Belmont parks going greener 

Belmont's parks are about to receive a feature few others in the Bay Area have — compost bins.

After a recent meeting, Belmont's City Council unanimously voted to expand the parks compost program by funding six additional enclosures, officials said. The custom-built enclosures will include trash, recycling and compost bins.

"We thought it was the right thing to do," Parks and Recreation Director Jonathan Gervais said. "With the ability to take all of this material, it really just makes sense."

The parks program is meant to mirror what Belmont residents have come to expect at home, Gervais said.

"It shows the residents the city is adopting the same things they are," he said

Collecting compost became a reality for the city in 2010, according to Recology spokesman Gino Gasparini. Once that occurred, Gervais had an opportunity to implement a program long discussed among parks department staff. Gervais has been leading the charge ever since.

"We want to be a leader in parks maintenance and have some role in innovation," Gervais said.

Although many cities accept three waste streams for special events, Belmont is leading the region with its custom-built enclosures in parks.

Education is a challenge for multistream waste programs, and the Belmont parks program is no exception. Confusion over what is appropriate to compost vs. recycle or trash was among the first things the department had to educate the public on, Gervais said.

Plastic bags — even though many have a recycling symbol — gum up processing plants that aren't operated by Recology, Gasparini said.

The plastic bags with appropriate markings are recyclable and Gervais recommends that people drop them off at grocery stores.

Black plastic also is confusing to people, likely because recycling policies for the material aren't uniform in the Bay Area. San Francisco, for example, takes black plastic, whereas Belmont doesn't, Gasparini said.

The additional six receptacles have a price tag of $30,000, and the department plans to install them at picnic areas in Twin Pines and Alexander Park. Their high cost is largely because the receptacles need to be custom built, since there are few other cities with similar programs.

Gervais said he plans to continue to expand the program to parks and city-owned buildings where the parks department also manages waste.

"We want to show others that public spaces can accommodate these newer ways of dealing with waste," he said.

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