Despite Economy, SF Recyclables Still Moving

(December 18, 2008)

S.F. moving all recyclables
For the planet, for everyone's benefit, please keep recycling

It's important to recycle and compost no matter what is happening with our economy. Recycling protects the environment, saves energy, and helps offset the cost of your garbage service.

While many lament the decline of the commodities market for paper, cardboard, and other materials, San Francisco continues to move all its recyclables. Here are four reasons why:

1. High-quality materials. San Francisco may have the most advanced recycling program in the country. Thanks to that, our city produces high-quality recyclables (paper, metal cans, and glass and plastic containers).

2. Large supplier. San Francisco is one of the largest suppliers of recycled paper on the West Coast. We ship 25 to 30 truckloads of recyclables a day to paper mills, foundries, and glass plants. Commodities recycling brokers want to maintain good relationships with large, dependable suppliers.

3. Long-standing relationships. San Francisco has been recycling since the Gold Rush. Our commodities marketing manager has been in the business for over 30 years. Long-standing relationships can make a big difference.

4. Location. San Francisco enjoys a great geographic location for shipping recycled materials. Seventy-five percent of the material we sort and bale is sent to countries throughout the Pacific Rim. Twenty-five percent goes domestic.

Other cities may have difficulties placing all their materials in the soft market for recyclables, but San Francisco is selling all materials separated for recycling and composting. All recyclables customers toss in their blue recycling carts today are being collected, sorted, sold, shipped and made into new products.

Revenue from the sale of recycled materials from San Francisco's collection programs is tracked by the city and helps pay for trash and recycling programs. The balance is paid through lower residential and commercial garbage rates.

Recycling not only provides materials for manufacturing and helps keep materials out of landfills, recycling also offers stunning emissions savings compared to primary manufacturing processes. A new report published in the October 2008 issue of Recycling International shows that recycling aluminum cans, for example, results in 93 percent emissions savings compared to mining ore and traditional manufacturing. Reprocessing aluminum cans uses just 5 percent of the energy consumed in the primary process.

As You Sow, a nonprofit environmental watch group, recently released its 2008 U.S. Beverage Container Recycling Scorecard and Report. It found that only one-third of the more than 200 billion beverage containers sold in the United States are recycled. If all the beverage containers were recycled, greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 15.6 million metric tons.

Composting is another very effective way to help protect the environment. When you participate in San Francisco's green cart food scrap compost collection program, you hinder rather than enable climate change.

Food scraps (cooked meat, fish bones, eggs, and broccoli) tossed in a trash bin go to a landfill, decompose and produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Those same scraps tossed in a green cart go to a modern compost facility, where much of the carbon in the scraps is preserved in the finished compost and returned to the soil when the compost is applied to local vineyards.

We strongly agree with Lori Wolfe, a journalist with The Herald-Dispatch of West Virginia, who wrote an editorial last week encouraging people to continue to recycle despite the economic downturn. She said, "The recession doesn't make recycling less important. It makes recycling more important. It makes reducing the trash stream and reusing material more important. Reduce, reuse, and recycle still make sense."