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Recology Inc.
IndustryIntegrated Resource Recovery
Founded1920 [1]
Headquarters50 California Street, 24th Floor
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, California 94111 - 9796
Area served
United States
RevenueIncrease US$1 billion (2018)
Number of employees
approx 3,200 people (2018)
WebsiteOfficial 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 operates transfer stations, materials recovery facilities (MRFs), a number of landfills, and continues to spearhead renewable energy projects. Recology is the largest organics compost facility operator by volume in the United States.

Recology Inc. is the parent to approximately 40 operating companies, including Recology San Francisco, Recology CleanScapes (Seattle), and Recology Portland. These subsidiaries partner with approximately 132 communities in California, Washington, and Oregon, helping over 700,000 residential and 100,000 commercial customers divert material from landfills.

Recology operates a number of facilities:

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.

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 portmanteau of the words "recycle" and "ecology".


A Recology waste collection truck in San Francisco.

Recology promotes recycling, composting, and other waste-reduction programs to minimize the amount of materials sent to landfills.[2] The company has explored technologies to facilitate landfill diversion and developed programs to transform landfill-bound materials into their next best and highest use, including bulky item collection and donations, food scrap collection programs, and anaerobic digestion facilities.

The company has advanced the conversion of organics into biogas to generate electricity. Recology Hay Road uses gas captured from the landfill to power an engine that converts it to electricity, producing 1.6 megawatts of electricity continuously, which is enough to power up to 1,600 homes.

Just south of San Francisco, Recology brings solid and residential waste from Recology San Mateo County to the Shoreway Environmental Center, a large, multi-purpose recycling center and Materials Recovery Facility that is operated by South Bay Recycling, a joint venture between Recology and Potential Industries.

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.[3]

As of 2015, the company employed approximately 3,000 employees, with revenues of approx $800 million. The company is 100% employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Recology is the largest ESOP in the industry.[citation needed]


The company has a long history in the Bay Area, and holds a no-bid contract for garbage collection in San Francisco. In 1932, the city granted a permanent concession to the city's 97 independent garbage collectors; shortly thereafter those 97 independents banded together to form the company that would become Norcal Waste Systems.[4] Since that time, the company has held a permanent no-bid, no-franchise-fee contract to collect the city's garbage and recyclables. The company works closely with SF Environment to achieve the City's diversion and sustainability goals.

Organics recycling[edit]

Recology is the first company in the United States to implement a citywide curbside composting program. Through composting and landfill diversion, Recology helps offset the harmful effects of CO2 emissions. Today, Recology compost is used by growers across California, Oregon, and Washington, including over 200 vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.


In an effort to increase landfill diversion and decrease refuse tonnages, Recology companies provide environmental outreach programs within the communities it serves. Such programs include informational and hands-on educational presentations and resources, as well as community clean-up programs to help customers understand and participate in collection and recycling services. Recology also partners with schools, community groups, and non-profit organizations.

Employee ownership[edit]

Recology is a 100% employee-owned corporation through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). As an ESOP, minority and/or women employees own more than 56% of the value of Recology. No individual owns more than 0.4% of the value of Recology. The ESOP was formed effective October 1, 1985.

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.[5][6]

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.[7][8] Another alum, Terry Berlier, now sits on the board of the program.[9]

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 over consumption and natural resource depletion.

Challenge of San Francisco franchise[edit]

In 2012, citizens of San Francisco sought to end Recology's monopoly on waste collection through a citywide 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.[10] The measure was soundly defeated, with 77% of the vote going against Prop A.[11]


  1. ^ "Recology - History". Recology, Inc. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  2. ^ Adele Peters and Julia Levitt (2009-03-03). "Designing a Zero-Waste City: A Visit to the San Francisco Dump". World Changing. Archived from the original on 2009-03-10.
  3. ^ Kelly Zito (2009-03-07). "Judge orders scavengers to stop raiding trash". San Francisco Chronicle.
  4. ^ Elizabeth Lesley Stevens (2011-06-09). "Picking Up the City's Garbage Is a Sweet Deal, and a Monopoly". New York Times.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Patricia Leigh Brown (2005-01-26). "A Makeover for Trash; Now, It's Art". New York Times.
  7. ^ Tyche Hendricks (2007-10-21). "Junk orchestra will spotlight recycling". San Francisco Chronicle.
  8. ^ Joshua Korman (2007-11-11). "Garbage in, music out". San Francisco Chronicle.
  9. ^ Cerankowski, Karla; Wander, Robin (4 October 2012). "Stanford artist Terry Berlier makes art from trash, and from a twisted home". Stanford Report. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  10. ^ J. Wildermuth (2012-05-31). "Recology Spends $1.5 million to Oppose Prop A". SFGate.
  11. ^ Dan McMenamin (2012-06-05). "SF Voters Reject Garbage Measure, Approve Coit Tower Initiative". San Francisco Appeal.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]