MRF upgrades equal increased recycling at Recology
Inside Recology's new West Wing for organics collection.

MRF upgrades equal increased recycling at Recology

Recycling collection increased 9 percent within 18 months of MRF retrofit and public outreach initiative.

February 28, 2019

A combination of a $14 million material recovery facility (MRF) retrofit, investments in modern recycling equipment and high-tech optical sorting machines, improvements to municipal recycling, a $19 million organics wing and public outreach has increased recycling by 9 percent and organics collection by 2 percent at San Francisco-based Recology.

Recology completed a $14 million upgrade to its 200,000-square-foot MRF, which is now home to seven high-speed, computer-controlled optical sorters, which allow Recology to better sort materials and reduce contamination, Recology Public Relations Manager Robert Reed says.

“When China announced it would no longer accept shipments of recycled materials from foreign countries, some cities said they could not meet the new standard” imposed by paper mills and manufacturers “and reduced or suspended efforts,” Reed says.

Recology constructed a $19 million organics wing at its San Francisco transfer station, increasing food scrap and yard waste collection to 800 tons per day, with a goal to collect 1,000 tons per day and transfer for composting.

San Francisco requires compost and recycling, but in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) February webinar, “State and Local Organic Bans-Implementation Planning, Lessons Learned and Updates,” John Fischer of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said recycling and organic bans don’t always equate to proper recycling.

To address municipal recycling challenges, Recology not only delivered 58,000 larger recycling bins (64 gallons) and 54,000 smaller waste bins (16 gallons) to residential properties, but the company launched an outreach program before bin deliveries and updated lid stickers, which "use pictures to show what goes where." Recology applied the stickers to 313,000 carts and containers in San Francisco.

The results, measured in tons collected, on routes that received larger recycling and smaller waste carts and new lid stickers:

  • Recycling collection increased 9 percent.
  • Compost collection increased 2 percent.
  • Refuse to landfill decreased 6 percent.

Reed also links more outreach, education and collaboration with San Francisco to the improved recycling rates. Recology’s Better at the Bin initiative uses key facts and statistics, high-quality engaging videos and lists simple actions to reduce waste. The Better at the Bin video has received 50,000 views since October.