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 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.
As employee owners, we aim to serve the communities in which we work and live by giving back with more than just our excellent services. Employees at our organics facilities fight hunger locally by maintaining community gardens at many of our organics facilities, including Jepson Prairie Organics, Recology Grover, Nature’s Needs and Recology Northwest Greenlands in McMinnville and Aumsville, Oregon. The wide variety of crops cultivated, from squash and potatoes to eggs and okra, are all donated to local nonprofit organizations, such as food banks and senior centers.
The community gardens use Recology compost as amendment to grow organic veggies and fruit; the same compost that is made from food scraps and yard trimmings, collected from residents and businesses in the areas we serve. This year, our dedicated Recologists grew over 16,900 pounds of produce, with further harvesting expected in the next few weeks!
SF Apartment, August 2014
by Robert Reed
(View the original article here)
Making sure your tenants recycle and compost can seem overwhelming, but the benefits—to the planet and to your pocket—are well worth the effort.
Trash is not a glamorous subject. In fact, most of us do not give much thought to our discards. But since we literally depend on a healthy environment—clean air and water, and healthy soils that produce organic fruits and vegetables—for our very existence, it is important to learn new information about the benefits of recycling.
As San Franciscans, we have much more control over where our discards go than people in other cities do. When we toss something in a recycling, compost or trash bin, we decide whether individual items will get made into new products, become compost that is applied to local farms, or be transported to and buried in a landfill. We do not always remember that we have this power, but we do. When we learn that the typical American produces 4.5 pounds of garbage a day—about one ton of discards per year—we begin to understand the scope of this issue and its effect on the environment.
We recycle because we know recycling helps protect our planet. Recycling saves water, energy and other resources like trees, natural gas and oil. Recycling also avoids what environmentalists call “upstream impacts,” such as diesel emissions from heavy equipment used to mine virgin materials.
And here’s an economic bonus: recycling creates 10 times more jobs than landfilling or incineration. Across the nation and the world, many communities are waking up to the fact that recycling is a powerful job creator. If every city in America recycled 75% of its waste, we could create 1.5 million new, permanent, local jobs, according to a report called “Recycling Works!” produced by a coalition of environmental and labor groups. In California alone, if all cities recycled 75%, we could create 120,000 new jobs, according to a new study from the Natural Resource Defense Council. In many cases, these jobs would include health care and a pension.
In San Francisco, we created 200 new jobs in 10 years by increasing recycling. Many of these jobs are at Recycle Central, the large plant Recology operates on Pier 96 to sort blue bin materials, including bottles, cans and paper. Before we opened Recycle Central, many of these workers did not have jobs or had minimum-wage jobs. Now they earn $20 an hour.
Composting Is Key
In addition to supporting green jobs, recycling helps San Francisco make further progress toward achieving key environmental goals set by the city. The most significant goal, the one that gives San Francisco the opportunity to be a true environmental leader, is the goal to achieve zero waste by 2020. Zero waste means sending next to nothing to landfills. That is an ambitious goal. It may also be the most important environmental goal our city could have set.
Composting, for example, saves tremendous amounts of water. That’s because compost, by weight, is 50% humus, also known as nature’s sponge. Microorganisms in compost break the yard and food waste down into smaller and smaller pieces. When the microbes have done their jobs and the pieces can’t get any smaller, we have humus. It is carbon-based and both attracts and retains water.
Agronomists report that if we can increase the amount of organic matter on farmland by 1% by adding compost, we can save 16,000 to 18,000 gallons of water per year. There are 45 million people in California. Image how much water we could save if everyone composted their food scraps, plant cuttings and food-soiled paper like we do in San Francisco. This should be a key consideration and motivation, given the seriousness of the California drought.
Recology began collecting food scraps for composting in 1996. The rest of the garbage collection and recycling industry thought we were nuts. Now, hundreds of cities and more than 1,000 universities have replicated the program. And many more want to do the same.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that most of these cities do not have a place to take their food scraps for composting. That’s because U.S. cities and businesses have not built nearly enough composting facilities. San Francisco is fortunate in this regard. Recology established three compost facilities capable of taking food scraps and plant cuttings collected in the city. One is outside Vacaville, another is near Modesto and a third is at Pacheco Pass near Gilroy.
Where could our country build more compost facilities? One answer is: on top of landfills. Then, instead of putting materials inside landfills, we could move food scraps, plant cuttings and food-soiled paper to compost sites.
Farmers love compost because high-quality compost contains billions of microorganisms, tiny life forms too small to see with the human eye. This is important because the microbes break down the nutrients in compost into small pieces, so small that they can be picked up by plants’ roots. Agronomists call the work microbes do “microbial action.”
Recology operates its compost facilities as microbe farms. There are 11 stages to our composting process. Fundamentally, it works like this: transport trucks bring food scraps and plants collected in small trucks from all properties in San Francisco to the facilities. In 60 days, Recology transforms this feedstock into nutrient-rich compost that is applied to more than 300 local farms, orchards and vineyards.
For 13 years, Nigel Walker of Eatwell Farm has applied compost made from food scraps collected in San Francisco. Walker describes the microbial action achieved by applying compost to his farm as “stoking a fire” in the soil. We might think of it as new life working in the soil.
Farmers often have agronomists test the topsoil on their farms to find out what they need to put back to balance their soils. With this knowledge, Recology creates custom blends of compost for individual farms. We do this on blending pads at our compost facilities. We mix in soil amendments such as gypsum, lime, sandy loam, minerals and rice hulls. Using tractors called loaders we top load the finished compost into specialized transport trucks that deliver it to area farms. Farmers love this because the compost arrives ready to be applied.
Not only does compost give farmers a viable alternative to using synthetic or chemical fertilizers, compost helps farms achieve higher yields. Such are the findings of side-by-side field trials by agricultural organizations, including the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, the oldest agricultural institute in the United States.
Here is another great reason to compost: many local vineyards use compost to grow cover crops that pull carbon out of the air and sequester carbon in topsoil. These cover crops, such as mustard, fix carbon and nitrogen naturally in the soil. Paul Hepperly, professor emeritus at the Rodale Institute and a Fulbright scholar, believes that if every community followed this example we could offset more than 20% of carbon emissions. That estimate is the subject of much interest and further study.
Recology also brings compost back to San Francisco for residents to use in gardens and on outdoor plants. The annual Compost Giveaway, which we host each spring, is a bring-your-own-bucket event where we set up and staff four giveaway locations throughout the city. Residents bring empty five-gallon buckets and we fill them with a gourmet planting mix. Recology also provides compost to urban farms and community gardens in San Francisco through efforts coordinated by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Recycling Big and Small
We also recycle tremendous amounts of construction and demolition debris in San Francisco. Such debris comes from large construction and demolition projects, and from small contractors and individuals who bring materials to the transfer station at 501 Tunnel Ave. Recology maintains and staffs special recycling facilities and sorting lines at the transfer station for this purpose.
Large or bulky items are collected and recycled through the RecycleMyJunk program. Residents can also recycle textiles, such as old clothes, through this program—a new and popular service. Go to RecycleMyJunk.com for details. Working at the city’s direction, Recology has assigned several trucks and crews specifically to collect illegal dumping. This new program is working well, and our city is visibly cleaner.
Finally, while trash may not be a glamorous subject, it can be made into beautiful and unique art works. Recology’s Artist-in-Residence program continues to gain in popularity and renown. Last year, the program hosted a major exhibition at SFO. Pieces can be seen throughout the city in building entrances and other locations, including a three-acre sculpture garden at the transfer station. To learn about current and upcoming exhibitions go to Recologysf.com/AIR.
Increasing Recycling and Managing Collection Costs
In July 2013, the San Francisco Rate Board approved a rate order that changed the price structure for apartment buildings to encourage more recycling and composting. In August 2013, Recology, San Francisco’s recycling company, sent correspondence to apartment building owners and managers explaining the new structure and offering to help apartment buildings increase recycling and compost collection services and reduce disposal. By making these changes, apartment building owners and managers can help protect the environment and help manage their collection service costs.
In November 2013, Recology wrote, and SF Apartment Magazine published, a lengthy article titled, “Waste Not, Want Not” explaining the new rate structure. As a brief update and reminder, collection service charges now apply to all three collection bins: recycling, composting and trash. Importantly, the monthly rate charged to apartment buildings is discounted up to a maximum of 75% based on the building’s overall recycling rate. The rate board instituted this structure in support of the city’s goal of achieving zero waste by 2020.
To give apartment buildings time to increase recycling and composting and reduce disposal, the city instituted temporary caps limiting increases in monthly bills. Many buildings took advantage of this window to adjust their complement of bins and the frequency of collection service.
Under the Rate Order, the monthly service charge at all properties in San Francisco included a cost-of-living adjustment of 2.3%, effective July 1, 2014. Some buildings may see a larger increase due to either the elimination or reduction in their cap credit. These affected buildings received a personalized letter informing them of their new rates.
Apartment building owners and managers are encouraged to use the online apartment rate calculator Recology maintains at sfzerowasterates.com to see how potential changes in bin types, sizes and frequency of collection would affect your building’s monthly rate. You can also call us at 415-330-1300 and one of our apartment-house specialists will be glad to talk with you over the phone or set an appointment for a personal rate and service evaluation during the workshops we host specifically for apartment building customers.
Many apartment buildings are cleaning up and painting their trash rooms. Some buildings are improving lighting in recycling and compost bin locations. These steps make recycling areas more pleasant places, which helps encourage tenants to place their discards in the correct bins.
Additionally, Recology hosts a “property managers’ lounge” on its site, which provides owners and managers with numerous resources to encourage tenants to recycle and compost. The page is posted at recologysf.com/index.php/property-managers-lounge.
We first turned our attention to food waste in 1996 when Recology implemented a food scraps collection program in San Francisco. Still in use today, the green bin program ensures that organic material, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, do not end up in landfills. Many other Recology companies and cities have implemented similar programs, including San Mateo County and San Bruno. You can learn more about the affects of landfilling organics here: US Composting Council – Keeping Organics out of Landfills.
Although we think it’s important to recycle food scraps when possible, we think it’s just as important to consider ways to reduce food waste altogether.
Americans throw away 40% of their food, according to The National Resources Defense Council.
The environmental impact of wasted food is fairly large. Imagine the amount of energy, oil, and water is used to produce and transport food across the United States, from farms to cities, and from cities to rural areas.
By preventing food from even entering a bin, we significantly reduce financial and environmental impacts. Here are a few small, but impactful tips for reducing your food waste.
- Plan your meals, buy what you need – There’s a fine line between purchasing enough food and buying too much. Planning your meals for the week will help you stick to a plan, meaning you’re less likely to toss expired food.
- Learn more about expiration dates – Foods that are edible after the marked expiration date is surprising. The use-by dates don’t always indicate spoiled food, but then again it’s good to know which foods are more sensitive to these dates than others.
- Freeze unused food – Utilize your freezer. If you’re unable to finish the pot pie you made last night, freeze portions for quick lunches and dinners.
- Take your lunch or share your leftovers– Using leftovers for meals at work is the best way to use excess food. Pack leftovers in your kids’ lunch, or share with coworkers, family, or friends if you know you’re not going to finish it.
- Proper storage – Learn how to store fruit and vegetables. It’s important to keep pre-cut and chopped produce in the refrigerator in sealed containers.