San Francisco’s recycling center gets a upgrade in time for the holidays

Recology logoSan Francisco is known for many things, the Golden Gate Bridge among them. But its San Francisco’s recycling efforts that have brought this amazing city into the national spotlight.

In 2002, the City by the Bay passed legislation that set a goal of  diverting 75 percent of its waste from landfills by 2010 and achieving “zero waste” by 2020. And so began its composting and food waste collection program.

A 2009 ordinance made it mandatory for residents to separate compostables such as food waste and recyclables for collection, creating a 3rd bin for weekly pick-up. Recology, a Bay area employee-owned company that provides landfill diversion and resource recovery services via collection, recovery and compost in four Western states, is an integral factor in having the City’s recycling and composting efforts succeed.

Now the most modern recycling line in the country is running full speed in San Francisco.

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Photo by Sven Eberlein

Recology’s Recycle Central – the 200,000-square-foot recycling plant on Pier 96 – just completed a major upgrade.The backbone of San Francisco’s recycling program for bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, and other recyclables, delegations from 82 countries have toured Recycle Central in the last four years. Now they want to come back to see a newly installed state-of-the art system that increases processing capacity by 170 tons per day.

At a cost of $11.6 million, the modern line will allow San Francisco to adapt to changes in the number and type of recyclable materials. This includes increases in small- and medium-sized cardboard boxes from online shopping and lighter plastic containers for beverages and some foods. The new line will also provide the flexibility to recover new materials in the future.

The system upgrades include:

  • an advanced metering system for inbound materials.
  • a presort line with 14 sorting stations, the longest in the U.S.
  • modern equipment that mechanically separates cardboard and glass bottles from other materials
  • two new lines of spinning disk screens that separate paper from plastic containers
  • new high-tech optical sorters that separate different types of plastic
  • state-of-the-art glass cleaning system
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Photo by Sven Eberlein

“With this state-of-the-art equipment, Recycle Central and the sorters who work here will recycle more material and send less to landfill,” says Mark Arsenault, Regional Vice President for Recology Operations in San Francisco.

“Thanks to Recology’s continued innovation and infrastructure improvements, San Francisco is now ready to capture more of the recycled material that comes into our homes or businesses,” said Debbie Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. “As we continue to lead the way, we each can do our part to reduce waste by making sure we place all of our recyclables in the blue bin every day.”

Holiday time is when cities receive the highest amounts of trash and recycling of the year – traditionally an average of at least 15 percent. The upgraded Recycle Central will definitely be better able to meet the huge increase in demand.

But recycling is only part of the strategy to achieve zero waste.Educated consumers are a major force as well. As consumers understand how better to recycle – what can and can’t be and the ins and outs of recycling – zero waste becomes a goal that can be reached. And the environment as well as we humans all win.

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