Trash talking

Like any secret hidden in plain view, the recent splash of news reminding us that two dozen dump trucks full of our city’s garbage caravan 282-mile each and every night> from Sacramento to Reno and back again … well, it came as a kind of shocker.

Think about it. Whatever garbage went into your green bin on trash day likely wound up the next morning in a high-desert landfill outside Reno, Nev. To add insult to injury, your trash was hauled there in diesel vehicles that get five to seven miles per gallon and spew greenhouse-gases galore. In fact, Sacramento’s garbage travels over a longer distance to get dumped than the trash of any other major city in California.

It seems crazy because it is.

A bit of trash back story: When it became clear that the city’s Midtown dump was maxed out in the early 1990s, Sacramento officials made arrangements to have municipal trash “tipped” instead at the county’s Kiefer Landfill in Sloughhouse, 19 miles from downtown on Grant Line Road. This went on through the mid-1990s. But late in the decade, city officials decided that the county was overcharging for the service and threatened to dump its trash elsewhere, i.e. Nevada. Suffice to say, the period was full of feuding, failed negotiations and political infighting between the city and county.

Plenty of people and organizations at that time, including SN&R, opposed the dump-Sacramento’s-trash-in-Reno plan. But the scheme to contract with a private trucking firm to dump the city’s waste in the wasteland (pun intended) of Lockwood, Nev., 15 miles east of Reno, was approved anyway.

Flash forward almost 10 years to now, and the uber-polluting trash transfer seems more outrageous than ever. Much has been made, and rightly so, of the contrast between Sacramento’s new eco-slogan “America’s Greenest” and the trucks’ nightly pollution-spewing travels. (Props to The Sacramento Bee, by the way, for hauling this information back into the public limelight.)

Thankfully, city officials are considering withdrawing from the Lockwood arrangement and are negotiating with the county to accept the city’s trash, once again, at Kiefer Landfill. This is good news, especially since the county has made an effort in recent years to improve the landfill and make dumping there more competitively priced.

Two things must happen: First, citizens of “America’s greenest” city must increase their efforts to “reduce, reuse, recycle” on both a residential and—especially—on a workplace level. Indeed, a new ordinance adopted by the Sacramento Regional Solid Waste Authority requires 20,000 local businesses (ones that produce 4 cubic yards of waste weekly) to adopt recycling programs or face fines of as much as $2,000 a day.

Second, city officials from “America’s Greenest” must make use of the momentum that now exists and cut a reasonable deal with the county as regards Kiefer Landfill. Sacramento’s I-80 trash trek must come to an end.