for Reno City Council, who were unable to make the tour because of a senior citizen’s forum held during the same time. She also said that she has yet to get a Reno City Council member to attend.

The first stop on the tour was the Waste Management’s Recycle America Facility in Sparks, open since 1991. Here, newspapers, magazines, glass and aluminum are sorted. The newspapers and magazines are sent to China, where it is used to make new newsprint or cardboard. The glass is sent to a benefactor in Sacramento, and aluminum cans are sent to Kentucky, where “within six weeks they end up back on the shelf,” said John Langelle of WM.

Participants then stopped by the Lockwood landfill, about 20 minutes outside of Sparks. The landfill generates power by producing methane through its landfill-to-gas system—enough to power more than 1,800 houses—and the electricity is put back into the grid. The landfill has 23 more years before it reaches its capacity, and is one of the biggest in the country.

Because of this, other companies are trying to pick up the slack by providing alternative options for waste use. RT Donovan is one of few local places that accepts green waste, and also produces compost. Owner Tom Donovan discussed the uses of green waste, such as using compost for erosion control.

“There is no legislative mandate to keep green waste out of a landfill,” he said.

Donovan noted some of the challenges that come with composting, including small items that most people don’t think about, like the stickers that come on produce.

“You’d think those stickers would just be paper with adhesive, but they are actually made out of plastic,” he said. “They’ve made this thing so they essentially never break down.”

But a drive out to illegal dump sites in Golden Valley showed that despite the available resources, some members of the public choose to bypass legal disposal all together. The bumpy dirt road into the hills revealed many areas of litter, including several acres of broken glass, as well as piles of old tires, mattresses and televisions riddled with holes from bullets from hobby shooters.

“People don’t realize the extent illegal dumping occurs to our community,” said Cakiroglu.

The final stop on the tour was at Waste Management’s transfer station. Representatives of WM also demonstrated how medical and biohazard waste are safely handled through a compacting and heating process.

Cakiroglu hopes that projects like the tour will show the community what’s working well and what needs to be improved.

“It’s an exciting time for trash because there are a lot of changes happening,” she said. KTMB is creating a video version of the tour for those who can’t attend in person, and Cakiroglu hopes the video will be shown in local schools.