The Ecology Center has operated Berkeley’s Curbside Recycling Program since 1973, when it was launched as a demonstration project collecting newspapers. Recycling remains a principal focus of the Ecology Center; under a City of Berkeley contract, we operate the weekly collection of cans, bottles, newsprint, mixed paper and cardboard. This curbside program has become a model for thousands of municipal recycling programs. What was once a pilot project has become a mainstream practice.
In the early 1970s, the Ecology Center launched a number of demonstration recycling projects. One of the recycling projects spun off to become a successful wine bottle recycling business that is still operating. In the 1980s, the Ecology Center was instrumental in the first statewide recycling conference, a meeting that led to the founding of the California Resource Recovery Association. In 1988, the Ecology Center convened a task force with Berkeley officials to author the styrofoam ban that serves as a model for many such ordinances across the country.
Recycling education is still a key component of our work. Pioneering non-profits like the Ecology Center gave birth to the recycling industry, but few non-profits remain in the recycling business today. Unlike for-profit haulers, our successful recycling program supports community education, maintains high standards in recycling as the industry matures, and keeps resources in our local community. No income earned through this contract goes to corporate headquarters elsewhere. The resources stay here, providing good green-collar jobs and supporting our community in reaching Zero Waste, climate action, and food policy goals.
As a mission-driven nonprofit, we maintain and insist on the highest standards possible to assure that the materials we collect are actually recycled back into the highest end-use possible. This helps close the loop when a glass bottle becomes a glass bottle again rather than asphalt or sand. And we won’t collect materials unless there is a demonstrated recycling market for that material; if it’s not recyclable, we won’t mislead you.
We view recycling as part of a whole urban environmental system. We participate in advocacy efforts around Zero Waste and Extended Producer Responsibility, and support policies that end the age of waste.