Recycling Rope-a-Dope

MarBorg and County Square Off

MarBorg Industries will be allowed to propose building a massive materials recovery facility (MRF) that sorts out recyclable materials from trash on Quarantina Street to compete with a similar facility now backed by the County of Santa Barbara and Mustang Renewable Power Ventures — a private firm out of San Luis Obispo — which have been pushing to build a major MRF at Tajiguas Landfill.

Whether built by MarBorg or Mustang, the new MRF is an integral part of a multi-jurisdictional plan spearheaded by County Public Works to extend the permitted life of the Tajiguas Landfill, now estimated to expire in 10 years. The proposal hatched by Mustang — and embraced by County Public Works — would extend the life of the landfill by more effectively picking out the recyclables in the waste stream and by “cooking” what’s left of the garbage in an industrial anaerobic digestion chamber that accelerates the natural composting process and taps the natural gases thus released, converting them into electricity. Most of what’s left would be given away as a soil amendment; the rest would be buried in the landfill.

MarBorg entered the fray late in the game, asking to submit a plan well after Mustang’s proposal had been selected. Given that MarBorg, which just recently secured a near monopoly over South Coast waste hauling, already operates a 65,000-square-foot recycling facility on the Eastside — far closer to most households and businesses that generate the South Coast’s trash than Tajiguas, which is located on the Gaviota Coast — government decision makers found themselves hard-pressed to reject MarBorg’s entreaty. MarBorg’s proposal will be considered in the alternatives section of the environmental impact report for the Tajiguas extension plan. That contract for that report — which will cost $1.2 million to prepare — was approved by the county supervisors this Tuesday. It will take approximately 21 months to certify. Mustang officials estimate it will cost $70 million to build the facility they envision at Tajiguas.

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