Grey Bears recycling programs

If you’ve been following the news lately you’ve probably been hearing about  challenges with recycling. What used to be an industry accepting more and more materials has contracted over the past year for many reasons. Every community in the U.S. has been affected, including Santa Cruz.

On a personal level there’s a lot we can do to decrease our use of plastic. Carry your own cutlery, plate, and reusable stainless steel or glass beverage containers, stainless straw in your purse, pack or car, and of course reusable produce and shopping bags. Click here for more tips.

In the face of adversity, especially in small and coastal counties like ours, grass roots, community-based organizations like Grey Bears are the secret to recycling success. In fact, it’s important to remain optimistic about recycling because real change is afoot.

Grey Bears operates the drive-through recycling centers at the Buena Vista Landfill and Ben Lomond Transfer Station, and continues to accept recycling materials including CRV beverage containers, e-waste (TVs, monitors, computers, electronics) and EPS (Styrofoam block #6) at our mid-county Chanticleer Reuse Campus.

Jerry and Michael sort donated books at Grey Bears for volunteers who will either list them on Amazon.com or sell for $1.50 each in our Chanticleer bookstore.

The biggest advantage of bringing your clean, separated recycling materials to one of the three Grey Bears recycling centers is that it ensures ALL of that material is recycled. Often materials commingled in curbside bins can become contaminated in a variety of ways. This means up to 30% of the material collected in curbside recycling bins may end up in the landfill.

“Our goal is to make recycling easier and more efficient for customers, and to expand what we can accept based on market conditions,” says Grey Bears Resource Recovery Manager, Tina Forest. “County residents can trust Grey Bears to be the best steward of whatever they drop off at one of our centers.”

And for good reason. Diverting as much material as possible from all waste streams has been Grey Bears overarching goal for more than four decades. Take glass bottles for example. Because the glass you drop at our recycling centers is separated by color, virtually 100% is recyclable, very little is lost in the production process, and the material can be used time and time again without degrading the quality.

In contrast, the contamination that occurs with mixed bottle collection in single-stream programs at curbside causes large amounts of glass to go to the landfill due to loss of color separation, and to glass being embedded in the high volume of fiber and food waste that is present in the stream.

The amount of energy that is saved using recycled glass is immense because it takes 30% less energy to produce new glass than with virgin materials. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours. And the use of recycled glass allows the glass furnaces to be run at a lower temperature, resulting in significantly less energy, heat and emissions during the melting process.

Grey Bears food conservation programs deliver 1.7 million pounds of healthy food to local seniors, rescue 600,000 pounds of groceries from markets and bakeries, prepare and serve 40,000 hot meals from our kitchen, and create 20 tons of compost from food scraps that augment local gardens each year. From food to refurbishing computers and electronics, thrift store donations to processing Styrofoam, e-waste and Repair Cafés, reusing and repurposing materials that would otherwise go to waste continues to be a Grey Bears core value and environmental benefit.

For questions and more information contact Tina Forest, 831-479-1055 ext 235, tina@greybears.org.