Last week, Mayor Reed and the majority of the City Council attended the ribbon cutting for the world’s largest material processing facility in San Jose. Well, it was not actually a ribbon cutting. Instead, we all threw a recyclable object into a recycling bin, but it did the trick.
After the ceremonial acknowledgments, I stayed to tour of the facility, which is located on Dixon Landing Road, an area near Milpitas that was annexed to San Jose. I was amazed at the size and amount of material coming down several lines at the facility. There is a separation of dry and wet materials through optical scanning, mechanical sorting and shredding, and quality control by gloved human hands.
The tour certainly gave me pause on what we collectively throw away and where it is processed. I viewed many items from toys and sheet rock to clothes and thought of the show Laverne & Shirley. The start of that ’70s sitcom is the bottling factory scene, which is what I pictured when seeing those individuals sort objects last week. As you might expect, there was an odor but it was not as strong as I expected. I only walked the interior facility for 20 minutes, however.
It seems that the waste management industry, once garbage can to landfill, has transformed into recycling and has partially helped fill a void by providing jobs to less skilled workers that used to be employed in manufacturing. Although not prestigious, these jobs do pay well. They may not be very enjoyable as people age, however. Another example to children on the importance of education to avoid tiring work. The reality, though, is that we as a society still have a need for rigorous work.
This new $55 million facility has the capacity to process up to 120,000 tons of commercial waste material and divert 80 percent from landfill. This facility was constructed by Republic Services/Allied Waste in the quest to assist San Jose reaching one of the Green Vision goals of zero waste in the future.
Overall, the good news is much of the commercial waste that used to go to landfill will nearly cease, and by-products will be used for energy and other purposes. San Jose is actually well positioned with landfill capacity, and I believe we should sell a portion of the excess landfill capacity to other geographies and generate revenue for the general fund.
One of the best events of the year benefiting our Happy Hollow Zoo called, Hoot & Howl is this weekend. For more info click here http://www.hhpz.org/index.cfm/id/238/