Despite meeting recycling goal, city falls behind in county comparison

Recycling Infographic
Jill Wong/Staff

According to a recently released report, the city of Berkeley diverted 76 percent of its waste in 2010, meeting its stated goal to divert at least three-quarters by 2010 — although some have said this is still not enough.

A Friday press release from the city of Berkeley citing the report, conducted by the county’s waste management authority, shows that between 1995 and 2010, the city diverted 76 percent of its waste from landfills and into more sustainable solutions like recycling and composting programs. This marks an increase from its 1995 diversion rate of 41 percent.

City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross attributed much of the city’s success in meeting its goal to Berkeley citizens, who she said are incredibly enthusiastic about recycling.

“Berkeley as a community has been the forefront of the recycling community for decades, and we hope to continue that,” she said.

Despite meeting the 2010 goal, the report puts Berkeley fourth in Alameda County for waste diversion, behind Albany, Emeryville and Union City.

In fact, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, Berkeley’s rank represents a departure from more significant waste diversion success in the past when compared to other cities.

“In the 1970s and ’80s, we were number one in the whole country — (now) we are just number four in our own county, let alone the country,” Worthington said.

Accordingly, Worthington said the positive publicity surrounding the report is “more of a statement that the representation of the city is tarnished as a champion of the environment.”

He said the city should continue to push for more change and even more sustainable living efforts., which is responsible for countywide waste planning, had a part in Berkeley meeting its 2010 goal, according to communications manager Jeff Becerra.

Made up of officials who are elected by the cities, county and sanitary districts served by the agency, provides funding for county recycling programs, a substantial amount of which comes from grants and is used for specific projects, according to Becerra. Other agency funds are redirected to more general projects such as day-to-day garbage, recycling and composting pickups, Becerra said. In total, the agency has a budget of roughly $20 million for fiscal year 2011-12.

Urban Ore, a Berkeley-based for-profit enterprise that “aims to end the age of waste” using tactics that are reminiscent of dumpster diving, could be one such effort to further improve diversion rates, according to founder Dan Knapp. Knapp said the program collects 850 tons of reusable waste every year by collecting recyclable trash and putting it back into circulation.

The company pulls in two to six tons of waste every day, which are then reused and recirculated, Knapp said.

According to Becerra, hopes that by 2020 less than 10 percent of materials residing in landfills could be recycled or composted. Future plans to improve Berkeley’s overall sustainability include increasing recycling efforts for businesses and multi-housing units.

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  • berkopinionator

    The figures probably do not take into account the millions of tons of recyclable bottles being taken out of containers in Berkeley by those “unofficial” agents of recycling.

  • francis

    How are we doing if we look at pounds of trash per resident?  If it’s 1 pound trash and 3 pounds recycling, we’re still doing better than someone who generates 2 pounds trash and 8 pounds of recycling.