Tajiguas Landfill, the oceanfront resting place for Santa Barbara County’s trash, is no longer an ordinary landfill. The revitalized waste management facility — now known as the ReSource Center — promises to reduce waste by 60%, generate enough renewable energy to power 2,000 homes a year and create 100 jobs.
But the new face of Tajiguas Landfill has a decadeslong history — one that includes a lawsuit and a resourceful logistics provider.
The landfill opened operations in 1967, and as the population of Southern California skyrocketed, the landfill grew accustomed to 200,000 tons of trash every year — an amount that outpaced the landfill’s capacity, which was meant to last until 2036. Over time, the landfill’s fast growth posed threats to the surrounding environment and groundwater, eliciting attention from conservation groups.
Over two decades ago, Gaviota Coast Conservancy filed a lawsuit against the County of Santa Barbara for its industrialization of the Gaviota Coast, which violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Coastal Act and state planning regulations. The lawsuit was settled in 2018, forcing the county to revolutionize the landfill with green initiatives and find land outside the Gaviota Coast for another landfill once Tajiguas hit capacity for solid waste.
After over 100 public meetings and a rigorous bidding process to find the right partners in operations, construction and logistics, the construction of the center’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) is nearly complete. The waste diversion efforts, when all is said and done, are estimated to cost the county $540 million.
The MRF is a specialized recycling plant that sorts trash into recyclables and organics. While the recyclables are collected and sold to market, the anaerobic digestion facility breaks down the organic materials and ultimately turns them into compost and renewable energy in the form of natural gas.
Berg Mill Supply, USA was selected by MRF operator MarBorg Industries to execute the recyclables’ postproduction shipping, marketing and global exporting as a commodity.
Loadsmith, a Denver-based transportation brokerage, partnered with Berg Mill in the bidding process to source a fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) drayage trucks. This was one of the county’s requirements — to utilize CNG trucks to export the recyclables. The site’s long-term plan includes the construction of an onsite fueling station for these drayage trucks that run on CNG — a fuel known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared to gasoline and diesel.
In the Ports of LA and Long Beach, there are an estimated 14,000 drayage trucks, with roughly 150 of those being CNG vehicles. This fact made sourcing the transportation a complex endeavor, said Brett Suma, CEO of Loadsmith.
“The chosen provider had to be able to handle the volume of at least 50 containers a week, meet the county’s CNG requirements, navigate the Ports of LA and Long Beach and commit to this contract for six years,” said Suma. Because the MRF has limited inventory space, the consistent, timely movement of the recyclables was crucial.
“Loadsmith was very proactive and aggressive in helping us meet those specific requirements,” said William Winchester, chief operating officer at Berg Mill. “They’re able to handle both export and domestic freight and get the carriers needed to the table for this multiyear agreement. They have those contacts and were very good at getting that done. We move freight too, but they’re working at a whole other level.”
Loadsmith leveraged its network and Suma’s experience at Knight Transportation operating dedicated transportation services by offering the long-term contract to Supra National Express, a carrier with 10 CNG trucks, which were purchased with grants through the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Offering Supra a three-year contract with a three-year extension, Suma called this a true collaboration between all stakeholders.
Loadsmith acted as an intermediary in every sense of the word, since this dedicated transportation agreement was a new experience for both Supra and Berg Mill, requiring Loadsmith’s deep knowledge and expertise to run efficiently.
“This operation is different from Supra’s normal drayage activity,” said Suma. “You have to look at the business as an independent dedicated operation and understand the importance of asset utilization, turning the containers and the distance involved, ultimately landing on a slip-seat two moves per day operation. It’s not 10 loads a day. It’s 50 loads a week for 52 weeks. We’re fortunate in that we have a lot of experience pricing and operationalizing these types of long-term projects.”
Suma helped draft the dedicated transportation services agreement for Berg Mill, as well as the carrier agreement for Supra. To make sure that this deal would be financially beneficial for all three parties, Loadsmith drafted a prospective economic model of transportation costs for the next six years.
“We’ve been preparing for close to nine months,” said Humberto Linares, director of business development at Supra National Express. “I’m just grateful for this opportunity. I think it’s the start of the new era.”
By working closely with this newly dedicated fleet, Suma reveals how brokerages like his do much more than broker loads — and in this case are solving complex problems to benefit the green economy.
“Carriers like Supra that have CNG trucks were awarded grants by CARB to purchase them. In a lot of ways, they’re coming full circle. Carriers went out and bought trucks with those grants and now you have a county requiring the usage of those trucks. We’ve been working on this for a year and it’s finally time to move some loads. It’s something that we’re proud of.”