Barbara Greenleaf: ECO Team’s Visit to the Tajiguas ReSource Center

The following post is a summary of a recent visit by CBB’s ECO Team to the Tajiguas ReSource Center.

The ECO Team meets the first Tuesday of the month from 3-4 pm. We get together—outdoors and masked—at a centrally located private home. To RSVP and get directions, contact Barbara Greenleaf,


Santa Barbara spews out a lot of garbage, close to twice the national average, in fact. Fortunately, we also recapture twice as much, thanks to the sophisticated methods employed by the County’s Tajiguas ReSource Center. This is definitely the Rolls Royce of recycling, carbon capture, and environmentally sound burial. That’s what 29 of us learned on a recent field trip to the facility, which is located off the 101, 26 miles north of downtown Santa Barbara.

Organized by ECO Team and guided by longtime Public Works waste manager Carlyle Johnston, the presentation included several important takeaways:

  • Consumer Reduction: Of the three environmental mantras–Reduce, Recycle, Reuse–the most important by far is Reduce. Recycling is good, but it’s still an industrial process with environmental and monetary consequences.
  • Short Life Span: Some recyclables, such as paper and cardboard, cannot be reused indefinitely. Their fibers grow shorter and therefore weaker with each reiteration.
  • Single-Use Plastics Pose Threat. Only 9% of our plastic waste is recycled nationally, although we do better locally. That’s why it’s so important to cut down on the plastic bags, utensils, and other single-use items we unthinkingly use and throw away. The good news is, however, that the United States only contributes less than 2% of the plastic waste in the ocean.
  • Southeast Asian Partners: It costs more to send our recyclables to Chicago than to Vietnam and Malaysia. Because of our proximity to the port of Los Angeles, we can fill empty shipping containers on their return voyage at a discount. These recyclables are incorporated into other goods.
  • Ground Rules Change Constantly: Whereas take-out plastic clam shells were once a no-no, the County now accepts them as long as they are clean and dry. Whereas organic waste was once not sorted out from the brown bin, it is now pulled out from the ReSource Center materials recovery facility so the County can create compost and energy with it. Keep checking org for the latest updates.

The field trip was a real eye opener, and all of us came away with much food for thought as well as a reexamination of our own lifestyle choices.