San Jose, Calif., Businesses Embrace Recycling

The city’s businesses report a recycling rate of 70 percent following the introduction of a wet/dry collection program.

Businesses in San José, Calif., have boosted their recycling rate from 22 percent to almost 70 percent from July to December 2012. The city credits new collection services for the increase in its recycling rate.

The new waste collection services, began July 1, 2012, provides a two-container wet/dry sort for businesses. Wet items include organics such as food waste, used napkins, paper plates and landscape trimmings. Dry items include glass, paper, plastics, cardboard and scrap metals. Waste collection also changed to a single hauler system under franchise with the city. Previously, San José’s 8,000 businesses selected and negotiated their own garbage and recycling services among more than 20 city-approved haulers.

Michael Miller of San José’s Fairmont Hotel says, “The two-container, wet/dry system was quite easy to implement, and we are pleased by how committed and supportive our staff is of this most important initiative. As a result, we are realizing cost savings and proudly increasing the amount we recycle.”

Similarly, Sharon Tolaio, U.S. facilities manager for ARM, says she is pleased with the company’s fuller participation in recycling. “At our office in San José, we recycle paper, cans and plastics, and we collect all of our wet waste for composting. This activity has significantly decreased the amount of trash we send to landfill. We are pleased to be playing our part in this environmentally friendly initiative.”

According to San José Councilman Sam Liccardo, the city is on track to achieve an 80 percent waste diversion rate by 2014. “That’s good news for everyone because this helps extend the life of our landfills and reduces associated taxpayer costs, which can be significant,” he says.

“And, with a single, streamlined collection service,” Liccardo adds, “we have reduced the number of garbage trucks driving through busy business districts. These are among the steps that help move San José towards a sustainable future.”

In its Green Vision, the San José Council has set a goal to divert 100 percent of its waste from landfills and convert waste to energy by 2022.

In 2011, the city conducted a competitive bid process, bringing in Republic Services and Zero Waste Energy Development (ZWED) to collaborate on developing services and infrastructure that would escalate the business community’s rate of recycling and reduce carbon output.  

To process the increased volume of material from businesses, Republic expanded its San José material recovery facility to an 80,000-square foot, multi-stream processing center capable of sorting 400,000 tons of mixed wet and dry materials every year. The facility stands as the largest recycling facility in the world, according to the city.

“Our facility can recover a high percentage of the incoming waste,” says Republic Bay Area Municipal Relationship Manager Gil Cheso. “And we minimize our carbon output by using compressed natural gas in all of our collection vehicles. We also have plans to use alternative energy sources at our facility. We’re committed to having the most sustainable operations possible.”

ZWED’s facility addresses the waste-to-energy component of the city’s Green Vision. ZWED is currently constructing the first commercial scale dry waste digester facility in North America in the city. It will take the organic stream generated by businesses and convert it to biogas. The facility is anticipated to be operational in early 2014.

Kerrie Romanow, the city’s environmental services director, says she is pleased with the early results of the new service. “The rapid increase in the business community’s recycling rate reflects the success of Republic’s operations and shows that our businesses are effectively participating. San José has long enjoyed one of the highest recycling rates in the nation in the residential sector. Now we can thank our business community for a similar recycling performance.”