May 2005

Building season equates to active material recovery in San Francisco area

In San Francisco and Oakland, recycling means a lot more than bottles, cans and newspaper. They love the heavy stuff — wood, metal, concrete and other construction and demolition debris.

While many cities dump the big stuff in a landfill, San Francisco actively recycles construction waste. Here’s how it works:

Debris boxes of “mixed resources” are brought to SF Recycling & Disposal’s integrated Material Recovery Facility (iMRF) where elevated conveyor lines, magnets, shaker screens and hand sorting by recycling workers combine to separate 275 tons of materials daily. The modern facility captures between 74 and 77 percent of material unloaded onto the plant’s tipping floor.

Recovered materials are reused or made into new products. Metals, for example, are taken to an East Bay scrap yard and then shipped to different foundries. Concrete is crushed and used in road construction and in mixing new cement for sidewalks.

The construction season is in full swing in San Francisco and Oakland, and building crews are hammering away on projects large and small. Golden Gate and Sunset Debris Box companies deliver and pick up at least 50 debris boxes a day in San Francisco and Oakland and recycle the contents.

Workers erecting the Bloomingdale’s West Coast flagship store at 835 Market St., home to the former Emporium San Francisco and its landmark dome, have filled more than 135 debris boxes since March of last year.

Swinerton Builders, project manager at the Bloomingdale property for developer Westfield Group San Francisco, requires a complement of debris boxes on site at all times.

“It’s a positive thing to be able to recycle right at construction projects,” says Swinerton general foreman Ollie Hurd says. “We’ve educated the crew so they know which material goes in which box. It works out well.”

Some 494 tons of debris – including dirt, wood, concrete and other materials – have been recycled from the Bloomingdale’s site. To date, the project has achieved a recycling rate of almost 77 percent.

Construction crews are just as busy at the new Federal Building project at 7th and Mission streets in San Francisco. When it is completed in the summer of 2006, the building will be 18 stories with a four-story annex and a daycare center. Jake Nickman, project engineer for the general contractor, Dick/Morganti Joint Venture group, says 7,200 tons of debris have been recycled since work began in April 2003.

In January of this year seven tons of wood, 66 tons of concrete, and 75 tons of mixed debris from the Federal Building project were sent to the recycling facility.


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