I Shipped My Recycling to China. For Real.


I know this doesn’t sound too sexy, but I celebrated Earth Day this year by visiting two of the Bay Area’s waste facilities. And I brought my kids along, too. It was eye-opening for all of us.

What a better wake-up call for your soul than to visit a big pile of garbage? It is humbling, let me tell you. On the other hand, I’m also feeling inspired. Yes, the amount of garbage was overwhelming. But on the other hand, I am so impressed with both the people and the programs of the places I visited: El Cerrito Recycling Center and Marin Sanitary Service.

I’m not here to write about all the terrible facts about human waste, recycling or composting (but you can read some about that here if you really want to get depressed. ) I’m here more to highlight and congratulate these two organizations for the good work they are doing in the world of waste management and end-of-life issues for our stuff.

First Visit: El Cerrito Recycling Center.

Among my colleagues here in the Bay Area, there is almost no better resource than the El Cerrito Recycling Center as a place to take hard-to-recycle items. Hangers? Car batteries? Home healthcare equipment? Prescriptions? Bring them over. Not only does this facility recycle nearly everything (Styrofoam, too!). Here is an excellent quick list of what is accepted.

They also have an awesome Exchange Zone - leave a book, take a book. Leave a car seat, take a booster seat. Same for eyeglasses, corks, gardening pots…and more. There is even an on-site Goodwill drop-off, so everything is in one place. As a professional organizer, this is heaven on Earth!

Next Up: Marin Sanitary District.

The indoor dump is about the size of about three football fields. Each month, they process nearly 3000 tons of recyclables using state-of-the-art equipment. A customized series of conveyor belts, blowers, agents and hand-sorting separates dirt and sand from the materials for recovery. If you have never been on a tour of the dump - it is truly something to behold. (Get tour information here.

If you can’t swing a tour, check out some of their cool videos here instead.

But more impressive than the facility itself are the people and the programs. For example, the Food2Waste Program (highlighted in this US EPA report) reclaims food scraps from local restaurants to convert to energy. Though the program is relatively new - it is growing exponentially.

Another interesting fact: did you know that we ship our recycled paper to China? Check out the quick explanation from tour guide Zoe Pearl here.

Here’s a few fun events around the Bay Area - check them out!

Bay Area Earth Day Events.

Earth Day Events with Kids.

What are the ways you celebrated Earth Day this month? Let me know - I’m collecting ideas on Facebook.


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