California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

"Innovations" Case Studies: Curbside Recycling, the Next Generation

Implementation and Tips for Replication

Challenges and Opportunities in Implementation

For the initial set of pilot programs, the food collected consisted only of vegetative food (fruit and vegetable scraps, along with coffee grounds and tea bags). The available composting facilities at the time were permitted and willing to take only vegetative material.

Under California’s tiered composting regulations and the permit in place, available facilities could accept residential vegetative food but not meat. In addition, Sunset Scavenger was more comfortable starting off with collecting vegetative materials. The company believed that residents would be more receptive to separating organic material, since it might be less messy than meat or an all-food mix.

In the summer of 1998, a new permit allowed processing capacity for all food material at the B&J composting facility. Starting in October 1998, all food scraps, including meat and food-soiled paper, were added to some of the pilots. Previously, Sunset Scavenger took the compostables to the West Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill composting facility in the City of Richmond.

In the first set of pilots, participants in the yard and vegetative food scraps collection program were given a 2-gallon kitchen pail and a set of 24 cellophane-lined paper bags (from Foodcycler by Woods End Research Laboratory) to facilitate food separation and reduce potential messiness.

The use of the bags was successful, and they composted well. However, the city and Sunset Scavenger decided to try collection without paper bags, given cost and distribution concerns. Residents were then encouraged to use regular paper bags or newspaper to line their pail if desired.

One goal of the pilot programs was to assess collection vehicles and containers. Sunset Scavenger wanted to reduce worker injuries while striving to increase efficiency in collection of all materials. The pilots tested both semi- and fully-automated side-loading vehicles. Extensive street parking in most of San Francisco significantly limits the use of fully automated vehicles. Thus, the city and Sunset Scavenger settled on semi-automated side-loading vehicles for the citywide organics collection program.

Tips for Replication

  • Implement pay-as-you-throw “a can is a can” garbage rates, with recycling costs included in the rate.
  • Consider commingled collection if sufficient processing facilities are located in your area.
  • Phase in automated or semi-automated collection vehicles if a contract is already in place, or specify them for the beginning of a new contract.
  • Consider co-collection of two of the three primary materials: garbage, commingled recyclables, and/or yard wastes in the same vehicle.
  • Collect food discards (all types, if possible) and soiled paper with yard trimmings, if yard trimmings are collected in rolling carts and if local composting facilities can process those materials together.
  • Collect recyclables from small businesses through curbside recycling programs.
  • Consider adding materials when you make other changes that improve collection efficiencies.
  • Use pilot programs to test new technologies and approaches. Use focus groups and other marketing techniques to scientifically evaluate the success of those pilot programs.

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Last updated: October 2, 2002
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