Recology Wins Environmental Award

Last week Waste & Recycling News awarded Recology its 2009 Environmental Award (see Honoring innovators). Among past winners are great companies like HP and RecycleBank. While the award is a source of pride for us, we know there’s still a lot of work to be done.  It takes a lot of dedication and effort for an employee-owned company like us to offer practical alternatives for resource recovery.   

Since 1996, we have worked to expand the class of recycables to include food waste, and we’ve been successful. As of this past October, our city-wide food waste collection program in San Francisco exceeded 500 tons per day, and we have composted a conservative estimate of 620,000 tons of organics. Why do we do it? 

We know that food and other biodegradable products generate greenhouse gases when they decompose in landfills. Landfill gas collection systems are one remedy to this, although the best estimates are that they capture 70% of the methane emitted at most. And, that is if the gas collection system is installed early in the life of a landfill. We also know that landfills are responsible for the largest part of human-created methane emissions in the United States. 

Photo of erroded soil

Source: Soil Science,

Food waste collection is a low-cost, viable solution to the problem. Through composting, we not only prevent sme of the methane emissions that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere, we also enhance soil quality and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers.  I recently heard a radio interview with one of the producers of Dirt! the Movie discussing the importance of soil health in preventing soil erosion and desertification. ( has a short summary on the causes.) Compost is often used as vegetative cover, which, in concert with other land management practices, can prevent soil erosion.   

We are proud of what we’ve done so far, and look forward to creating viable resource recovery solutions everywhere we work.

2 Responses to “Recology Wins Environmental Award

  • I love your blog and wish it were better promoted outside of your website.
    Can you help explain the different classes of recyclables. For example, what is your definition of an organic? Is a steak bone an organic? How are lawn clippings and tree leaves from my yard different from potato skins and spoiled bread from my kitchen and why can’t I put them all in my big green recycle bin (marked yard refuse)? Certainly I understand the difference between plant materials versus animal matter (and the smell associated with rotting meat), but are they all organics? How about used paper plates and cups??
    Would appreciate your categorization of waste and a view on the likely future direction of waste recycling…

  • Thanks for your questions and comments.

    You’re right–we should communicate more clearly about what we meanby “organics”, what can or can’t go in the green recycling bin, and what we mean by “waste”.

    The future likely drection of waste recycling is another big topic. We’ll write a more in-depth post about these things in the coming weeks.

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