The County of Santa Clara advances its environmental sustainability efforts to proactively reduce waste by instituting a new recycling and composting program, and an internal strategy to stop purchasing single-use plastic and paper bags for internal County and public events.

“We are committed to developing initiatives that will lead to zero waste in County government operations,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. “Every measure we implement, no matter how big or small, brings us closer to our goals of reducing our negative impact on the environment and achieving overall environmental sustainability.”

As an early member of the Bay Area Climate Change Collaborative, the County is implementing internal initiatives to achieve zero waste by 2020, and developing strategies to help other local governments reach the same goal.

According to the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program, 60% of the litter found in Bay Area creeks is plastic. The County is halting the purchase of single use plastic and paper bags and County departments and agencies will eliminate using these bags at internal and public County events.

“The County of Santa Clara is setting the example that there are few reasons why single-use bags are needed,” said Ken Yeager, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.  “I hope other government agencies will follow our lead.”

This strategy is in line with an initiative to ban single-use carryout bags in unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County. Currently, the County is conducting an extensive public education campaign in the unincorporated areas as well as collaboratively with local and regional jurisdictions. President Yeager intends to bring an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors in the future, asking his colleagues to consider a ban on single-use carryout bags in unincorporated Santa Clara County.

Other initiatives to reduce waste within the County organization include the implementation of a new mixed recycling and food waste composting program at County facilities. The goal is to divert 75 percent of County facility waste by 2015, waste that typically ends up in landfills.

Diverting 75 percent of County facility waste could reduce County generated greenhouse gases from waste disposal by 1,525 metric tons per year. In addition, an innovative method of handling bagged waste will cut down on the number of trips waste disposal trucks make, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle exhaust.

“Encouraging County employees to compost and recycle is a critical strategy to divert trash from our landfills,” said Smith. “We are trying to change long established habits in our day-to-day lives that lead us to automatically throw everything into the trash.”