San Bruno single-bin recycling comingBy Todd R. Brown
John Verity believes his job is a bigger deal than the day-to-day duties he fulfills for the San Bruno Garbage Company. After all, there's more to it than just chucking trash.
"Years ago, half of that would all be in the garbage," he said Friday, pointing to a hefty pile of debris at the firm's transfer station on Tanforan Avenue. "We separate everything. Less in the landfill, better for the environment. Better for the next generation, that's the way I'm looking at it."
Verity, who maneuvers a tractor shovel at the processing site, said San Bruno's switch from stackable bins for different recyclables to a single container for paper, cardboard, bottles and cans will make the process even more beneficial.
"It's easier for the customer to recycle more," he said, "even if we have to spend the extra time to sort it out. It's a win-win situation."
Tall blue carts should start arriving at 500 homes across San Bruno today as the pilot program for single-stream recycling gets underway. Pick-up begins next week, and split-body trucks will be tested to collect both trash and recyclables.
After surveys are studied and kinks worked out, all 10,500 or so customers should be converted to one-container recycling by April - the biggest rollout yet in the county - according to Mario Puccinelli, general manager for San Bruno Garbage.
"San Bruno residents are avid recyclers," he said, noting that they were first in the county to get curbside service in the early '80s. "We see over an 80 percent participation rate on a regular basis. We wanted to take it to the next level."
Cities see up to a 40 percent increase in recycling when customers don't have to sift through cast-offs and separate everything tidily, Puccinelli said.
The South Bayside Waste Management Authority, which serves 10 cities between Burlingame and Menlo Park, will be watching the new program in San Bruno, according to Joe La Mariana of the county's RecycleWorks program, part of the agency.
"We're looking quite enthusiastically to see how this all sorts out," the San Mateo resident said. "The bins on a personal level I find very annoying. I want to go to cart service, and most of my neighbors do, too."
He said the authority invested in single-stream technology at its Blue Line Transfer station at Oyster Point a few years ago.
But a systemwide switch involving the San Carlos transfer station would require even more back-end retooling and will have to wait until the current pick-up contract with Allied Waste expires at the end of 2010.
Portola Valley and Woodside also offer single-stream service, along with Palo Alto and San Jose. Across the Bay, Hayward is mulling the option, while Antioch, Oakland and Pleasanton are already up to speed.
Other waste companies provide split carts that let customers toss trash in one side and recyclables in another, such as South San Francisco Scavenger, which serves Brisbane, Millbrae and South City.
La Mariana said that requires two stops, one to dump the garbage and one to drop off recyclables for sorting, while single-stream service brings all the material to one place.
Regardless of where the work happens, what occurs next is pretty much the same.
"There are fancy bells and whistles to it now," La Mariana said, but "at the end of the day, there are people that are literally pulling out contaminants."
Verity said the San Bruno transfer station can load four or five truck trailers, each with 78,000 pounds of material in a day - twice over.
Trash goes to Fairfield, while yard clippings head to Half Moon Bay to become a liquid fertilizer used at wineries. Construction and demolition refuse, or C&D, heads to the Ox Mountain Landfill off Highway 92.
Verity said the work feels rewarding, despite possible drawbacks such as the smell ("It doesn't bother me," he said) and impatient civilian drivers who get antsy behind idling garbage trucks.
"The job is not for everyone," he said. "I think of it as doing a service."
With a smile, he added one more friendly thought for residents who, in the long run, will benefit from the time and effort that goes into trash and recycling pick-ups: "Tell 'em to go easy on the horn."
Contact the San Bruno Garbage Company at (650) 583-8536 or http://www.sanbrunogarbage.com/.
Copyright ©2007 San Mateo County Times. Published 01/08/2007.