Recology is a garbage collection service that began in 1920 in San Francisco. One of its locations in Visitacion Valley has its mind set on becoming a “waste zero” environment, but are having trouble reaching that goal due to the lack of knowledge that the residents of San Francisco have on recycling.
Recology has been moving forward for a waste zero environment for some time. Their goal is to become an environment that does not send waste into the landfill by 2020, but it does not look like it will be happening because of the lack of help from the residents in the area.
The operations manager, Kenneth Stewart, has been working for Recology for 35 years and thinks that the goal will be made between the years of 2020 and 2025, because of the technologies created to help them become a healthier environment.
“Twenty years ago, you had 35 hundred tons a day going into landfill,” Stewart said. “Currently today you have 13 hundred tons going into the landfill.”
The year for their goal approaches and many Recology members think the goal will be accomplished if the residents did their part by recycling properly.
The operations supervisor, Henry Aparicio, has been working for Recology for nine years and thinks the problem right now is what goes in the garbage carts.
“I still think a lot of the customers are not recycling properly the way they should be,” Aparicio said. “We are still finding a lot of glass bottles, and juice bottles in the garbage waste bin.”
Many residents that Recology in Visitacion Valley cover are not correctly disposing their waste and are causing harm in the process of becoming a waste zero environment.
“Lets say the black bin is full; then they’re putting their garbage in the blue and green bin,” Stewart said. “At that point it presents a contamination problem for our company, which is something that we struggle with everyday. It messes up the compost, it affects the ways that we send the material overseas, and we have to go through it.”
The waste zero goal does not seem to be meeting its 2020 target, but it will be close. Stewart says that Recology is working with all of their communities and customers by informing them on the waste zero goal.
“When I first came, all we did was take care of the customer by making sure that we picked up that garbage can on a weekly basis, and they were happy,” Stewart said. “Since that time, we are relying on the customers to do diligence on their part and in order for us to do that, they have to be educated.”
The lack of knowledge that most residents have with recycling is figuring out what goes where. Without the knowledge, trash and recyclables are put together which causes contamination for what could’ve been reused again.
“I think the whole education part is important for them, because there are a lot of older people in this city, and they don’t know what goes in the blue cans or green cans,” Aparicio said. “They just throw everything in the same garbage can, because they don’t know.”
More often than not, many residents are illegally dumping their garbage on the streets, or even on the side of the Recology building to avoid having to pay extra fees.
Recology employee since 2006, Ernesto Garcia, works separating materials such as concrete, metal and wood. He has noticed the illegal dumping and says that the residents are getting smart about it.
“Many people don’t want to pay extra for their garbage,” Garcia said. “They will pull up on the side of the lot and throw it off the truck. It looks bad for us, so we go and pick it up anyways.”
Recology in Visitacion Valley has a hazardous waste department for the residents and businesses of San Francisco.
Employee, Gus Muñoz, has been working at Recology for 29 years and helps by separating the hazardous materials from the garbage. He says that people are not putting their waste materials in the right location when they are done, which then becomes a problem.
“We are taking all of the hazardous waste materials out of the garbage,” Muñoz said. “This is just what they bring in, there are still people that are irresponsible, and they are still throwing it out.”
When it comes to separating materials, and disposing them where they belong is still a problem for most residents. Recology has made an effort to educate their customers and the residents of San Francisco by creating programs and tours that will inform them about the benefits of recycling.
Recology employee, Tom Mazzola, has been working in the business for 30 years, and also believes that they would reach their goal with the help of residents.
“If the residents will help out more by putting things in the right bins, it would help our goals,” Mazzola said. “If everything is separated, it makes it a lot easier when it gets here for us.”
The controversial issue that is placed between Recology and its goal are the requirements that are needed to be able to accomplish it. Residents need to recycle properly to be able to reach the waste zero goal. It makes it easier to separate when it is taken to Recology so that the material can be used again.
“I had to teach my parents to recycle, and now they recycle,” Aparicio said.
Aparicio does not think the goal will be made by 2020, but says that goals are good to set because then you keep on striving until you reach it.
“There’s plenty of information out there saying that in this world, if you look at how many people there are, landfills are not the way to go,” Stewart said. “Recycling is the way to do it. Reuse and recycle, that is where we all want to go.”
When it comes to making sure that the customers are doing their job right and are recycling properly, Recology members will sometimes look into the customer’s bins and make sure that the right things are in there.
“If you walk down the streets on trash day and you open up people’s carts, you can actually see who is doing a good job and who is not,” Stewart said. “For us, we will open up a cart, and if it has contamination in it, then we will knock on that door and ask the customer if they want us to retrain them. There is no penalty if the customer says they don’t want to do it; we cannot oppose a penalty on them.”
Recology member Juan Garcia separates what is in the black bags at Recology. Little is known about what is inside a black garbage bag, because it is not see through. Recology members have to rip open the bags and separate what’s inside if it is not already all waste materials.
“Some of the problems is with the black bags,” Garcia said. “Sometimes there are bottles in the black bags and they don’t belong there.”
Apart from having trouble with the residents recycling properly, Recology has worked hard to maintain that gap by separating all materials. When residents in Visitacion Valley and all of San Francisco begin to recycle properly, then the waste zero goal will approach us faster, and it will become easier to figure out better ways to avoid having to dump in the landfill.
“I think San Francisco is one of the best cities there is with people that care,” Stewart said. “The residents of the city and county of San Francisco do care very much, and we can tell by what they do. They do a very good job compared to other cities, but there is always work to be done with outreach and training.”