LA ‘Trashsamaritan’ Errol Segal: Recycling Community Trash and … Good Will

MY TURN-How about a change of topic today? I don't know about you, but the constant stream of nefarious political accusations is giving me heart burn ... literally. 

Looking back over the last few Presidents and their visions, I keep coming back to John F. Kennedy and the famous line from his Inaugural Address: "Don't ask what your country can do for you...ask what you can do for your country.” 

What if we bring it down to, "What can you do for your City?" Fortunately, there are Angelenos who are doing their part to improve living conditions here. But just as it is not enough to just feed and house your children, it is not enough to say, "I pay my taxes, so let the government make sure I have a good life.” 

We both -- private citizens and businesses large and small -- have a moral responsibility to participate in this effort. Usually we spotlight individuals or not-for-profit organizations that are engaged in making Los Angeles a more livable city. Recently, though, I came across a for profit company in South Los Angeles that is engaged in literally helping to "clean up" its community. 

Errol Segal, the Senior Recycling Consultant for Active Recycling and his program, is a good example of what companies can do to help the communities from which they benefit. He’s LA’s ‘Trashsamaritan’. 

He told me, "My business has been in South Los Angeles for over 40 years. We are a Trash and Recycling Center on Slauson Avenue. We have tried to be a good community partner and over the years have given away free Christmas trees, gasoline and other items to those in need within our community. 

"I reside in the San Fernando Valley and one day as I was leaving for work, I noticed a couch, a mattress and table along the street near my home. My first thought was that they were dumped illegally or had been put out for Bulky Item Pick-up day. These items were gone within three days. 

"As I drove to work along Slauson Ave, I began to notice the amount of illegally dumped items on the streets and in the alleyways. If caught it could result in a substantial fine, which wouldn't solve the root problem. I asked myself, what could I do to address the issue in South Los Angeles? 

"About one week later, I read an article in the LA Times about illegally dumped trash in the Black and Latino Neighborhoods of South LA. It was an investigative report that said bulky items and illegally dumped trash took weeks to be picked up... if they were picked up at all. It was very critical of the services being provided to the communities in South LA. In comparison it took three days in the more affluent parts of LA." 

Twenty-three months ago, Active Recycling started its Clean Up LA Campaign, allowing people to bring in trash for free rather than dump it on the street illegally or being forced to pay a fee to a recycling center. The community has responded and so far this company has processed over three million pounds of trash. (Photo above: Resident Charletta Butler poses with community trash that has been brought to Segal’s Active Recycling.) 

Since the study by the LA Times was done more than two years ago, some changes have taken place. The Mayor introduced a new program which will go into effect this summer to revamp and improve trash recycling throughout the City of Los Angeles. 

According to Enrique C. Zaldivar, P.E. Director of LA Sanitation, Zero Waste LA is a new public private partnership. It establishes an exclusive, zone-based franchise system that will offer regulated and customer friendly waste and recycling services to all commercial and industrial businesses, institutions and large multi-family buildings. 

He said, "Zero Waste LA” 

will be transformative for residents, customers, and businesses who have long sought to participate in and have more access to the City’s sustainability efforts. It will move the City closer to achieving zero waste through innovative waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and recovery programs. Through coordination, collaboration, and communication, I am confident that we will meet the partnership’s goals: 

  • Reduce city landfill disposal by 1,000,000 tons per year by 2025. 
  • Set transparent and predictable waste and recycling service rates. 
  • Offer accountability and quality customer services. 
  • Enforce compliance with environmental mandates. 
  • Reduce greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions. 
  • Decrease food waste and increase food rescue and donations. 

"In April 2014, the Mayor and City Council approved the ordinance establishing the new franchise system and delineated 11 zones. The franchisees for each of these specific areas were subsequently selected to partner with the City through an open and competitive bidding process that included extensive evaluation and negotiations over a two year period." 

LA Sanitation will continue to provide solid waste and recycling services to single family homes and small multi-family residences, and specific waste streams such as construction and demolition, medical, hazardous, and radioactive waste will continue to be serviced by permitted private waste haulers. 

Errol Segal will still be helping his community as all costs for the Free Trash Dumping project are being shouldered by Active Recycling; single and small multi-family residences are not covered under the new initiative. 

I know the topic of trash isn't exciting, but when we manage it efficiently it helps improve our quality of life. Come to think of it, maybe we could find a way to alleviate some of the political "Trash Talk" under a new initiative! 

As always...comments welcome.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.