Deseret News
Aaron Falk

Salt Lake City leaders on Tuesday rolled out an "aggressive" environmental agenda aimed at curbing emissions, improving air quality and drastically reducing waste sent to landfills.

Already vowing to shrink emissions 20 percent by 2020, the city's sustainability office announced its plans to cut garbage sent to landfills in half by 2015.

To do that, the city could soon wheel out some 38,000 green waste containers and take curbside recycling citywide with financial incentives for participation, officials said.

"That is where this battle is going to be won," said Council Vice Chairman JT Martin, "house by house, business by business."

Eighty-two percent of residents are voluntarily participating in the recycling program, and sustainability director Vicki Bennett said her department is making progress on addressing the biggest complaint from residents: glass recycling.

A funding source for some sustainability projects has already been identified. The Salt Lake Valley Landfill is creating a revenue surplus, said Mayor Ralph Becker. Under the current agreement, that revenue can only be used for landfill improvements. Becker said the city is working on an ordinance change that would allow the surplus to fund other sustainability projects.
As for improving the city's air quality, Becker said the number of vehicle miles traveled each day must be addressed.

Faced with an uncertain budget situation, Councilman Sren Simonsen mentioned the possibility of putting major road projects on hold for the next 12 months and instead focusing on bike and transit improvements.

"It could be a long-term opportunity to reduce our overall carbon footprint," he said.

Councilman Luke Garrott said he would like to see the city become a "biker's paradise," dedicating entire lanes to non-motorized travel in some places.

"We have the wealth of these really wide streets," he said. "We don't always need two lanes for cars."

Progress is being made toward achieving that "biker's paradise."

The Utah Transit Authority is currently working on plans for a bicycle transit center at the Intermodal Hub, near 300 West and 600 South. The center, which could feature indoor bike parking, bike rentals and a bike-repair and accessory shop, might be ready sometime this summer, said Dan Berganthal, the city's Bikeway and Trails coordinator.

The city, with help from health-care provider Humana, is also making headway on a bike-sharing program, Berganthal said.