With Walnut Creek recyclable center set to close,
Concord/Pleasant Hill Recycling prepares for new waste stream
By Lou Fancher
Faced with 800-pound bales of squashed aluminum cans, industrial-sized dumpsters full of tubas and trombones, nearly 30 tons of glass, a 45,000-pound load of copper, a mountain range of cardboard and more, Mike Jennings knows exactly what to do -- recycle.
The 55-year-old vice president and general manager of the Concord/Pleasant Hill Recycling Center on Galaxy Way will likely be doing even more of that soon, given the planned Sept. 28 closure of a major recycling center operated by Waste Management at 480 Lawrence Way in Walnut Creek since 1996. That closure was brought about after Republic won a multimillion dollar waste removal contract from the Central Contra Costa County Solid Waste Authority, business that has long belonged to Waste Management.
"We'll be a customer here, too" in Concord, said Anne Baker, recycling coordinator for Republic Services.
The City of Walnut Creek owns the Lawrence Way parcel, which fronts Interstate 680 -- a location that could be lucrative.
Each week at the Concord facility, 45 800-pound bales of cans (29.6 cans equal one pound) arrive at the Galaxy Way center. In the company's main warehouse, that means just over 1 million cans.
Across the street in a second warehouse, cardboard, paper, gigantic balls of wire, "MRP" (miscellaneous rigid plastic) and construction materials form an eerie landscape under harsh florescent lighting.
Concord/Pleasant Hill Recycling Center accepts nearly everything imaginable: aluminum cans and window and door frames, glass, refrigerators ($15 is charged to remove the refrigerant), yellow brass musical instruments, sheet metal, roofing materials, cardboard, paper, magazines, newspapers, electrical motors, radiators, plastics, copper and more.
"(But) we don't take concrete, wood, chemicals or liquids," Jennings said. He would like to accept carpeting and textiles, but doesn't have room for storing them.
He passes along plastic garbage bags, but makes no money from it.
A history buff, Jennings likes to tell visitors about scrap metal drives during World War II, when copper pennies were temporarily made of zinc and tin-lined toothpaste tubes were turned in by citizens supporting the war effort.
"We should go back to paper bags: we can recycle them like this," he says, snapping his fingers.
White paper, he explains, can be made into new white paper; cardboard, into lower grade cardboard or toilet paper; cans, into carpet fibers; and plastic and metals, as long as they are separated by type and grade, can be melted down and used to make new, similar-to-the-original goods.
Even the enormous sorting platform is repurposed: built by Jennings and company employees with scrap metal, he estimates the cost was $60,000, compared to a $300,000 commercial machine.
Jennings says there's money to be had for customers, too. Typical bottles and cans receive the standard cash CRV buyback, but anything valued at over $61 is paid by check.
To avoid accepting stolen goods, customers are photographed with their recyclables. A name and address is taken and a valid state-issued I.D. is required. Jennings said payment is withheld for three days, and that records are kept for more than three years.
"We can't be foolproof, but we can come close," he promises.