IBM, Recology Drive San Francisco Toward Zero-Waste Status

by | Jun 1, 2012

IBM is collaborating with resource recovery company Recology to help San Francisco achieve zero waste by 2020.

The city’s diversion rate already totals 78 percent, which Recology says is the highest in the US.

Recology uses IBM’s technology to determine types and quantities of materials in San Francisco’s waste stream, pinpointing the location, types and amounts of waste that need to be collected for sorting or composting.

The resource recovery company serves 700,000 residential and commercial locations in 50 cities and manages a fleet of 1,400 vehicles. In San Francisco alone it handles nearly 3,000 tons of material a day. Recology also uses IBM’s Smarter Computing technology to route its trucks (pictured).

Information gleaned from IBM’s Power System allows Recology to identify the most effective recycling programs to provide in different business districts and neighborhoods. This approach has reduced the amount of garbage San Francisco customers send to landfill by 49.7 percent, from 730,000 tons in 2000 to 367,300 tons in 2011.

Recology offers 20 different recycling programs in San Francisco, which it says is more than any other city in the US. The company says this doesn’t affect monthly fees paid by residential customers, which it says are equal to or less than fees charged in other major cities.

Recology’s curbside compost collection program has diverted 1.1 million tons of food and plants from landfill disposal and reduced carbon emissions by more than 347,500 metric tons since the program’s inception in 1996.

IBM won a contract in May to develop and install smart building technology in 50 of the federal government’s most energy-consuming buildings, in a move intended to save taxpayers up to $15 million a year.

In 2010, Recology partnered with the California Product Stewardship Council to help develop relationships with product manufacturers for reducing waste at the source.

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