County waste facilities weather changing tides of recycling, garbage trends
For many, the sight of a cardboard box might spark excitement about its contents or dread for an impending task to do something with it, likely flatten and recycle it.
But Joe La Mariana, executive director of RethinkWaste, sees something else in the sea of brown boxes trucked into the waste authority’s Shoreway Facility in San Carlos every day. Known for its tensile strength, cardboard can be reused up to 12 times, he explained, which makes it valuable on the international commodities market alongside Crystal Geyser water bottles and laundry detergent containers.
“The last three years in particular, the Amazon effect has really taken hold,” he said. “If we can still sort cardboard out, it has one of the highest values of all the recovered material.”
Serving some 435,000 customers from East Palo Alto to Burlingame, the Shoreway facility RethinkWaste manages includes a transfer station processing waste heading toward landfills and a material recovery facility which sorts recyclable materials and prepares them for their next use. Collectively, the 16-acre site annually processes some 500,000 tons of material, which La Mariana said is brought to the facility from some 95,000 households and 10,000 businesses by Recology trucks daily.