This year's annual Earth Day event sponsored by StopWaste.Org, Waste Management, Inc and WM Earth Care, offered many exciting opportunities for Alameda County families to learn about the 4 R's and what goes on at the Davis Street Transfer Station in S an Leandro. Adults and children could attend workshops, discover the wonders of a worm bin, plant a seed in reuse egg cartons and locally generated compost, and even make their own recycled paper! Least of all, there were driving tours of the facility that I co-led with the Materials Recovery Facility (M.R.F.) Manager, and that Andrew Sloan co-led with Senior District Manager, Jack Isola.
As we ambled the terrain in a comfy green Bauer's charter bus, visitors as well as myself, learned more about the finer details of operation in addition to Davis Street's latest construction project: a tipping floor for commercial and residential green waste drop off. The exciting project strives for sustainability and will be LEED Gold certified upon completion. In fact, 28% of the construction materials will be recovered from the transfer station's own construction and demolition M.R.F. Members of the public as well as Waste Management green waste trucks will bring material here, in a contained environment, to stay before being sent to a composting facility in Modesto, San Jose, or Novato. Contained green waste means less smells wafting to neighbors. The building blocks wind, preventing green waste from flying away, and helps to keep local wildlife outside and safe. What's more, the constructed space will allow room to recover organic debris from select loads of trash, further diverting compostables from the landfill.
The last stop of the driving tour included a stop at the curbside recycling M.R.F., where residents heard an insider's view of best practices. Davis Street Transfer Station's Recycling Supervisor, George Atristain, advised bags containing plastic bags to be brought back to the local grocery store, where they have bins designated for bag recycling. While M.R.F. hand sorters do pick out bags of plastic bags, it is preferred for them to be kept out of the recycling bin as they often jam machinery. On another note, he recommends not tying plastic bags that contain recyclables, as it makes it easier for materials to fall out and get sorted while they move through the hand sorters and machines on a conveyer belt! All of these efforts at home will help staff more efficiently separate and bale materials: up to 200 bales a day are sold, loaded into shipping containers, trucked to the Port of Oakland, which are then loaded onto cargo ships headed to remanufacturing plants, most of which are in China. There, bag of bags are hand-sorted by specialists based on the characteristics of the film plastic. Visitors are reminded by this visit that their steps to practice the 4 R's make a difference after it leaves their curbside once a week!