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Waste facility upgrades take major financing step in San Carlos

RethinkWaste issues $50M in bonds for green infrastructure

A long-imagined goal to turn organic waste into biogas that can fuel garbage trucks is inching closer to reality after RethinkWaste issued nearly $50 million in green bonds this week, marking a step forward for an effort to make major facility upgrades at the Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos.

Aimed at reducing waste and greenhouse gases and improving recycling operations, the improvements the bonds will help pay for are expected to modernize the sorting equipment used at the waste authority’s recycling plant and begin a pilot to convert organic material into a clean energy source, said Joe La Mariana, executive director of RethinkWaste. Though major upgrades have been considered as the facility enters its 10th year in operation, La Mariana said officials began work on a financial analysis of the facility’s operations last summer to determine how large-scale improvements could be funded.

Increasingly stringent standards for fiber-based recyclables put in place by China last year and a growing interest among officials to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills were among the priorities officials considered in identifying some $25 million in capital projects needed for the 16-acre site northeast of the Holly Street and Highway 101 interchange, noted La Mariana. He said the staff and the board of the joint powers authority RethinkWaste represents, also known as the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, recognized interest rates were much lower today than they were when the authority first borrowed bonds to construct the facility in 2009.

Read the full article by Anna Schuessler on The Daily Journal here.

Pilot project will turn organic waste into clean energy source

San Mateo County is set to launch a new landfill diversion pilot project that will convert organic materials into a clean energy source using an Organics Extrusion Press (OREX).

Today, the County’s Board of Supervisors approved funding for the OPEX, which is expected to begin operating in December this year.

From its home at the Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos, OREX is expected to extract between 50 and 75 tons of organic material per day from waste that would otherwise head to landfills and composting facilities. That material will then be anaerobically digested into a carbon-negative renewable natural gas that will be used by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. As importantly, it will reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfills, the County said. If the so-called Organics-to-Energy pilot succeeds, it would ideally be expanded, the County says.

Read the full article on Climate Online Redwood City here.

Allied approach

Personal relationships are key to advancing recycling operations at RethinkWaste, San Carlos, California.

Joe La Mariana relies on relationships to keep materials moving and operations growing at South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA), which is more commonly known as RethinkWaste. The agency formed in 1982 with a goal of providing cost-effective waste reduction, recycling and solid waste programs to serve its member agencies in San Mateo County.

“From my understanding, [the agency] was formed at a property that was originally an old laundry facility that they converted into a transfer station and ultimately [to] a material recovery facility (MRF) in two large buildings on-site,” says La Mariana, executive director at RethinkWaste.

That site is known as the Shoreway Environmental Center, San Carlos, California. The center features a 70,200-square-foot MRF that handles commingled material and a 75,000-square-foot building that houses its transfer station. The site also features a public recycling center and an education center.

Read the full article by Megan Smalley at Recycling Today here.

After the fire, a new alarm is sounded

The aftermath of a 2016 fire at the Shoreway Environmental Center in California has included a call to action on how lithium-ion batteries are handled.

Fires have become distressingly common at recycling and solid waste facilities this decade, causing fire prevention efforts to become top of mind for today’s plant managers and executives. 

The leaders of San Carlos, California-based Rethink Waste are all too familiar with this phenomenon, having survived a blaze that tore through its materials recovery facility (MRF) two years ago. 

Rethink Waste Executive Director Joe La Mariana says he has gotten a new perspective in the aftermath of the fire, pushing the organization to advocate for what it considers critical policy changes. 

Catastrophic but pre-considered 

Rethink Waste, which describes itself as a joint powers authority of 12 public agencies in San Mateo County, California, provides waste handling and recycling services to much of the area. 

A considerable percentage of the authority’s activity takes place at the Shoreway Environmental Center, a municipal solid waste (MSW) transfer station and MRF in San Carlos operated by South Bay Recycling (SBR). Hauling services are provided by San Francisco-based Recology

The 70,000-square-foot Shoreway facility opened in May 2011 and was initially permitted to handle some 3,000 tons per day of MSW, dry recyclables and organics (food scrap and yard waste). 

In September 2016, five years after opening, the Shoreway Environmental Center was struck by a devastating fire that brought its operations to a halt. The fire occurred just five weeks into the tenure of La Mariana, who says the incident served as something a bit too close to a literal baptism by fire.

Read the full story by Brian Taylor in Waste Today here.

Where does it go?

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.

Read the full story by Anna Schuessler in the Daily Journal here.