Growing up in Hacienda Heights, I knew we were right next to the Puente Hills Landfill. Little did I know it was the largest landfill in America. Hacienda Heights has one of the largest concentrations of Taiwanese descent Americans, and evidence of that can be pretty clearly seen in the fact that Hsi Lai Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere, affiliated with Taiwan-based Fo Guang Shan Monastery, is situated right here in this small, unassuming community.
Servicing the majority of the greater Los Angeles area, this landfill is actually a really cool recycling center, as featured in the video above, where they not only recycle tons of materials for the market but even burn trash to generate energy. Brilliant. They also sell materials to other countries, with trash being one of America’s largest exports. Guess who’s the biggest customer of American trash? That’s right. China.
There’s a bit of a global irony that one of the largest Asian American communities (Southern CA) produces trash that gets sold and shipped to China, feeding into its growth and economy, while at the same time immigrants from China, particularly wealthy ones, are flooding over here to swoop up all of our real estate and put their kids into our schools to become homegrown Americans. How’s that for recycling?
As covered in a recent NPR article, at the end of 2013, the landfill was officially closed. Like a lot of other landfills, this landfill may just turn into a park or a another American dream neighborhood full of half-a-million to a million dollar homes built atop forgotten trash, just like nearby Walnut City. And to complete the ironic circle of global village life, those homes will probably be all bought up by newly minted Chinese Americans flocking to America from China.