RECYCLING: Recycletown Takes New Approach To Reuse/Recycling

For more than seven years, Gar-bage Reincarnation Inc., Santa Rosa, Calif., has held the contract to operate the recycling services at the Sonoma County Landfill and Healdsburg Transfer Station. In this time, the non-profit organization has taken reuse and recycling to new heights.

The site goes beyond the collection of traditional recyclables (aluminum cans, glass and newspaper) by accepting items such as: used oil, paint, batteries, tires, tin, steel, copper, scrap metal, plastics, white goods, brown goods, reusable furniture, toys, clothing, bicycles, of-fice furniture, mattress foam, construction debris (windows, doors, porcelain and plastic fixtures), even used picnic benches, stereos, lamps and anything else reusable. Last June, more than 680 tons of refuse were disposed at the county's site.

The underlying theme of the program is to reuse before recycling to reduce operating costs. "People need to be related to their materials," said Pavitra Crimmel, the project general manager at Garbage Reincarnation. By depending on sorters at material recovery facilities (MRFs), the general public is not encouraged to reduce or recycle, Crimmel said. "Here people sort their materials on-site at the drop-off center. This makes them participate and see that they can do something else with [the material]. If everything is looked at in a reuse idea, it can be turned into something else."

One acre of the landfill has been designated for building materials, where small business owners can shop for roofing materials, etc.

While there is no fee to drop items off, the program does charge for the items it sells. These funds are used to keep the program running and pay the salary of the eight-member staff. Transportation costs are minimal since buyers come directly to the site. Crimmel said that overall, her operation is cheaper to run than a MRF.

Perhaps the biggest development at the landfill is Recycletown. When completed, this town will be comprised of four buildings made entirely from salvaged products. While the structural elements (poles, beams and trusses) cannot be made from scrap, the buildings are made from used lumber and the walls are made from garage doors or any other suitable material. The four buildings each house a different product - furniture, books, electronic goods and clothing.

The entire site, which resembles an old western town, is being built by volunteers and funded by a county grant.

Seven totem poles made from junk art encompass the town. Also, an annual "Scrapture Contest" takes place to show an additional value of reusing refuse. "Garbage is not [just a] thing," Crimmel said. "Garbage is whatever people decide they want it to be."

The local support has allowed Garbage Reincarnation to continually add to its program. Last year the county expanded its contract to include separate collection of appliances on the tipping floor. Also, the company has started a program that gives away approximately 1,000 gallons of used paint per month at no charge. Crimmel said this program allows community residents to use the paint for materials purchased at the yard. In addition, the program saves the county money on paint disposal fees.

Garbage Reincarnation has fu-ture projects in mind. Crimmel said the company recently has launched a waste audit program in which they collect excess inventory from businesses and encourage businesses to separate recyclables and exchange materials at Re-cycletown. Crimmel said she would like to expand this project as well as establish a group of consultants to help local government increase recycling and reuse. Crimmel also would like to begin a mentor program for visiting communities.