Since I started at Recology a few years ago, one of the most common questions I receive surrounds both the environmental and economic impact of recycling. It’s usually in some form of: “How could the environmental and financial costs of sorting, shipping and processing of recyclables be favorable to simply sending the material to the landfill?”
The answer to this question is based on the cost and environmental impact of recycling facility operations – sorting recyclables and shipping the material for processing so they can be reintroduced to the market. From a cost perspective, can these efforts and the resources used be advantageous to sending the material to the landfill? Yes, both financially and environmentally.
That said there are two important considerations that must be included in the discussion:
The first is evaluating the difference between producing new products from recycled versus virgin material. Recycling aluminum, for example, can reduce energy consumption by as much as 95%. Savings for other materials are lower, but still substantial: about 70% for plastics, 60% for steel, 40% for paper, and 30% for glass. (1) In all cases, the energy savings are significant and well worth the effort to recover them.
The second are externalities, which are the un-priced, outside benefits that recycling produces. These include decreased air pollution from mills and factories, less water contamination from landfills, and reduced resource consumption. All of which have a financial and environmental cost. The process for obtaining and processing virgin materials is not often associated with recycling. We all know that mining, drilling and logging are activities that are detrimental to the environment, but since we aren’t paying for them on our monthly garbage bill, these factors are oftentimes overlooked.
When we really delve into the economics of recycling, it’s easier to understand if we look at the big picture. The energy used to separate and process our recyclable material is offset by the amount of energy it would take to extract virgin materials and create new products. So, there is much more to consider than the cost we see on our garbage bills, and it also makes a lot of sense to think about our garbage as materials or commodities to be re-used in the future.
(1)” The truth about recycling“, The Economist, June 2007
“You’re sitting at our table,” says co-owner Rickey Martinez as I sit down with him, his wife Amanda, and Recology Waste Zero Specialist, Misty McKinney. The restaurant’s walls are filled with miscellaneous bric-a-brac and colorful aliens, so it isn’t surprising that the table has blended in. I look down and notice the table is filled with their photos, tickets, and other memorabilia you might find in a scrap book.
“We had a guest, he makes these. So if you look here, this is me when I was a long-haired hippie. This is our wedding invitation. We did a destination wedding in Hawaii. Pictures from our lives. A letter from Senator Harry Reid, welcoming me to the PR field when I was doing that a few years ago. We’ve had a fun ride. Neither of us thought we’d be restaurateurs.”
Amanda and Rickey begin telling me the story of how they came to open the new Redwood City Squeeze In. In Rickey’s family, restaurants became the stage for love, dreams, and community. In the 1950s, Rickey’s grandmother opened a restaurant in Upland, California called The Super. His aunts and uncles worked at The Super before and after school, and eventually it was where his mother met his father.
My mother waited on my dad,” he says, “And my dad left her a penny as tip because he thought the service was lacking. They didn’t know from one another until years later when they ended up working together at another restaurant. She mentioned The Super, so my dad said, ‘Oh yeah, I ate there once. The service was lousy; I left the waitress a penny.’ And she responded, ‘That was me! I was the waitress! How could you do that?’ My parents owned a restaurant when I was growing up. I guess it was only a matter of time before I did.
The first Squeeze In began by flipping omelettes in Truckee, California in 1974. The namesake came from how guests would have to squeeze in to sit at a table, since the restaurant was only a little over ten feet wide. At the time, Rickey’s Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary would drive up from Reno to eat at the original Squeeze In restaurant in 1979. When Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary first started thinking about owning a restaurant, they didn’t want just any restaurant, they wanted to own the Squeeze In. Aunt Misty had the opportunity to meet the owners of the Squeeze In, whom she told, “I love your place. If you sell it to anybody, you have to sell it to me.”
In 2003, Rickey’s Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary went all in on their dream. They quit their jobs and purchased the Squeeze In. In 2005, Rickey went up to Tahoe for his cousin Shila’s wedding, and he helped out at the restaurant for the week. “Low and behold,” says Rickey, “Amanda was working there at the same time. We met and fell in love.”
Love was also in the air for foodies, and in 2010 the Food Network approached the Squeeze In to do a special on restaurants that love their guests. To their surprise, Bobby Flay rolled up in a blizzard to challenge them to a Throwdown. The menu, which dates back to the 1970s, features dozens of items that are named after Truckee locals and family members. The Food Network helped them pare it back a bit, and the menu gained the addition of a newly inspired omelette, the Spanish Flay.
The restaurant began growing and opening new locations in 2008. “People used to drive from miles and miles around, and fly in for vacation every year and have to go to the Squeeze In. So that got the ball rolling,” explains Rickey. Last year, the yoga studio a couple doors down approached them about opening a new location in Redwood City. The momentum grew; it was clear the community wanted their own Squeeze In.
Amanda and Rickey Martinez went a step further when they opened their Redwood City location this month. When Waste Zero Specialist, Misty McKinney, contacted them to assist in implementing a new garbage and recycling program, they decided to give composting a try. “We thought,” Rickey reflected, “we need to minimize the waste.”
“It’s good for the environment,” joined Amanda.
“And it’s good for business,” agreed Rickey. “There was a learning curve the first couple of days. It’s only been a week, and we’ve got a firm grasp on it. So obviously it’s good for us because we aren’t paying as much for trash, but the bigger picture is we are reducing our carbon footprint on the world. When we go to sleep at night, we can rest knowing that we did our part. I think that if every other business continues to do their part, it will help out in the long run. We won’t have to have all these landfills. As much as you want to give us the credit, Recology have given us the tools and the assistance needed to make it as smooth a transition as it needed to be.”
The Redwood City Squeeze In’s official opening is March 30th. There will be a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce at 2pm.
Recology San Francisco Artist in Residence Exhibitions: Work by Kara Maria, Imin Yeh and Matthew Goldberg
The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco will host an exhibition and reception for current artists-in-residence Kara Maria, Imin Yeh and student artist Matthew Goldberg on Friday, January 23, from 5-9pm and Saturday, January 24, from 1-3pm. Additional viewing hours will be held on Tuesday, January 27, from 5-7pm, with a gallery walk-through with the artists at 6:30pm. This exhibition will be the culmination of four months of work by the artists who have scavenged materials from the dump to make art and promote recycling and reuse.
Kara Maria: A Trash Menagerie
Painter Kara Maria combines abstraction and representation to address subjects that range from the personal to the political. During her residency she has turned her focus to her immediate environment, making work in response to the Recology site. Using found stretched canvases, including amateur paintings and digitally printed, mass-produced artwork from Ikea, Maria has overpainted the works with recycled acrylic paint from the Household Hazardous Waste Program. The abstract portions of her paintings speak to the environment of the Recology facility, a constantly churning and tumultuous place whose frenetic nature is conveyed in Maria’s disjointed shapes and vibrant colors. The representational portions of her work reflect another aspect of the facility—the living creatures that inhabit or pass through the site. Interspersed within her paintings are detailed renderings of seagulls, raccoons, hawks, and other animals. …Read more
Imin Yeh: Goldbricking
Used in labor, “goldbricking” is a term that means pretending to be productive. Its origins are in trickery and the act of conning someone by painting a brick gold. Though it could hardly describe Yeh’s dedicated work ethic, its use suggests a wry joke about her studio practice which is characterized by labor-intensive and often repetitive processes. Yeh’s art has consistently explored issues of labor and production. While at Recology she has been struck by the volume of corporate waste, and has scavenged the detritus of businesses and offices. Trade show banners have been sliced up and coated with shades of white house paint, their marketing jargon still ever so slightly visible, alluding to the transient nature of their messages. From discarded hotel uniforms, Yeh has created a textile work of monochromatic, geometric forms. Slight variations in the shade and texture of the fabrics reflect the wear and laundering of each garment, and are suggestive of the individual experiences of each worker. …Read more
Matthew Goldberg: Space Trash, Boomerang!
What would happen if our trash was launched into space in a misguided attempt to rid the planet of waste, only to orbit and return to earth? This is the premise for the artwork Matthew Goldberg has made during his Recology residency. In sculpture, photography, collage, and installation, he explores trash as an extraterrestrial force—both familiar and foreign, from the past and seemingly also from the future. Says Goldberg, “The narrative is a fantasy—much like our perceptions of space and much like the general public’s perception of a ‘dump’ facility I have encountered when explaining this program.” Music is another outcome of his residency, which will be performed live by the appropriately named Sputnik (Goldberg and his brother) at the exhibition reception….Read more
About the Artist in Residence Program
The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco is a one-of-a-kind program established in 1990 to encourage the conservation of natural resources and instill a greater appreciation for the environment and art in children and adults. Artists work for four months in studio space on site, use materials recovered from the Public Disposal and Recycling Area, and speak to students and the general public. Over one-hundred professional Bay Area artists have completed residencies. Applications are accepted annually, June through August.
Friday, January 23, 2015, 5-9pm
Saturday, January 24, 2015, 1-3pm
Additional viewing hours–
Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 5-7pm with gallery walk-through with artists at 6:30pm
Admission is free and open to the public, all ages welcome, wheelchair accessible.
Art Studio at 503 Tunnel Ave. and Environmental Learning Center Gallery at 401 Tunnel Ave.
From Downtown San Francisco/East Bay-
Go south on Highway 101 and exit at “Candlestick Park/Tunnel Ave.” After the stop sign, continue straight on Beatty Rd. Turn right on Tunnel Ave.
From the Peninsula-
Go north on Highway 101 and exit at the first “Candlestick Park” off-ramp. Stay in the left lane and take the first left toward the stop sign. Turn left at the stop sign onto Alanna Way and go under the freeway. At the next stop sign, turn right on Beatty Rd. Turn right on Tunnel Ave.
The “T” Third St. streetcar and bus lines 9 and 9x stop at Bayshore Blvd. and Arleta Ave. (three blocks away). The Caltrain “Bayshore Station” stop is directly across the street from our facility.
A Year in Review
This year proved to be a meaningful year for Recology and environmentalists alike. In addition to signing the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags – SB 270 – California Governor Jerry Brown also signed AB 1826, requiring commercial businesses to recycle their organics beginning spring 2016.
Recology has taken on many great projects this year, and many more are continuing in 2015. This year we’ve ramped up recycling programs in a variety of service areas, including clothing and textile curbside recycling and pickup, and a new organics collection program in San Bruno. Textile recycling programs even made it to Outside Lands Music Festival!
Most notably, Recology has opened a brand new (and very shiny) Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Seattle, and have new processing facilities scheduled to begin operations in 2015.
Check out a few more of our 2014 highlights:
- The Recology team and SF Animal Care and Control saw Gem off to her new home in January 2014. Gem – the tiny three-month-old female poodle puppy rescued from the recycling center by Recology workers before Christmas last year – found a new home and a happy ending.
- Quick thinking Recology driver, Mike Jones, rescues a man after he is loaded into a recycling truck. The man was sleeping in a Recology debris box when he fell into the truck on collection day. Jones heard the man banging on the truck, and then swiftly stopped the compactor and drove to the nearest fire station. The man survived with minor injuries.
- San Francisco becomes the first major city to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. Within the next 4 years, plastic water bottles (21 ounces or less) will be phased out of the city.
- NBC Bay Area featured Recology driver, Dave Franzoia, who has worked at Recology for over 20 years. Twice a week for 21 years, Recology driver, Dave Franzoia, maneuvered up and down the steep stairways of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill.
- Recology coordinated many successful volunteer events, from Seattle and Portland down to the San Francisco Bay Area. We joined forces with local non-profit organizations to revitalize public spaces and clean up local facilities.
- The San Francisco Giants scored big in the World Series. Not only are they champions on the field, the Giants organization and their fans are also champions for the environment. According to the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), “The Giants also divert the most waste from landfill of any professional sports venue in North America.”
- Recology Vacaville Solano’s Pink Toter Program was a hit. Recology Vacaville Solano continues to lease pink bins to raise funds to be donated to the Solano Midnight Sun Breast Cancer Foundation. Midnight Sun helps provide assistance and resources to the women and men in the local community who are affected by cancer.
- On Saturday, April 12, Recology employee-owners distributed free compost at the annual Great Compost Giveaway in San Francisco. The compost used at the event is a direct result of San Francisco’s composting and green bin programs. The compost giveaway was very successful this year, with record-breaking turnout.
- The community gardens at our organics facilities in California and Oregon fight hunger locally with fresh, organic produce grown with Recology compost as amendment.
- The Recology Environmental Learning Center has been re-named in honor of the late SF Group Manager, John A. Legnitto. Although John lost his battle with cancer on April 26th, 2014, we will always remember the good times we had with him, and the impact that he had on the Recology family.
We’re looking forward to what’s to come in 2015. Happy New Year, and welcome 2015!
Win a $100 VISA gift card and add to your holiday wardrobe!
Share a photo of yourself, family, or friends wearing an ugly holiday sweater on the Recology San Mateo County Facebook page and “like” Recology San Mateo County for a chance to win.
There will be two winners: the photo voted “best ugly holiday sweater” by Recology SMC employee-owners and the photo with the most likes will be announced Monday, Dec 22nd.
Winners will be contacted via Facebook (please check your “others” inbox folder). Winners will also be featured on Recology San Mateo County’s Facebook page.
- Must be 18 years or older to participate, and be a customer of Recology San Mateo County. Recology employees are not eligible.
- This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. By entering this contest, you agree to a complete release of Facebook from any and all liability in connection with this giveaway. All entries will become the property of Recology Inc.
Recology San Francisco is pleased to announce recipients of artist residencies for 2015. The six selected artists are Michael Arcega, Jeremiah Barber, Ma Li, Jenny Odell, Alison Pebworth, and Chris Sollars.
The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco is a one-of-a-kind initiative started in 1990 to support Bay Area artists, while also teaching children and adults about recycling and resource conservation. Artists work for four months in a studio on site and use materials recovered from the Public Disposal and Recycling Area. Over one-hundred professional Bay Area artists have completed residencies. Applications are accepted annually in August.
|Jenny Odell and Chris Sollars
Residency: June-September; Exhibition reception: September 18 and 19, 2015
|Jeremiah Barber and Alison Pebworth
Residency: October-January; Exhibition reception: January 22 and 23, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO: Today GLIDE Memorial Church on Ellis Street received a unique donation – a Recology truckload of fresh, organic produce grown with compost made from food scraps and plant cuttings collected in the City. Recology is San Francisco’s recycling and compost collection company.
“We are pleased to help kick off the Season of Sharing with this donation of healthy, organic food to GLIDE, which provides critical assistance to the needy in our community. We encourage everyone to take steps to help those less fortunate then ourselves,” said Mark Arsenault, San Francisco Group Manager for Recology. “Also we encourage residents and businesses, such as restaurants, to compost all food scraps especially during the holidays, the biggest food weeks of the year.”
(Photos courtesy of Supervisor Jane Kim)
Janice Mirikitani, Founding President of the GLIDE Foundation, said “We are thankful to Recology, not only for this wonderful bounty of fresh, organic produce that will help nourish souls this Thanksgiving, but for encouraging folks to get involved and help others in need this holiday season. We hope San Francisco residents will be reminded to be responsible beyond themselves and care for their communities and do what they can to help those in need and be inspired in their daily actions and activities.”
Supervisor Jane Kim said “I am pleased to help raise awareness of the need for donations of food and money to GLIDE and other care providers in the Tenderloin. Because of the hard work done by of organizations like GLIDE our homeless and poor citizens can receive something many of us take for granted, a hot meal served with a warm smile by people who care.”
The produce donated today includes cases of: butternut squash, collard greens, cabbage, kale, and sweet potatoes. The locally-sourced vegetables were grown at EatWell Farm located in Dixon. For 10 years EatWell has applied compost made from food scraps and plants collected in San Francisco’s urban compost collection program.
A 30-year study from the Rodale Institute, the nation’s oldest agriculture institute, shows that farms that apply compost achieve higher yields in years of drought compared to those using synthetic fertilizers. Therefore composting more of our food scraps and applying the compost to farms presents a way to grow additional food to help feed all people.
This year the employee-owners at Recology constructed gardens at the compost facilities the company operates, and grew more than 1,900 pounds of produce. They donated that harvest to local food banks. We hope to double that amount in 2015 and encourage other cities and universities that are replicating San Francisco’s compost collection program to do the same.
cell: (415) 606 9183
The last few months proved to be significant for California’s environmentalists and waste & recycling industry alike. In addition to signing SB 270, the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1826 (Chesbro), requiring commercial businesses to begin recycling organics.
According to Assembly Bill 1826, organics include “food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste.” By spring 2016, restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial food and yard waste producers generating at least 8 cubic yards of organics per week will be required to separate their organics and properly send the materials to an organics processing facility.
Most notably, the move towards large-scale organics recycling will reduce the amount of food scraps and yard waste headed to landfills, and increase materials headed for anaerobic digestion and composting facilities. The influx of organic materials to processing facilities will be converted to renewable energy through anaerobic digestion, or composted for use on local farms.
By signing AB 1826…Governor Brown ensured that all of California shares in the environmental, agricultural, and economic benefits of organics recycling with reduced local emissions of greenhouse gases, new jobs and valuable compost for our farms and vineyards – Mike Sangiacomo, President & CEO, Recology
Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro adds, “Landfilled food and other organic materials produce methane, a major contributor to climate change,” Chesbro said. “Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 21 times more heat than carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas created by the burning of fossil fuels.”
Rural areas, however, are exempt: “‘Rural jurisdiction’ means a jurisdiction that is located entirely within one or more rural counties, or a regional agency comprised of jurisdictions that are located within one or more rural counties…’Rural county’ means a county that has a total population of less than 70,000 persons.”
Commercial organics recycling is a step forward in terms of increasing the State’s diversion percentages and reducing landfill tonnages. The end goal, however, will always be to return resources and nutrients back to the environment where they originated. We think it will help accomplish all of these goals.