California's Recycling Industry


Policy makers are starting to recognize that recycling means business in California. No longer just a favorite pastime of environmentalists, recycling and waste prevention are becoming a major part of the California economy, benefiting a variety of business sectors.

Californians Against Waste Foundation has put together a set of ten fact sheets (CAWF's own "Top Ten List") which highlight the economic benefits of recycling.

Fact Sheet #1: Diverse Industry

Recycling is More than What Meets the Eye

Most people think that the recycling industry is only a handful of community groups and their local curbside recycling program. But recycling is more than just collecting bottles and cans. Recycling is a multi-billion dollar industry in California comprised of a diversity of companies, both large and small, engaged in a variety of activities.

Who Does Recycling?

The breadth of the recycling industry can be represented by the recycling loop which includes collection, manufacturing and purchasing. There are opportunities for new or expanding recycling businesses in all of these sectors. And recycling is only one the ways businesses can reduce waste. There are opportunities in source reduction, reuse, and composting as well.


  • Supermarket recycling centers
  • Scrap metal dealers
  • Buyback recycling centers
  • Commercial recycling programs
  • Curbside recycling programs
  • Youth/school recycling programs
  • Local conservation corps
  • Used oil recycling centers


  • Glass containers manufacturers
  • Recycled paper mills
  • Tire retreaders
  • Plastic bottle manufacturers
  • Steel mills
  • Fiberglass manufacturers
  • Asphalt paving contractors
  • Used oil refineries


  • Manufacturers/Industries
  • Government agencies
  • Utilities
  • Large office buildings
  • Restaurants/Hotels
  • Retailers/Grocers
  • Printers/publishers
  • Schools/universities

How Many People are Involved in Recycling?

Everyone! The Department of Conservation and the California Integrated Waste Management Board are responsible for keeping track of recycling businesses in California. According to the DOC, there are more than 2400 certified recycling centers in California. Over 16 million Californians are served by local curbside recycling programs.

California has over 1,787 companies operation more than 3,000 facilities. Many of them are manufacturers which use recycled materials. Here are a few examples:

Paper mills 29 plants
Glass plants 11 plants
Plastic processors/manufactueres 54 plants
Inerts processors 48 plants
Tire processors 38 plants
TOTAL 179 plants

What Can Recycling Mean to an Economy?

Nowhere has recycling made such a dramatic impact on the economy as in the City of Los Angeles, which estimate that the local recycling industry, including collectors, processors, and manufacturers, generates over $600 million in sales and employment annually. In addition, local reuse industries, including automobile and appliance repair shops and second hand goods stores, add an additional $600 million to the local economy. That's $1.2 billion in direct economic benefits to the city, not to mention the multiplier effect on other aspects of the economy.

Profile: Alameda County

Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Alameda County Recycling Board
777 Davis Street #100
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 614-1699

Alameda County is an excellent example of an area which has utilized a diversity of programs to achieve their waste management goals. The County is comprised of 14 cities, ranging in size from 384,097 (Oakland) to 6,050 (Emeryville). Of the 1.3 million County residents, over 1.1 million are served by curbside recycling services and by hundreds of recycling businesses in the County. In 1990, County voters adopted Measure D, an initiative which set the course for expanded recycling in the County by providing loans to expanding and start-up recycling businesses.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board has established the Oakland/Berkeley area and the Southern Alameda County area as State Recycling Market Development Zones (RMDZ) eligible for state-assistance in the development of recycling-related businesses. The zones have provided loans for the expansion of 10 businesses and the creation of 109 jobs in the local economy. Some of the companies that have expanded in Alameda County include:

  • Ecology Center: A non-profit recycling center in Berkeley
  • Sutta Company: A for-profit commercial recycling service in Oakland
  • McCoy Sanitary Supply: An industrial supply house that is expanding to recondition bulk industrial bags.
  • Schnitzer Steel: A major scrap metal dealer which is expanding to process appliances and other metallic discards.

According to Tom Padia, Recycling Prorams Manager for the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, "Recycling has been a tremendous benefit to Alameda County, providing millions of dollars to the local economy. We are working to expand recycling businesses and assist others to start-up."


1. California Recycling Enterprises: A Comprehensive Database. Californians Against Waste Foundation, December 1994.

Fact Sheet #2: Economic Value

Recycling Adds Greater Economic Value than Throwing It All Away

It's a fact: recycling creates greater economic value than "throwing it all away." Yet for years, we have ignored the tremendous economic potential of recycling. Every ton of newspapers recycled and every ton of aluminum saved from the garbage heap creates jobs, expands manufacturing, and reduces operating costs for local businesses and households.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that meeting the state's 50 percent recycling goal will add $2 billion to California's economy and create over 45,000 new jobs over the next seven years.1

Recycling Adds Value - Landfilling Wastes Resources

Recycling adds greater economic value to a local economy than landfilling. For example, as recovered paper moves through the recycling process--collection, sorting, processing and manufacturing--it increase in value at each stage until it is ultimately resold at a premium price as new paper product. Landfilling that same paper adds no value, creates far fewer jobs, and wastes a valuable commodity.

Recycling's Impact on a Local Economy

The economic impact of recycling is enormous. In 1992, the City of San Jose projected that developing the industrial capacity to absorb its recovered materials would support 40 facilities and 775 manufacturing jobs alone, with additional benefits from collection and processing businesses.2 The City estimated $109 million in value added, $9.4 million in avoided landfill costs, and $88.4 million in production cost savings.

The City of Los Angeles, which has one of the most ambitious recycling programs in the state, estimates that annual sales and employment for recycling businesses exceeds $600 million. Reuse and repair businesses add another $600 million.

As programs and incentives aimed at achieving California's 50% waste reduction and recycling goal come on line, the beneficiaries will continue to be both California's economy and its environment. While the road to 50% recycling will not be an easy one, the public, local governments, and businesses can harness recycling as a great economic engine helping to revitalize the California economy.

Profile: Jefferson Smurfit Corporation & Container Corporation of America

Karen L. Jarrell - Government Affairs
1519 Third Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 446-0280

Jefferson Smurfit Corporation & Container Corporation of America (JSC/CCA) and its division, Smurfit Newsprint Corporation, rank as the nation's largest producer of recycled newsprint, folding cartons, and boxboard. Another division, Smurfit Recycling Company, ranks first in the nation for the collection, processing and brokering of recovered paper materials. Through its industrial packaging division and affiliate companies, CORFAB and Sequoia Pacific Systems Corporation, JSC/CCA also produces specialty paper products such as cores, labels, and business forms.

JSC/CCA demonstrates how recycling adds value to recyclable materials through its operations by serving both as a collector, processor, and broker of recovered paper materials, and as a manufacturer of recycled content paper products.

JSC/CCA has over 2,100 employees at its California facilities which include three mills, six converting plants, eleven recycling collection centers, and four "specialty" facilities.


1. California Integrated Waste Management Board, "Meeting the Demand: A Market Development Plan for California." Sacramento: CIWMB. March 1993.

2. Cal Recovery, Inc. "Economic Development Study for Industries Utilizing Recyclable Materials." City of San Jose, Office of Environmental Management: April 1992.

Fact Sheet #3: Job Creation

Recycling Creates More Jobs than Landfilling

It's a fact: recycling and remanufacturing waste material produce substantially more jobs than landfilling or incinerating the same material -- usually at a lower cost to local government and residential and business ratepayers. In fact, recycling results in up to 36 times more jobs than landfilling.

Recycling Means More Jobs and Lower Costs

Consider that Californians recycled more than 600,000 tons of glass in 1993. It is estimated that the collection, processing, and remanufacturing of this secondary raw material sustained jobs for 4,320 Californians.  At the same time, the use of recycled raw materials instead of virgin raw materials saved California glass container manufacturers an estimated $9 million in raw material costs.

However, if this same amount of glass was dumped in landfills instead, fewer than 120 jobs would be sustained, while state-wide garbage bills would have to be increased by $60 million to cover the additional cost of disposal.  Recycling this glass creates 36 times more jobs than landfilling.

Recycling creates more jobs than landfilling by adding value and employing people at every step of the process. Consider the recycling loop: jobs are created in the collection, processing, manufacturing, and selling of recycled products. When garbage is landfilled, the materials are collected and disposed of without any opportunity for continued economic activity.

Recycling is a Growth Industry in California

Prior to the passage of the State's Waste Management Act, California already had a limited, but significant recycling industry. The California Integrated Waste Management Board estimates that the state's 50% recycling goal will add $2 billion to California's economy and create over 45,000 new jobs by the year 2000.

Waste Management of North America, the nation's largest waste hauler, is also one of California's largest recycling employers, providing more than 3,000 California jobs. Ten years ago, less than 2% of Waste Management's California employees were engaged in recycling; today nearly half are involved.

Contrary to the declining trends experienced by many of California's industries, recycling is a growth industry that is helping to define a more sustainable, job-creating manufacturing infrastructure in California.

Profile: Waste Management of North America, Inc.

Gary Peterson - Director of Environmental Affairs
10309 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 838-5848

While best known as the world's largest garbage company, Waste Management of North America, Inc., a subsidiary of WMX Technologies, is among the largest recycling and composting program employers in California. Waste Management Inc. Is California's largest provider of curbside recycling services, with programs in more than 60 jurisdictions, serving roughly 1.2 million households. Waste Management Inc. curbside programs collect more than 5,000 tons of material for recycling every week from California households.

Waste Management Inc. and its partner, Sonoma Compost Company, operate one of California's largest yard waste composting programs, serving all of Sonoma County. The program diverts an estimated 225 tons per day from landfills.

Overall, Waste Management Inc. employs and estimate 3,000 Californians, roughly half of whom are employed in recycling and composting.


1. Department of Conservation, "Biannual Compendium of Beverage Container Sales, Returns and Redemption and Recycling Rates, July 1992 - June 1993.

2. Based on data from the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

3. Department of Conservation, "Impacts of Adding Second Priority Containers to the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act," Survey of Glass Container Manufacturers: respondents reported the price of virgin raw materials at $50-60/ton. Respondents reported the price for secondary raw materials as $40/ton.

4. Based on data from the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

5. California Integrated Waste Management Board.

Fact Sheet #4: Urban Renewal

Recycling and Urban Renewal Go Hand in Hand

Recycling can reshuffle the economic deck for urban communities. Recycling presents a tremendous opportunity for minorities and small business owners to get into a growing industry which revitalizes urban areas.

Recycling Creates Opportunities for Minority-owned Businesses

Already many small businesses have drawn a new hand and taken advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities recycling offers, including many people of color. These examples demonstrate the opportunities recycling can bring.

Since its inception in 1986, the Tri-City Community Economic Development Corporation (Tri-CED) in Alameda County has employed and trained over 250 young people from the community. Tri-CED's buy-back recycling center has tripled its size to 135 customers per day and contributed over $3 million to the local economy. Currently, Tri-CED employs 25-30 people of which 90% are minorities and half are from the surrounding community.

Damage Prevention Products, an African-American owned recycling business, manufacturers recycled paper products used for shipping, including a reusable pallet made from 40% post-consumer recycled paper. The business employs thirty people, of which 20 are people of color from the local community of Benicia. The company generates $5 million in revenues per year. Currently, the facility recycles 20 tons of paper per month, but has the potential to recycle over 200 tons and create hundreds of job opportunities for local residents.

The nine Local Conservation Corps currently provide 727 jobs for California's urban youth in the environmental field, of which 233 jobs are in recycling. The state's Bottle Bill program enables the Corps to provide over $7 million in funding for recycling.

Small Business is the Engine for Economic Growth

Smaller businesses like Tri-CED have been the engine of community economic development. A 1993 Dunn and Bradstreet survey found that of the 2.1 million new jobs that will be created in 1993, almost 80% will come from companies employing fewer than 100 people.

Today, recycling is demonstrating its potential for reversing the flight of manufacturing enterprises from California's largest cities. It pays for a manufacturer to be near their raw materials, and increasingly that raw material is recycled paper, glass, metal and plastic generated in California's urban forests. California's recycling laws provide essential incentives and financing for start-up enterprises, but there is more that can be done. Recycling presents a tremendous economic development opportunity--one that shouldn't be missed.

Profile: TRI-CED (Tri-City Economic Development Corporation)

Richard Valle - President
3300 Central Avenue
Union City, CA 94589
(510) 471-3850

Tri-City Economic Development Corporation is a minority-run non-profit corporation that was incorporated in January of 1980.

Since March of 1986, TRI-CED has been operating its Union City buy-back recycling center and has tripled its business. Furthermore, over 250 youths have been employed and the general public has received over $3 million dollars for recyclables brought to the center. In January of 1989, Union City awarded TRI-CED a curbside recycling contract servicing 13,800 single-family homes and 3,000 multi-family homes. Capital came from various foundations and the California Department of Conservation Division of Recycling. In November of 1992, the Hayward City Council awarded CurbCycle (a joint partnership between TRI-CED and Waste Management of Alameda County) the Hayward curbside recycling contract. CurbCycle provides recycling to over 26,000 single family homes and recycles over 700 tons of materials per month.


1. National Development Council. Economic Development Finance Text Book. 1991.

Fact Sheet #5: Economic Growth

Recycling Brings Business to California

A new gold rush is on in California. Businesses and entrepreneurs are coming to the golden state to mine California's newest natural resource: garbage. Quietly, without media fanfare, new companies are created and established companies move into the state or expand their operations here. Recycling is a growth industry because California is committed to recycling and/or reusing half of the garbage we currently throw away.

Businesses Attracted to California's Recycling Laws

California has a series of market development laws which target individual materials. While these laws were intended to provide markets for the growing amount of material from community recycling programs, they have also stimulated increased activity in the collection, processing, and manufacturing sectors. Some examples include:

AB 1305 - Newsprint Recycling Act
Jefferson Smurfit Corporation - Pomona
SB 734 - State Purchase of Recycled Paint
Kelly Moore Paints - San Carlos
AB 2076 - Oil Recycling Act
Evergreen Oil - Oakland
SB 235 - Plastics Recycling Act
Talco Plastics - Whittier
Envirothene - Chino 
The Plactory - Santa Cruz
AB 2020 - Bottle Bill Program
Mobile Recycling - So. Calif.
2020 Recycle Centers - Statewide

One important state program targeting new business in California is the Recycling Market Development Zone (RMDZ) loan program, administered by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Dozens of recycling and manufacturing businesses have developed or expanded in one of the 29 zones, becoming eligible for up to $1 million in direct loans as well as technical assistance from the Waste Board.

Businesses considering moving to the state are looking to the State to protect these laws to provide a stable supply of recyclable materials and opportunities for expansion.

Foreign Exports: A Potential For Jobs At Home

The United States exported over 20 million tons of recyclable materials last year worth approximately $3.5 billion. California exported over 5 million tons from the ports of Los Angeles and San Francisco, accounting for over $761 million in exports. If the markets for these recyclable materials were created here rather than abroad, the California economy would benefit with added revenue and jobs.

Recycled paper manufacturing, a labor intensive process, creates one job for every 523 tons of recovered paper. In 1993, over 1.5 million tons of recovered paper were exported from the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles, the equivalent of exporting more than 3,000 manufacturing jobs. However, the trend in materials exports is changing. For example, a number of West Coast paper mills have already expanded to produce recycled paper and MacMillan-Bloedel, a Canadian paper manufacturing giant, is considering plans to construct a $1 recycled newsprint facility in West Sacramento, which would provide a tremendous market and create jobs in California.

California's recycling laws have opened a new vein for recycling businesses and entrepreneurs. Recyclers flock to California each year and bring with them new technologies and high wage jobs that will help California recast its economic future and revitalize its industrial base.

Profile: Envirothene, Inc.

Michael Kopulsky - Chief Executive Officer
14312 Central Avenue
Chino, CA 91710
(909) 465-5144

Envirothene, Inc. operates California's first full-scale plastic recycling facility for postconsumer plastic material. Established in 1990, the company processes material from municipal curbside programs, private waste haulers, and other community and commercial recycling programs. After reprocessing the material, Envirothene markets the recycled resin to manufacturers for a range of products including bottles and grocery bags.

The company has 35 employees and operates a 33,000 square foot facility in Chino that is expected to process 18 million pounds of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and other postconsumer plastic bottles in 1994. Based upon increased demand for postconsumer recycled plastic, Envirothene is nearly doubling capacity to 34 million pounds per year and increasing to 49 employees in February, 1995.


1. Lind Downs, Massachusetts Institute for Social and Economic Research

2. Based on California export data and the Institute of Local Self Reliance

3. Draft Report #2, Manufacturer Responsibility Options to Support Integrated Waste Management. California Integrated Waste Management Board, August 3, 1993, pp. 29-30.

Fact Sheet #6: Business Efficiency

Waste Reduction & Recycling Increase Business Efficiency and Competitiveness

Waste is the byproduct of inefficiency. California manufacturers recognize that waste reduction and recycling lead to greater efficiency which leads to greater profits. Whether by reducing disposal costs through recycling, eliminating material costs through packaging reduction, or lowering distribution costs through product streamlining, waste reduction and recycling makes dollars and sense for California's businesses -- and its environment.

Manufacturers Reduce Packaging Waste

Proctor & Gamble originally packaged its deodorant, which comes in a plastic container, in a paperboard box in the 1970's. After several stages, the outer packaging was ultimately eliminated in the 1990's. Proctor & Gamble created a more efficient product, reduced waste by 20% and experienced a four percent increase in sales. This is one of the several dozen product and packaging changes the company has made to reduce waste.

Businesses Find Ways To Use Resources More Efficiently

Besides savings in product design, hundreds of companies are finding that in-house waste reduction and recycling programs result in substantial payback in avoided disposal costs and increased manufacturer efficiency. Those companies that make a corporate commitment to maximize waste reduction and recycling increase efficiency and become the most competitive.

  • Fetzer Vinyards, the nation's sixth largest winery, has an aggressive waste reduction and recycling program. Through the use of old wine barrels, internal recycling of glass, cardboard, oil, and plastic, and compost of its grape pomace, the winery has been able to cut landfill dump fees by 72%, a savings of over $29,000 annually.
  • Herman Miller, a high-quality office furniture manufacturer, exemplifies maximum efficiency recycling. At its Rocklin facility, Herman Miller changed to reusable shipping containers and implemented an in-house recycling program that reduced its waste by 92% in just two years.
  • For those materials that can be conveniently recycled or reused, businesses are turning to waste exchanges to find distance matches for their surplus materials. California businesses turn to the California Materials Exchange (CalMAX) Catalog for listings of surplus materials throughout the state. Successful matches mean that businesses save money and used goods get a second life.

California businesses are rapidly expanding their efforts to reduce and recycle waste because, in doing so, they increase efficiency, save money, and ultimately become more competitive. While these efforts today are being driven by economic common sense, AB 939, the State's Waste Reduction and Recycling Act, has provided the catalyst for many of these waste reduction and recycling activities.

Profile: Fetzer Vineyards

George Rose - Public Relations Director
Patrick Heley - Recycling Programs
P.O. Box 611
Hopeland, CA 95449
(707) 744-1250

Fetzer Vineyards is a prime example of how a corporate commitment to waste reduction and recycling improves efficiency and the ability to compete effectively in the marketplace.

Fetzer Vineyards is a privately-held winery that has operated since 1968. The winery has aggressive waste reduction and recycling programs. The winery composts all of the pomace from its wine-making operation. In addition, Fetzer recycles and reconditions old wine barrels, saving the company money and the environment 10 trees a day. The company also recycles internal waste in the forms of glass, cardboard, oil, fluorescent lights, and plastic. Through the reuse of old barrels, internal recycling, and composting, the winery has been able to cut landfill dumping fees by 72%, a savings of over $29,000 annually. The company now buys recycled paper as well.

The sixth largest winery in the United States, Fetzer has $100 million in revenues and 300 employees.

Fact Sheet #7: Product Innovation

Recycling Promotes Product Innovation

American businesses, especially California companies, pride themselves on being several steps ahead of the rest of the world in product development and innovation. Recycling perfectly fits that goal. Recycling opens new doors and vast opportunties for manufacturers wishing to remain on the cutting edge by providing a wealth or resources that were previously wasted.

Creating New Products From Waste Materials

There are virtually no limits to the kinds of innovative products that are being created through open-loop recycling. Imagine carpet made from recycled ketchup bottles or paper made from recycled blue jeans. These examples may sound farfetched, but in fact are both taking place today.

Patagonia, a Ventura-based outdoor gear manufacturer, has developed "PCR Synchilla" -- a synthetic manufacturing material that can replace virgin fleece in clothing. The " Snap T" jacket is made from 80% recycled fibers, specifically crushed and processed PET bottles. It has received praise from Patagonia customers for its comfort and its lower environmental impact.

Patagonia isn't alone in the recycled clothing business. At the 1994 National Recycling Congress, the National Association of Plastic Container Recovery (NAPCOR) held a recycling clothing fashion show featuring dozens of products -- from t-shirts and sweaters to tennis shoes and backpacks. The Congress also featured a house built entirely from recycled, reused and non-toxic materials.

Finding New Designs for A Recycling Economy

Cyclean, an international corporation based in Texas, recently developed a unique process to produce 100% recycled asphalt. Eco-Pave, a subsidiary, was formed in Southern California to provide recycled asphalt for the City of Los Angeles. The company is now planning a second facility in Long Beach.

In 1993, the recording industry eliminated the packaging from compact discs, thereby eliminating packaging waste, lowering production costs and reducing the space needed to display them for sale.

Reinventing Time-tested Ideas

While hundreds of companies are developing new recycled products, the most waste-reducing solutions are coming from businesses which are returning to the idea of reuse. Castle Creamery is a Bay Area dairy which has operated since 1958. In 1986, Castle began selling milk in refillable glass bottles when it found a strong market among people that wanted to support reuse.

Urban Ore, a Bay Area reusable goods and salvage business is showing how used sinks, doors, clocks, and even old art projects can be kept out of the landfill, and sold for a profit! The business has been involved in salvage and sales since 1980 and reported revenues of $1.2 million in 1993.

Much of the impetus for these recycling innovations has been California's efforts to develop markets for recycled newsprint, glass, aluminum, and plastic. California companies are rising to the challenge by utilizing these materials, thereby transforming waste into resources and adding jobs and dollars to the State's economy.

Profile: Urban Ore, Inc.

Dan Knapp - President, General Manager
MaryLou Van Deventer - Special Projects Manager
1333 6th Street (7th & Gilman)
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 235-0172, (510) 232-7724

Urban Ore, a Berkeley-based company, is proof that recycling innovation doesn't just include making new products; it includes finding new ways to reuse old household products as well.

Urban Ore is a privately-held for-profit corporation that has operated in Berkeley since 1980, specializing in reuse. The company obtains its wares by salvaging at the Berkeley transfer station, picking up, receiving drop-offs and buying. Urban Ore then sells them at retail to the public. The company operates three facilities in Berkeley:

Urban Ore Discard Management Center where reusable goods are recovered off of the floor of the Berkeley Transfer Station

Urban Ore Building Materials Exchange where used building materials may be bought and sold

Urban Ore General Store where all types of reusable goods are sold

The company employed 20 people and reported $1.2 million in revenues in 1993. It grew 17% to about $1.4 million in 1994.

Fact Sheet #8: Saving Business Money

Waste Reduction and Recycling Means Cost Savings for Business in California!

The adoption of California's waste reduction and recycling law (AB 939) in 1989, caused most California businesses to look in their trash can for the first time. To their surprise, what many of them found was hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost profit.

Every year, commercial and industrial enterprises in California spend more than $2.8 billion on the collection and disposal of solid waste. Increasingly, smart businesses are looking to cut their garbage bill--in some cases by as much as 90 percent--through intense in-house waste reduction, recycling and even composting.

  • Computer giant IBM now ships some components from its manufacturing facilities to distribution centers using a reusable packaging system. The program diverts more than 70,000 cubic feet of waste from landfill and saves IBM $2.5 million annually.
  • The world renowned Hotel Del Coronado, in San Diego, implemented an internal recycling program in 1993. In the programs first year they recycled more than 200 tons of glass, cardboard, paper and metal, resulting in an avoided disposal cost savings to the hotel of $20,000.
  • Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard reduced distribution packaging costs by $716,000 a year when they began shipping printed circuit boards in bulk rather than individually.
  • San Francisco based clothing retailer, The GAP, implemented a program that reduced paper use by 9 percent, eliminating 3.5 million pages of paper and saving the company $14,000.
  • The 34-story Transamerica Center in Los Angeles established an aggressive wastepaper recycling program that in just two years reduced trash hauling costs from $116,850 to $39,000. The sale of recyclable materials added an additional $13,180 in revenue, for a total cost reduction of over 90 percent.
  • Sony manufacturers computer monitors and peripherals at its San Diego facility. The company has reduced its waste stream by 70%, including 52% source reduction, to save $1.5 million between 1991 and 1993.

Recycling Makes Dollars and Sense

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the perception persists by some that recycling will be a cost burden for California businesses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of businesses, large and small, are proving each day that waste reduction, recycling and composting will lower costs for California businesses through reduced material acquisition and production costs, avoided disposal costs, and in some cases increased revenue from the sale of recyclable materials.

Profile: Eat Your Vegetables

Ted Jones - Owner
1841 Howe Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 922-8454

Eat Your Vegetables is proof that waste reduction and recycling not saves money for large businesses, but small businesses as well.

Eat Your Vegetables operates two soup-and-salad restaurants in Sacramento. The restaurant implemented an aggressive source reduction, reuse, recycling and composting program to handle its materials. In March of 1994, Eat Your Vegetables reported that it diverted over 26% of its waste through donation of food and clothing items and 7% through reuse of boxes, paper, bottles, and other items. The company reduced waste another 20% through recycling of paper, glass, plastic, and metals, and another 35% through composting.

The restaurant reduced its garbage pickups by over 90% and saves approximately $300/month in collection costs. Eat Your Vegetables was founded in 1989 and employs 30 people.

Fact Sheet #9: Saving Public Dollars

Waste Reduction and Recycling Is More Cost Effective Than Disposal

Over the past fifty years, Californians have primarily handled their wastes through disposal at landfills. The responsibility and costs for handling these wastes has fallen on local governments. Consequently, local officials have tended to view garbage as a liability rather than an economic opportunity.

However, local officials are now recognizing that old methods of disposal represent lost opportunities to achieve economic development and environmental benefits while reducing system costs. Many have found that an integrated waste management strategy, including waste prevention and recycling, lowers costs to the community and creates new jobs and tax revenues from increased business activity.

Recycling Costs Less

In 1993, the Clean Washington Center, a division of the State of Washington Department of Trade and Economic Development, oversaw a study, The Economics of Recycling and Recycled Materials. The study found that the average net cost per ton for recycling was lower than disposal in the cities of Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver.

Waste Reduction & Recycling: The Most Cost-Effective Strategy

While recycling has been shown to be more cost-effective than disposal, greater savings to local governments will occur when the community implements an aggressive integrated waste management program that treats waste materials as valuable resources, supports a free and competitive recycling industry, and allows the public to reduce disposal costs through waste reeducation and recycling.

The City of Los Angeles has adopted such an aggressive program. The City takes advantage of its strong recycling industry, allowing businesses to choose the least cost recycling alternative.

A conservative analysis found that the 70% diversion strategy adopted by the City would lead to the lowest costs for the overall solid waste management system.1 In 2020, the City would save over $38 million annually, resulting in a monthly savings of $4 per household. As disposal costs continue to rise, the City will have enjoy the benefits of an established waste reduction and recycling policy.

While the cost of recycling varies and is not always cheaper than disposal, overall recycling costs are decreasing as the recycling industry expands and the value of recyclable material increases. Skyrocketing prices paid for recovered paper during 1994 meant cash back for both residential and business recycling programs. As landfill costs continue to rise, local governments recognize that waste reduction and recycling will lead to the lowest costs for future waste management.

Profile: City of Los Angeles

Delwin Biagi - Director (213) 485-5112
Bureau of Sanitation

Joan Edwards - Director (213) 237-1444
Integrated Solid Waste Management Office
200 N. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012


1. Phase IV Report: Solid Waste Management Policy Plan. City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Sanitation, October 1993.

Fact Sheet #10: The Environment

Waste Reduction and Recycling Protects California's Environment

Air pollution, water pollution, toxic waste, global warming, deforestation--these are some of the most pressing human and environmental health hazards that threaten California. Reducing waste and using recycled materials in the manufacturing of new products and packaging reduce pollution, save energy, and conserve resources--and thereby protect California's environment.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Reduce Landfill Impacts

In 1993, Californian's buried more than 34.6 million tons of trash, or just over six pounds per person, per day. Burying waste in landfills creates a variety of impacts, ranging from toxic leachate and landfill gas migration into the environment to noise and traffic impacts on the surrounding community. And when the landfill closes, the garbage remains.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Reduce Production Impacts

While the negative impacts of landfilling are significant, they are dwarfed by the material extraction and production impacts caused by producing the throwaway products and packaging that become trash. For example, while the conventional and environmental costs of disposing of a plastic soft drink bottle are estimated to be roughly $11.6 million, or 2 cents per container, the environmental costs of producing that container in the first place are three times that amount. Therefore, while diverting the container from landfill through recycling can reduce the environmental impact, the real environmental savings comes when the virgin plastic in the container is replaced with recycled plastic--closing the loop.

Waste reduction and recycling reduce energy and water use, air and water pollution and mining wastes associated with virgin materials production. The total environmental costs of virgin production are 43%-518% greater than secondary production.

A study by John Schall of Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies looked at the overall environmental impacts of an integrated waste management system. The study found that for a waste stream half the size of California, an integrated waste management strategy that emphasize source reduction would lead to a savings of $1.6 in environmental costs.

Thanks to the active support of Californians, and the incentives and opportunities created by various state policies, waste reduction and recycling is paying back dividends today in the form of both a stronger economy and a cleaner environment. However, the environmental costs of production, whether they are paid by the producer or the public, must continue to be addressed if we are to count on continued economic growth in California.

Profile: Community Environmental Council

26 W. Anapamu Street
Second Floor 
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 963-0583

Community Environmental Council was founded in 1969 in the wake of the Santa Barbara oil spill. Internationally recognized, the nonprofit environmental research organization develops innovative approaches to sustainable living.

On the local level, the organization coordinates a 32,000-home curbside recycling program for the County of Santa Barbara which diverts 7,000 tons of waste annually.

CEC also operates four buy-back and drop-off recycling centers which serve some 200,000 area residents. The recycling centers divert 10,000 tons of waste annually and feed $1.2 million back into the local economy. CEC also operates a local facility for collection of hazardous wastes from area households and small businesses, diverting 40,000 gallons of dangerous substances each year from the local waste stream.

CEC's California Environmental Business Opportunities Project (CEBO) works with select environmental technology companies (including recycled asphalt and hazardous waste disposal) to discover the externally-imposed problems they encounter. CEBO then takes action to help the companies overcome their barriers, enabling the companies to deliver their environmental and economic benefits.

The organization's research and experience in recycling directly contributed to the creation and passage in 1989 of AB 939, California's landmark Integrated Waste Management Act.

CEC employs 40 employees and operates on a $4 million annual budget.


1 California Integrated Waste Management Board. 1993 Annual Report. Sacramento: CIWMB, 1993.
2 Tellus Institute, "Disposal Cost Fee Study"
3 Department of Conservation
4 Shireman, W. "Solid Waste: To Recycle or Bury California." California's Threatened Environment. Washington, DC: Island Press, p.170.