by David Goldstein,
Environmental Resource Analyst,
Ventura County PWA

In this edition, the Eye on the Environment column looks at local opportunities to save trees, manage household hazardous waste and compost food waste.


Saving trees

When the Ventura County Government Center wanted to get rid of 28 Japanese privets that were tearing up the parking lot and dropping berries on cars, the Bellagio Hotel gladly relocated the trees to Las Vegas, paying all the costs of removal and replacement with more suitable alternatives. Most “problem trees” do not have the luxury of a Vegas retirement. Instead, local trees become mulch at sites such as Ojai Valley Organics (in Meiners Oaks), Santa Clara Organics (near Fillmore), Peach Hill Soils (in Somis) or Agromin (in Ormond Beach, Simi Valley and Santa Paula).

The mulch these companies sell is used to suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, prevent erosion, and moderate soil temperature, so discarded trees still do serve a purpose. It takes a lot of energy, however, to cut, collect, transport and grind trees into mulch.

It is better to prevent waste in the first place. Start by planting the right tree in the right location. Consider the amount of sunlight in the space to be planted, and ensure the tree will have enough space to grow.

When someone decides a tree on his or her property is no longer the “right tree in the right place,” there is generally a right to cut it down. The county and some local cities, however, have ordinances protecting oaks and other types of trees.

The most commonly protected trees are street trees. Before cutting, find out which trees in front of your house actually belong to your city; removal or major pruning of these trees requires permission.

For information about efforts to prevent removal of a tree grove in Mussel Shoals, contact For furniture made from trees, see

Better solutions
for household
hazardous waste

Managing household hazardous waste used to require attending a free household hazardous waste collection event sponsored by a city or the county. Now, a more convenient system has developed to supplement that collection method. Motor oil, paint, rechargeable batteries, fluorescent bulbs and electronic waste can all be brought to businesses or nonprofits receiving payments for handling these items.

For example, more than 90 auto service centers and auto parts shops in Ventura County are certified to collect used oil and pay 40 cents per gallon for oil. Similarly, several battery stores accept rechargeable batteries for drop-off, and seven paint stores in Ventura County accept used paint free of charge. For collection of electronic waste, nonprofit organizations like Goodwill Industries also get into the collection business and receive some of the fee paid when customers buy certain new electronic items.

City and county hazardous waste collection events still accept all these items free, as well as materials such as cleaning products and pesticides. Their cost to manage this more dangerous mix, however, is usually more than $50 per vehicle entering their facilities, so save your home town some money; bring separated hazardous waste to private and nonprofit recyclers.

For more information:


Food waste

If we had as many options for recycling food waste as we have for tree waste and hazardous waste, we could better manage nearly 16 percent of our discards. Using statewide data, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) estimates that wasted food is the largest single category of recoverable material in the garbage Ventura County sends to landfills. Last Wednesday (Feb. 27), at the Chaparral Auditorium in Ojai, residents assembled to hear a presentation on a composting study funded by a state grant and coordinated by a coalition that included the Ventura County Watershed Protection District and W2E, a nonprofit organization. The study analyzed what types of facilities would be most practical to recycle waste such as food discards, horse manure and other degradable materials, mainly in the Ojai Valley.

In the meantime, at its facility near Oxnard, Agromin has been composting food waste from restaurants, supermarkets and other sources. By injecting air into covered piles of material, Agromin avoids many of the problems associated with food waste composting. Its biggest source of materials has been the Todd Road Jail, contributing 103 tons over the past year.

Other options for food waste in Ventura County include Farm Share (composting bakery waste and planning to use a digester for other food waste) and H Cattle Company (feeding packing house fruit culls to cows).

Community Recycling is also a major composter of food waste. It collects only in the city of Santa Paula, but it also has contracts with four chains of grocery stores and arranges for spoiled produce to be composted at its site in Kern County.

For information on the project in the Ojai Valley, contact Gerard Kapuscik at 648-9284.

For the Agromin project, call Donald Sealund at 647-414, ext. 4318.

David Goldstein has been the author or editor of a weekly column in local newspapers for more than seven years; and for more than 20 years, he has served as a county resource management analyst and is currently the administrator of the Ventura County Recycling Market Development Zone. The Eye on the Environment column is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency.