Los Angeles residents can now recycle clean food, beverage containers

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Corey Moore/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tosses food and beverage cartons into a recycling bin near Fresco Community Market in L.A.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says that when he leaves office in a couple of years, so should much of the trash his city generates. The mayor used that timeline as a goal to promote a new recycling initiative.

At news conference near Fresco Community Market in LA, organizers advised the mayor to stand back as a sanitation truck revved up. The vehicle emptied a blue plastic bin of food and beverage cartons for recycling. Moments earlier, Villaraigosa had removed his suit jacket to dump various milk, juice and soup cartons into the big blue bin.

The mayor’s gesture may have made for a cool photo opportunity. But he emphasized why, in his opinion, it means much more.

“Please join me in making recycling in our city a way of life," Villaraigosa said. "So that Los Angeles remains an international leader in clean, green practices.”

Organizers expect the effort will divert more than 400 tons of additional waste from landfills over the next year. The city of LA has partnered with a coalition of manufacturers called the Carton Council to encourage households to recycle empty, clean and dry food and beverage containers.

Project leader Jeffrey Fielkow says the benefits go beyond the push to green LA’s environment. He notes that industries around the world want the stuff cartons are made of - paper pulp, plastics and foil.

“There are many North American end-users such as Paper Mills that are actively buying this grade and they also exist globally as well.”

Organizers praise LA as the largest city in the state to add carton recycling and the number one recycling city in the nation. They say millions of Angelenos and hundreds of LA Unified schools have helped boost recycling efforts in recent years.

The mayor predicts that by the time his term ends, the carton recycling program will have helped LA divert about three-fourths of the 10-million tons of trash the city generates a year. The city already recycles more than half the trash it collects.

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