In 1621, the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth celebrated a harvest. The Pilgrims’ celebration expressed thankfulness for resources sufficient to survive the winter. This Thanksgiving, in an era when America rapidly uses a variety of resources, we can take a green perspective and give thanks for efforts to conserve so that many more generations will survive the winters ahead.

Thankful for a new recyclable item
If your curbside recycling list is old, you might be surprised to learn the most curbside recycling programs in Ventura County recently began accepting “gable-top containers” (such as milk cartons), aseptic packaging (such as soup in a box) and juice boxes. Representatives of the Carton Council, an industry association, have been coordinating with sorting centers throughout the United States, paying for improvements to equipment and sorting lines in exchange for long-term agreements requiring the centers to sort, bale and market these targeted materials. Currently, Ventura County’s cartons are recycled in Thailand and Korea, but domestic recycling opportunities may arise as supplies increase. Jeff Epstein, a spokesman for the council, claims 46 percent of American homes served by curbside recycling now have access to recycling programs for these items.

Thankful for mattress madness
Mattress recycling anywhere in the U.S. costs at least $5 per unit, and in Northern California, the cost is $7 per mattress delivered to the recycling factory. Many people pay even more when they deliver a mattress to a sorting center for processing and loading into a truck bound for a mattress recycling factory, where the cost to tear apart a mattress is far higher than the value of the mattresses’ recyclable foam, steel, textiles, wood and plastic. But now, for a limited time only, Ventura County is benefiting from “mattress madness,” and you can get a bargain on recycling your old mattress.

Most residential refuse haulers collect two free bulky items per year without extra charges, but for those unable to use this service, three local sorting centers (Gold Coast in Ventura, Del Norte in Oxnard, and the Agromin-operated sorting center at the Simi Valley Landfill) are charging no more for a mattress than they charge for other discards. They can afford to do this because of a temporary price war between two competing mattress recycling factories in Los Angeles. Due in part to a coordinated effort to recruit a mattress recycling company, Ventura County has the best-organized mattress recycling programs in the L.A. region, so the competing mattress recyclers are accepting losses while they fight for market share in Ventura County.

Within two years, new legislation (Senate Bill 254) will likely create a deposit system to fund mattress recycling, but in the meantime, be thankful mattresses in Ventura County can be recycled without extra charges. This deal will not last.

Thankful that bags still have a home
Last year, the city of Ojai banned some types of plastic bags. On Dec. 16, the Ventura City Council will receive a report to help it consider a ban, and the County of Ventura is working with others to complete a study required prior to a ban.

Not every city, however, is pursuing this policy, and most bag bans address only shopping bags. Plastic bags will, therefore, remain a small but highly visible part of the waste stream for a long time to come, and recycling bags is important. Unfortunately, about four months ago, China’s “Green Fence” policy banned bags from the bales of mixed plastic their recyclers import from America. Thankfully, we have a backup plan. You can still recycle plastic bags in containers inside most major supermarkets. These bags are “backhauled” (taken back to distribution centers on the return trip of the trucks used to deliver food from those centers), keeping the plastic clean enough to be turned into new products in the United States. Instead of Chinese factories, the major buyer of film plastic from Ventura County is now a Trex factory in Nevada, making plastic lumber for decking.

Thankful for open space
This month marked the 10th anniversary of the dedication of Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve. The site, formerly known as Ahmanson Ranch, was considered for development, but is now preserved as open space. Celebrants gathered for exhibits, a trail naming and refreshments on Nov. 17. You can hike there, and be thankful for natural beauty near urban areas.

Thanks for sharing the road
On Nov. 23, the Ventura Bicycle Union organized a “Take it to the Streets” group ride to raise motorists’ awareness of bicyclists and to promote bicycle safety. Dozens of participants wore reflective clothing, helmets and lights, while riding together through the streets of Ventura. Let’s give thanks to motorists who share the road and to bicyclists who reduce traffic, smog and resource consumption by bicycling instead of driving. 

“Eye on the Environment” is a public service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency