Donate Your Coats to Kids
It’s time for the annual coat drive throughout the city of San Bruno and San Mateo County.
All month, residents can drop off new and gently used coats—from infant to adult sizes—to donate to those in need of a warm coat during the cold weather season. Recology San Bruno has been holding the Coats for Kids drive all month. October 31st is the last day to participate. The drop-off locations for the coat drive are included on the map below.
The big coat giveaway in San Bruno will take place from 4-7 p.m. on November 15th at the National Guary Armory at 455 Third Ave. Each child is limited to one coat, and the children must be present to receive a coat. Learn more about the Recology San Bruno program here.
San Mateo County
From Monday, November 5th through Friday, November 9th, Recology San Mateo County drivers will collect coats curbside from residential homes on their collection day in Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo. Residents in the participating communities are asked to place coats in a clear plastic bag marked “Coats for Kids” and to then place the bag next to or on the top of their blue Recycle Cart on their regular collection day, during the week of November 5 to 9.
Collection containers labeled “Coats for Kids” will also be placed at various locations throughout participating cities noted above and the Recology San Mateo administrative office where residents can drop off coats. The drop off locations can be used by anyone interested in making a donation, even if their city is not participating in the program this year.
At the end of the drive, Recology will deliver all of the donated coats to local non-profit agencies for distribution to those in need. The Coats for Kids program is held annually by Recology and has hopes of having more communities participate each year. Below is a list of collection sites in San Mateo County.
One way that we’ve done this is to show people where their garbage goes, and what’s in it. We often take people on tours of our transfer stations, and show them what they think goes “away” after they leave their garbage on the curb. Most companies would never show the public what the folks at the Recology transfer station in San Francisco call “the Pit”.
The Pit temporarily holds what goes into the garbage can before it’s transfered to a landfill. Most of it is recyclable or compostable. When we look at the pit, we feel the same sense of sadness that others feel when they’re exposed to it for the first time. There’s a lot of wasted material in there.
We don’t hide the Pit for a reason. What folks see in there is an important part of their education about recycling, composting and landfills. And we show it to them for another reason too: to show them what they’re not seeing when they look at the Pit. Fifteen to twenty years ago, the Pit saw about 3,000 tons of waste per day. Today, the number is 1,350. We’ve been able to do this through our partnership with every resident of San Francisco and the Department of the Environment, and the three-bin system that we created, which allows everyone to sort out their compostable and recyclable material from their garbage.
We participate in coastal and city-wide clean up days to make sure what can be recycled is recycled during those events, and try to inspire people to see garbage differently through our Artist in Residence program in San Francisco and GLEAN in Portland.
Of course, there will always be garbage as long as products are made to be disposable after a single use, and as long as that is true, we will need landfills. But, we hope that the landfills of the future are “inert”–meaning no recyclable and no compostable materials go there.
Coming up with new ways to prevent usable resources from being wasted is part of the joy in our jobs. For example, one of the employees at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in San Francisco came up with the idea to recover BART tickets that still had some value and to use the proceeds to support Friends of the Urban Forest and the San Francisco Food Bank.
We love that we get a chance to make a real, positive impact on the lives of people in the cities and towns where we work, and on resource conservation and the climate. It’s a tough and dirty job, but we are glad to do it.
According to the EPA, in 2006 there were 117 incineration facilities in the United States. In the last two years, incineration technologies have re-emerged, and their promoters have tried to reposition them as a viable, sustainable solution to the waste problem in the U.S. Companies have tried to rename their processes “waste to energy” (WTE), “energy from waste” (EfW) and “energy recovery”. Energy recovery shouldn’t be confused with recovered energy, which is using the heat that escapes from industrial processes in a productive way. WTE, EfW and energy recovery’s promoters have made bold statements about the sustainability of their business model, but their claims of sustainability are usually made only in terms of energy—energy produced, energy “recovered”—or in terms of being less bad: less mercury and dioxins created than through burning coal. These arguments are often used to justify an undertaking that is expensive in both material and economic terms.
Garbage in… but what comes out?
It should be pretty obvious why incineration makes for an unsustainable business model. It’s not new information. First, incinerators are very expensive to build and to operate. One publication reports that a facility capable of burning 2,000 tons per day cost $600 million to build in 1995. Another publication quoted a cost of $650 million in 2010. And, in order to finance them, bond investors have to be assured that municipal solid waste (MSW) will be available to power the facility until they get their money back. The industry term for this is “flow control.” The result is that in the U.S. nearly 12% of all garbage is incinerated. Communities that would like to develop reuse and recycling programs are stuck with a large capital commitment to burning and therefore can’t afford an alternative.
The argument for incineration is that it is one way to generate energy. Although it is not always the case, but when energy is generated, it is not necessarily an economic home run. At least for one major player in the industry energy revenues do not pay for the costs of operating a facility. In fact, the operating costs may be 3-4 times higher than the revenues from selling energy. If incinerators didn’t charge to take the garbage, they would be unprofitable. And the true cost to produce the energy is usually much higher than other more traditional sources—in the neighborhood of $0.16-$0.18 per kilowatt hour–and higher than a concentrated solar plant at $0.10-$0.14 per kilowatt hour.
What do you think of when you hear the word incineration? Garbage is probably one thing that will come to mind. Perhaps even fire and ashes—the same ideas that you may think of when you think of cremation. But there is no beauty or tradition in incineration. No one looks on to reflect on their life and the passage of time. Between 1900 and 1920 incineration was established and grew in the U.S. so that by 1938-1939 there were more than 700 operating units. The period between 1940 and 1960 saw a number of persistent operational problems with incinerators. These included major air emissions problems, and incomplete and poor combustion of the materials fed to these units.
Incinerators still require a lot of money to build and operate, and are considered to be an incomplete disposal method because they leave a substantial amount of toxic ash that must be managed after the incineration process is completed.
The remaining ash is not a minor problem. Among the EPA’s highest-priority of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants (PBTs) to eliminate are dioxins, caused by the incineration and backyard burning of MSW, medical waste, and coal-fired power plants. PBTs are chemicals that exist in the environment and increase in concentration within the food chain, and therefore pose risks to human health and ecosystems. The resulting pollutants include mercury, cause acid rain and perhaps asthma. The biggest concerns about PBTs are that they span geographic boundaries, easily transcending air, water and land. They also persist throughout generations although numerous manufactured PBTs have already been banned. These PBTs are right up there with the pesticide DDT and its derivatives DDD and DDE.
A series of studies beginning in the 1960s illustrated the operations of a typical incinerator, which included long-term neglect, no operating procedures and no planned maintenance. The initial findings forced several incinerators across the country to close, and led to more in-depth studies. Nearly a decade later, incinerators installed air pollution control devices such as scrubbers, but found that plants still operated far above or far below capacity.
In his book titled American Alchemy H. L. Hickman, Jr. provides the results of an EPA study that sampled the types of materials sent to seven incinerators in 1996. Over 25% of the materials were non-combustible, meaning they could never be used to create energy in an incinerator. The other 74% consisted of food scraps, yard debris, paper, wood, textiles, plastic, rubber and leather. 88% of those materials are easily recyclable.
Remember the old reduce, reuse, recycle? Reduce meant “reduce the consumption of natural resources.” In order to keep an incinerator going, a community would have to consume and discard single-use items at a breath-taking pace. It is impossible. The amount of trees, mountains and transportation fuels that would be needed to keep it going are not available on earth in perpetuity.
Congratulations to the Recology companies that were awarded 2011 WRAP Awards: Recology Golden Gate, Recology San Bruno and Recology Vallejo. CalRecycle’s Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP) recognizes businesses for their environmentally-friendly practices. Recology was one of the 55 companies with multiple sites to win the award. According to CalRecycle, “the winning entries reported diverting more than 2.3 million tons of material from landfills and reported more than $200 million in cost savings.” We are proud of our long tradition of recovering resources through composting and recycling.
Recology San Bruno’s Community Event
Workshops are free! Reservations are not necessary but encouraged so there is a way to contact participants in case a class is canceled. To reserve a space in a workshop or for more information, please call the City of San Bruno Recreation Department at 650-616-7180. You can also register through the County of San Mateo RecycleWorks at 888-442-2666 or by emailing RecycleWorks.
- Saturday, July 27, 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM
- Tuesday, August 21, 9:30 AM – 11:00AM
Learn more about the services Recology provides to San Bruno at http://www.recologysanbruno.com/index.htm.
This Saturday you can learn how to turn your kitchen food scraps and yard trimmings into a rich soil amendment that will help your garden thrive. Compost Workshops are held at the San Bruno Recreation Center in San Bruno City Park.