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Recology San Francisco
Resource Recovery
Industry Integrated Resource Recovery
Founded 1920 [1]
Headquarters 50 California Street, 24th Floor
San Francisco, CA
(415) 875-1000 or (800) 652-1275
San Francisco, California 94111 - 9796
Area served
United States
Revenue Increase USD $351 million (2002)[2]
Number of employees
2,100 people [2] (2002)
Website Official Website
Aerial view of Recology San Francisco, Recology's dump/transfer station.

Recology is an integrated resource recovery company headquartered in San Francisco, California. The company collects and processes municipal solid waste, reclaiming useful materials that would have otherwise been buried in a landfill. The company also runs transfer stations, materials recovery facilities (MRFs), and a small number of landfills. Recology is the largest organics compost facility operator by volume in the United States.

Recology is responsible for achieving the highest landfill diversion rate in the country through collaboration with the City of San Francisco, which created a Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance. However, recent review by trade magazine Waste 360 of San Francisco's diversion rates raised some questions as to whether or not the city's and Recology's claims are completely accurate.[3]

In April 2009, Recology, formerly known as Norcal Waste Systems, Inc., changed its name to reflect its culture and values, and the activities in which it was already heavily invested. The name Recology is a combination of the words "recycle" and "ecology".


Recology promotes recycling, composting, and other waste-reduction programs to minimize the amount of materials sent to landfills.[4] The company has explored technologies to facilitate landfill diversion and developed programs to transform landfill-bound materials into their next best and highest use. For example, at one time, the company explored the possibility of converting pet waste into methane gas.[5] The company has advanced the conversion of organics into biogas to generate electricity. Recology brings solid and residential waste from the San Mateo County, California area to the Shoreway Environmental Center, a large, multi-purpose recycling center and Materials Recovery Facility that is operated by South Bay Recycling, a subsidiary of Crown Disposal Company, Inc..[6]

In early 2009, after an investigation, the company obtained a court order against various organized illegal "poachers" who were raiding curbside recycling containers to sell the contents for scrap.[7]

As of 2002 the company employed approximately 2,100 people, with revenues of $351 million.[8] The company is 100% employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Recology is the largest ESOP in the industry.[citation needed]

History & Monopoly[edit]

The company has a long history in the Bay Area, and holds a monopoly on garbage collection in San Francisco. In 1932, the city granted a permanent concession to the city's 97 independent garbage collectors; shortly theareafter those 97 independents banded together to form the company that would become Norcal Waste Systems.[9] Since that time, the company has held a permanent no-bid, no-franchise-fee contract to collect the city's garbage and recyclables.

Artist in Residence Program[edit]

Recology also created an Artist in Residence Program in 1990, allowing local artists to use materials found in its materials recovery and processing facilities to create art. It was the first and for a long period only such program in the United States.[10][11]

Among the program's alumni is Nathaniel Stookey, who composed Junkestra, a classical music composition for thirty instruments made out of the company's refuse.[12][13]

Recology has expanded the program to enable materials recovery work by artists in Portland, Oregon, through the Pacific Northwest Art Program (PNAP), now called GLEAN. The program sponsors professional artists for six months and gives them access to the transfer station, where they create art to raise awareness about overconsumption and natural resource depletion.

Challenge of monopoly[edit]

In 2012, citizens of San Francisco sought to end Recology's monopoly on waste collection through a city-wide referendum. Residents Tony Kelly and retired Judge Quentin Kopp collected enough signatures to put Proposition A on the city's ballot. Proposition A sought to break up the city's current waste collection arrangement into 5 separate competitive bid contracts. Recology spent close to $1.5M on the referendum campaign, seeking to defeat the measure. Proponents of Prop A spent approximately $55,000.[14] The measure was soundly defeated, with 77% of the vote going against Prop A.[15]

Whistleblower lawsuit[edit]

In May 2012, Brian McVeigh, a former Recology operations supervisor responsible for fraud prevention, turned whistleblower and accused Recology of "fraud, embezzlement and corruption" and filed two lawsuits against the company in San Francisco Superior Court, one in conjunction with California Attorney General Nicholas Akers. The suits allege that Recology employees regularly inflated the weights of recyclable materials as part of a kickback scheme. McVeigh estimated that the scheme defrauded the State of California of about $1.3M annually.[16]

McVeigh had previously sued Recology in 2009. One claim was that he was wrongfully terminated for trying to expose the alleged fraud, when he went to the police in 2005 after his reports to his superiors proved fruitless. His suit was dismissed in 2011 by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay. In February, 2013, this decision was overturned by the First District Court of Appeal in a 3-0 decision written by Justice Peter Siggins.[17]


  1. ^ "Recology - History". Recology, Inc. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Norcal Waste Systems, Inc.". Funding Universe. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Chaz Miller (2012-11-21). "Circular File: Numbers Game". Waste360. 
  4. ^ Adele Peters and Julia Levitt (2009-03-03). "Designing a Zero-Waste City: A Visit to the San Francisco Dump". World Changing. 
  5. ^ "San Francisco Sees Pet Waste as Energy Source". Weekend Edition. National Public Radio. 
  6. ^ "Shoreway Center Overview,". 
  7. ^ Kelly Zito (2009-03-07). "Judge orders scavengers to stop raiding trash". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  8. ^ "Norcal Waste Systems, Inc.". Funding Universe. 
  9. ^ Elizabeth Lesley Stevens (2011-06-09). "Picking Up the City’s Garbage Is a Sweet Deal, and a Monopoly". New York Times. 
  10. ^ Reyhan Harmanci (2006-04-20). "Is it garbage or is it art? Artists in residence: Norcal Waste allows artists to dig through the dump and create beauty". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  11. ^ Patricia Leigh Brown (2005-01-26). "A Makeover for Trash; Now, It's Art". New York Times. 
  12. ^ Tyche Hendricks (2007-10-21). "Junk orchestra will spotlight recycling". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  13. ^ Joshua Korman (2007-11-11). "Garbage in, music out". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  14. ^ J. Wildermuth (2012-05-31). "Recology Spends $1.5 million to Oppose Prop A". SFGate. 
  15. ^ Dan McMenamin (2012-06-05). "SF Voters Reject Garbage Measure, Approve Coit Tower Initiative". San Francisco Appeal. 
  16. ^ Luke Thomas (2012-05-30). "Whistleblower: San Francisco Garbage Company Defrauded State of California Out of Millions". Fog City Journal. 
  17. ^ Bob Egelko (2013-02-02). "Recology Whistleblower Suit Reinstated". San Francisco Chronicle. 

External links[edit]

See also[edit]