A new book from former Sunset Scavenger President Leonard Stefanelli tells the story of how he transformed the waste industry in San Francisco. His book, “Garbage” was published last fall by the University of Nevada.
Leonard Stefanelli began working as a garbage collector at the age of 19, and by the age of 31 he was president of Sunset Scavenger, the collection company that became Recology Inc., a billion-dollar enterprise with more than 800,000 customers today.
The book covers a wide variety of topics, including Stefanelli’s early days working on a truck with three other collectors, the culture of suspicion that pervaded the industry at the time and how he was forced out of the company in 1986.
The San Francisco Chronicle has more information:
Stefanelli is 83 now and mostly retired. A native San Franciscan with the old-time San Francisco accent, he has a growly voice. He is a plain talker, his words laced with salty images. He’s a man who likes to talk about his life and times, the hard work, the problems, his family, his friends, his enemies.
In his book, he is quick to point out his trade was not a refined one. “The garbage business is what most people historically assume to be the lowest rung on the social ladder of life,” he writes.
In conversation he talks easily about the hard work garbagemen used to do — how they carried heavy cans on their backs up and down steep stairs and packed every load up to the back of the open truck. They also had to sort the garbage to pick out bottles, cardboard and other usable goods, and take the rest of it to the dump.