Collaboration vs Independence


In 2007, the city of San Jose California was looking at a goal of 100% waste diversion from landfills by 2022 and adopted its Green Vision Goal. While the residential rate has hit 80% this year the commercial side has only reached 22%.

The biggest problem for the city was it had an open market system for commercial hauling, which resulted in 20-25 haulers operating in the city. They were seeing a lot of trucks on the road, rates all over the ma, and a variety of services but very little incentive to actually recycle, Kerrie Romanow, Director of the San Jose Department of Environmental Services declared, “it was just as easy to not recycle.”

So, the city chose Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc. as its exclusive commercial hauler. The benefits to the city have been enormous which included a commitment from Republic to convert its area fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles to help cut down on pollution.

To handle the anticipated significant increase of material, Republic renovated their Milpitas facility, which can now process 110 tons of waste per hour, the largest recycling operation in the world.

To improve and increase commercial recycling to San Jose’s 8,000 businesses, Republic came up with a two-container wet/dry sort program. Wet items, food waste and landscape trimmings,  go in one container, and everything else in the other.

For the city’s part, dealing with just one hauler allowed the two parties to more clearly set expectations and achieve San Jose’s Green Vision Goal. Republic took responsibility for informing the individual businesses about the need to recycle and how to properly sort the materials on site.

Zero Waste Energy Development currently is composting the organic material that’s being diverted but it is building the first commercial scale dry fermentation anaerobic digestion facility which is scheduled to open late this year. Zero Waste will then convert the organics portion of the commercial waste collected to energy.

City officials took some early bold steps in a bad economy but the success San Jose has had in commercial recycling could happen anywhere. All it takes is a strong partnership between the city and the hauler.  There needs to be a commitment on all sides.

San Jose projects an 80% diversion commercially by July 1, 2013. The education and fine-tuning will continue as the city aims toward 100%, a figure that sits a long way from San Jose’s former commercial recycling rate.


April 29, 2013, Waste Age 360


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