Big jump in local recycling, composting | March 7, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Cover Story - March 7, 2012

Big jump in local recycling, composting

• Meanwhile, the tons of garbage collected drops.

Atherton and Menlo Park residents significantly increased recycling and composting in 2011, and decreased the amount of garbage sent to the landfill.

Atherton residents recycled 1,282 tons in 2011, up 20 percent from 2010, and composted 7,906 tons, up 50 percent, according to data from Rethink Waste, the joint powers authority for 12 public agencies in San Mateo County that manages recycling and waste-reduction efforts.

Menlo Park residents recycled 3,586 tons, also up 20 percent, and composted 8,213 tons, up 23 percent.

Meanwhile, the amount of residential garbage collected in Atherton dropped 7 percent to 1,991 tons. In Menlo Park, it dropped 18 percent to 4,371 tons.

Throughout the Rethink Waste service area, recycling rose 25 percent in 2011, composting jumped 29 percent, while garbage collected declined by 18 percent, the agency ( said.

In addition to Atherton and Menlo Park, the service area includes the West Bay Sanitary District, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Foster City, and unincorporated county areas.

(The two other town in the Almanac area — Woodside and Portola Valley — use a different waste-handling system, GreenWaste Recovery in San Jose.)

Last year residents in the Rethink Waste service area set out more compost (food scraps and yard trimmings) than garbage. Composting totaled 75,000 tons, exceeding garbage by 16,000 tons, Rethink Waste reported.

New system

The agency credits increased recycling and composting to the CartSMART program, started a year ago, that use three carts: blue for recycling, green for composting, and black for garbage. The program has single-stream recycling, where all recyclables — paper, certain plastics, and glass — are placed in one cart. The composting system allows people to combine food scraps and food-and-beverage-soiled paper products with yard trimmings.

Switching to a larger cart for recycling and to weekly collection for all three carts also drove increased participation, Rethink Waste said in a news release.

"These new collection services and our new Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos together comprise one of the biggest environmental success stories in years," said Kevin McCarthy, executive director of Rethink Waste, also known as the South Bayside Waste Management Authority.


Atherton and Menlo Park led among the 12 agencies in the percent of the waste stream diverted from the landfill by recycling and composting. Atherton's residential diversion rate in 2011 was 82 percent, and Menlo Park's was 73 percent.

Atherton also led with the percent increase in residential composting at 50 percent and the overall diversion rate (residential and commercial) at 79 percent.

Though Atherton has no retail commercial sector, it does have the Menlo Circus Club and an office for the California Water Service Company, plus many schools, which figured prominently in the diversion efforts, said Gino Gasparini, a spokesman for waste collector Recology San Mateo County.

The West Bay Sanitary District came in third in the percent increase in composting at 43 percent and was second in the overall diversion rate at 67 percent.

Menlo Park's residential diversion rate was 73 percent. Its overall diversion rate was 51 percent.

North Fair Oaks was second in the percent increase in residential recycling at 56 percent.


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