new york city trash is trucked out of state... to new jersey, pennsylvania... even as far away as ohio virginia and south carolina. and until recently, america was doing a brisk business, selling its scrap to china... but now, even china is leery. >> time's have changed... the awareness of the public is much greater about health issues now than it was when newby began. >> newby is one of the largest active landfills on the shores of san francisco bay. >> i don't think it should smell like this in america... >> the city of milpitas filed a lawsuit against san jose over environmental impacts caused by the landfill. the bay area air quality management district, which has received 2,000 newby landfill odor complaints has issued newby island five public nuisance violations related to odor issues. according to a district spokesman, they are still negotiating the fines. >> trash is a big business and unfortunately it's a smelly business too. >> don litchfield, the northern california environmental manager for republic services.
>> the community itself seems to have some concerns about this site and the odor problem that they're experiencing. >> unfortunately we've been a little slow to address those concerns so we'd like to apologize to the community for that. >> here at the landfill we've had an odor mitigation plan that we've been working on for years. >> we get a lot of fresh refuse that comes in every day and we have odor misting stations set up in strategic locations throughout the landfill that can mitigate some of the fresh >> in addition, republic says it invested heavily in this state-of-the-art recycling facility to help divert landfill waste. >> all of the material that we accept, over a thousand tons a day from the bay area, in california, comes into this facility and we divert it from the landfill...so we process the material and remove everything that is recyclable. >> so what is the output of this facility? >> 200,000 tons a year are being diverted out of landfills... our output is 400 tons of paper, 30 tons of plastic, 90 tons of glass and 30 tons of metal every
day. >> despite diverting nearly 50 percent of their annual waste, the landfill is still growing and that causes some to look toward another possible solution. in sweden, a country that boasts 33 incinerators, trash is burned to create fuel in what's known as "waste to energy". about half of their waste is recycled, and the rest is burned. less than one percent goes to landfill. sweden is known as a world leader in waste-to-energy incinerators like this one which utilizes modern technology to capture and control emissions. san francisco authorities tell us, they have no plans to build an incinerator in the bay area. instead, they say, they plan to increase composting and to continue to ban what they call "bad designs". >> what is your hope for san francisco? >> what we're trying to do is really break that addiction to plastic water. >> san francisco is the first city in the country to ban the single use water bottle from city property. >> in the case of our ban on
single use plastic water bottles, the goal here is to establish a marker, to lay it down in san francisco, to work with other cities to do the same. >> in the meantime, however, we're still a consume and dump nation. republic's landfill manager, augustin moreno says he wants residents to know just one thing: >> as someone that works in trash for a living, and you hear the concerns of the citizens of milpitas, what do you have to say to them? >> this is not a dump, you know, you hear that word very often and for us, you know, we work here every day, it's not fair to call this a dump. this is a modern sanitary landfill ... we take pride of what we do here. >> these residents say they just wish they were doing it somewhere else. >> so it's not that i'm fighting for my backyard, i'm fighting for the entire bay area's backyard. nobody's backyard is going to be spared. >> coming up next... >> we're standing by a pipe that's labeled, heated sludge...
>> brittany menard's decision to take her own life last year. sparked a national debate. >> brittany didn't wan't to die the brain tumor was killing her, she simply took control over how that process would go. >> now see what her husband is doing to keep his promise to change "right to die" laws nationwide. america tonight only on al jazeera america.
>> mountains of trash piled high as the eye can see at this landfill just outside san francisco. but inside this mass, scientists see potential. some of this waste is organic: about 40 percent of landfill waste nationwide is from food, that's waste that doesn't have to be there. but innovators are tackling that waste. a program that takes food from restaurants, vineyards and farms in the area ... turns that waste into energy. >> we're finding new ways to reuse what we used to call waste. >> right now, i'm at 90 percent of the waste recycling and composting. >> gabriella lozano owns a small cafe in san francisco's mission district. she composts everything. >> i'm a strong believer that i'm doing what i can, and the best that i can. >> what she's doing here on a small scale... is part of a much bigger picture. >> you look at what she's doing here in terms of diverting waste away from landfills and creating a recycling type of circuit here
with everything that happens at l's and that's what we have to look to. >> inspired by western europe, san francisco offers owners like lozano financial incentives to compost. >> a lot of these small business are actually doing it for economic reasons... it lowers their bill for recycling, their garbage bill over all... money is a way to motivate people. >> but it's not the only motivator... >> when the food waste is in the landfill it decomposes, and it generates methane gas and methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. >> john hake is a civil engineer who runs the resource recovery program in the east bay, where they combine solid food waste with liquid wastewater to create fuel. >> it has an odor! it smells very 'organic'. >> yes, that's the term we use to describe the smell. >> it's like a black gold ... >> black gold? >> the process works like this: food waste from throughout the bay area is trucked here to the
east bay municipal utility district, or east bay mud, a sewage treatment plant and a pioneer of green power. >> we're the first plant in north america to become energy neutral and ultimately energy positive... when we started the truck waste program, east bay mud produced about 40 percent of the energy we needed to run the plant, and that's pretty typical for a waste water treatment plant. today, we're at 130 percent of our demand and that allows us to sell that excess renewable energy to the port of oakland, our neighbors next door. >> i'm a little apprehensive we're standing by a pipe that's labeled heated sludge. >> the heated sludge is going into an anaerobic digester. >> a digester is like the human stomach, so organic material goes into the digester and in there it's biodegraded by bacteria and they feed on the solid material and that solid
material is being converted into biogas and that biogas is a great renewable energy source and it's a fuel that we use to run our engines and turbine to generate electricity. >> let me this get straight: i eat a bunch of food, and i take the energy and fuel that i can from that and then it goes into the sewer system and you collect that and you're giving it to bacteria that're turning it into energy. >> that's correct... >> each digester here is about two million gallons and we have 11 of them so that's 22 million gallons of capacity. >> east bay mud shared the technology and now other water treatment facilities in brooklyn, new york, and in california cities of marin thousand oaks, fresno and san diego are using it. >> most of us don't think about the waste whether it's flushing the toilet or throwing things in the garbage. it just kind of disappears and i think as a society we've been very successful at sort of
hiding where the waste goes and i think as time goes on and population grows and waste generation grows, then we've become more aware of waste generation and the things that we need to do to handle it. >> for me, i feel it's a great responsibility not to leave such a big impact in the city, and in the world for the next generation. >> so through all of this it's clear there is a problem out there with recycling, with way too much trash so what can we do as consumers? >> some people think it's an individual choice. we just need to get better at sorting our trash and sorting our recyclables and actually following through. others think that we need to be taking a legislative approach. i mean san francisco, they've banned water bottles on government property and maybe we can do more things like that. >> when i work in latin america, glass bottles are the norm there. that is what you use whenever you get a soda from a restaurant or something but the difference
there is you are expected to return that glass bottle to the person and they recycle it. lots of times they'll give you a quarter in return but if you don't return that glass bottle you are being very rude. it's like a societal norm that you are breaking. >> i think as consumers we need to be extremely mindful of not using plastic once so just try and increase the times you use packaging and then just make sure you trash it in a blue bin once you finish with it. >> when it comes to responsible use, i mean, also you think about whether or not you are putting it in the blue bin at all. i mean a lot of people just have this idea, i'm gonna throw it in the trash, i'm gonna throw it in this bin and then whatever it is is just going to disappear into the ether and then i'm absolved of all responsibility but it has to go somewhere, i mean conservation of mass if nothing else. >> it really did make me more aware of how much plastic i'm actually using, when i use a plastic straw or plastic cup. any of those things because it seems there are so many of them we just use them once and throw them away and that's the end of it. >> absolutely, there is nothing like standing at the open face
of a landfill and going through your head of like well i threw away that yogurt container and then i had a water bottle this morning and my cups probably in there and you really start to realize how much of this waste you generate in a day. >> i am sure you can see it and you can smell it. >> yes, it doesn't smell too great. >> well guys it was certainly a dirty job but an important one to tell so thank you for bringing it to us. that's it for now. be sure to check us out right here on techknow. >> dive deep into these stories and go behind the scenes at al jazeera dot com slash techknow. follow our expert contributors on twitter, facebook, instagram, google plus and more. >> hunted to the brink of extinction... >> we need an urgent method that stops the killing. >> now fighting back with a revolutionary new science. >> this radio carbon dating method can tell us if trade of ivory is legal. >> it could save a species... >> i feel like we're making an impact >> techknow's team of experts show you how the miracles of
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