Recycling and composting reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality by reducing the amount ofwaste sent to landfills. Recycling helps save resources, energy and money. It keeps materials out of the landfill, provides jobs, combats global warming, and closes the loop through the creation of new products out of recycled materials. Napa Recycling and Waste Services (NRWS) has a zero waste vision for the future of Napa city and county—which means diverting as much waste as possible away from landfills—and it looks like they are well on their way.
NRWS is the recycling, yard waste, and garbage service provider for the City of Napa and southern unincorporated Napa County. The company is working hard to decrease its carbon footprint as well and making it easy for their customers to do the same. NRWS has already switched several trucks to cleaner burning natural gas, is planning to build a biomass plant that can create all of the renewable energy it needs to run its operation, and is planning to install an anaerobic digestion system to increase its capacity to process organics into low-carbon biofuel.
“NRWS is committed to making the planet and our community a cleaner & greener place,” said Tim Dewey-Mattia, public education manager of NRWS. “We are fully committed to the local Sustainability and Climate Action Plans and have steadily increased our rate of recycling and composting in the city and county of Napa.” The state of California recently passed a new mandatory commercial recycling program that requires all businesses in California to increase their diversion rate to 75% by 2020. Napa is well ahead of schedule: in 2012, NRWS diverted almost 60% of City of Napa collected material, and southern unincorporated Napa County reached a diversion rate of 84%, one of the highest rates in the state. In 2012, NRWS recycled and composted over 120,000 tons of material at the Napa Recycling & Composting Facility.
NRWS has a long history of recycling in the county. The company is owned and managed by the same parent company that has provided services as Napa Garbage Service (for the City of Napa) and Napa Valley Disposal (for Napa County) since 1916, when the Bacigalupi family, who are still co-owners today, began collecting bottles, cans, wool clothing, and rags for recycling. By the 1920s, they had added a food scrap recycling program utilizing the company’s own herd of pigs. In the 1950s, modern recycling began to take shape, using the company’s fleet of trucks. By the late 1960s, the family formalized a relationship with the City of Napa and began contracting for the collection of solid waste and recyclable material.
Since 2006, NRWS has recycled or composted over 800,000 tons of material. By keeping these valuable resources out of the landfill, NRWS has decreased carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 800,000 metric tons and used over 5.1 billion fewer BTUs of energy. This translates to the equivalent of saving 65 million gallons of gasoline.
Yard waste is picked up separately and delivered to Napa’s composting facility, where natural processes turn it into compost, an organic soil amendment. After several weeks, the finished compost is ready for agricultural or landscaping use and is available for purchase by farms, vineyards, and residents. Compost enriches the soil, decreases the need for petroleum-based fertilizers, prevents erosion, and conserves water.
Food scraps generally account for the largest portion of unrecovered material in landfills. Now, instead of sending them to the landfill, NRWS is collecting them and also turning them into organic compost. Southern unincorporated Napa County has the first full-scale, commercial food composting program in the North Bay: over 2,000 tons of food scraps and food-soiled paper have been diverted from the landfill since the program’s inception. NRWS is now collecting commercial food scraps in the City of Napa as well, and a pilot program at 2,500 residences is currently under way.
During harvest season, following crush, the grape pomace—grape skins, seeds, and stems—is reused at cattle feed or used to create organic compost that can be returned to vineyard soils to enrich them. It is a truly closed-loop sustainability practice and generates zero waste. NRWS, along with the Upper Valley Disposal & Recycling, offers a pomace collection and composting program that serves all wineries in Napa County.
NRWS is also a national leader in e-waste recycling. Last year, city and county residents and businesses recycled 1.3 million pounds of electronics. The e-waste NRWS collects is transported to a facility in Fresno where it is carefully disassembled into its different components, such as metals, plastic, glass, and so on. The sorted materials then go to manufacturing facilities to be reprocessed into new products. This year, NRWS started free curbside pickup of e-waste and large metal items in the city of Napa, and plans to add clothing and shoes to this new “Recycle More” route in the coming months.
In 2011, NRWS also began accepting discarded carpet—the fourth largest product contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the state. After collection, carpets are transported to plants where they are transformed into plastic products, carpet backing, and usable carpet. NRWS also recycles concrete, asphalt, dirt, wood, sheet rock, metal appliances, cooking oil, and more.
NRWS works with Napa County's Green Business Program and conducts recycling audits for businesses to help them meet the California diversion rate requirement. To date, over 95 businesses are now certified as Green Businesses in Napa. NRWS has also implemented a comprehensive zero waste special event program that has recycled or composted an average of nearly 75% of waste at nearly 400 Napa events. “We partner with businesses, helping them to identify the materials they are generating, develop strategies, provide services to reduce waste, and increase waste diversion,” Dewey-Mattia said. “We also offer education to residents on recycling and sustainability, free composing classes, presentations about the economic and environmental benefits of recycling and composting, and tours of our facility to organizations, businesses, and schools.”
“Protecting the environment is our passion. We will continue to develop innovations, create partnerships, work with community members, and push the recycling and composting industry to new heights,” Dewey-Mattia said.
Click here to watch a video about Napa Recycling and Waste Services.