2016-03-25. San Francisco, ‘the Silicon Valley of Recycling’.

posted Mar 29, 2016, 2:47 AM by Alan Gould
By Matt Richter, The New York Times. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: You won’t find San Francisco’s Pier 96 in any travel guidebook but it has become a must-see destination for visitors from Afghanistan to Vietnam. They’ve come to explore Recology — Mr. Reed is a spokesman — one of the world’s most advanced recycling plants, a deafening, Rube Goldberg system of conveyor belts and sorters that, with the help of human hands, untangles a 30-foot hill of debris collected by trucks every day from across the city. ...Foreign officials and others come here to pick up tips on how to handle their own mushrooming piles of garbage back home. As the world’s population grows, people are consuming more, creating more trash, and countries are looking for ways to deal with it that put less stress on the environment. Many are part of a growing movement sometimes called Zero Waste or the Circular Economy. It entails trying to eliminate tough-to-recycle items like flimsy plastic bags and also pioneering new ways to recycle or compost everything else. ...Today, San Francisco diverts around 80 percent of waste away from landfills, putting it among the elite recycling cities. ...The first step is the separation of all recyclable garbage, ... human “classifiers” wearing masks, gloves and aprons pull out the biggest pieces of cardboard and drop them down chutes where they are baled. A few feet later, everything else bustles up a fast-moving moving ladder that carries the lighter paper to the top, while heavier cans and bottles fall back down. The bottles and cans are then divided. Farther along, an optical sorter uses a beam of light to determine which plastic bottles are clear and which ones are colored. The clear ones are flipped off the belt by puffs of air. “It’s Willy Wonka’s everything-you-can-imagine recycling place,” ...  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/science/san-francisco-the-silicon-valley-of-recycling.html