Model City ProfileModel City Profile

San José, California
Population: 1,006,892
Bottle Bill: Yes
Collection Method: Contractor
Funding: Pay-As-You-Throw Program
Households Served: 280,190
Truck Type: Automated side loaders for carts, front loaders for multifamily containers, and rear loader for yard trimmings
Container Type: 32 gal, 64 gal, 96 gal carts and 1-8 cubic yard containers for multifamily
Materials Processing Facility: Single stream processing
San José, California

The City of San José is the tenth largest city in the United States. It is located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay and is known to many as the capital of Silicon Valley. San Jose has long been an innovator and leader in recycling. The City started curbside recycling in 1989, with the current Recycle Plus program started in 1993. Last year, the City collected 122,583 tons of recycling through their curbside collection program from 280,190 households served, the equivalent of 875 pounds per households served. The high tonnage is due in part to a long list of materials acceptable for recycling, which, in addition to the traditional glass, paper, plastic and metals, includes aseptic packaging and textiles.

San Jose was long known for its source separated residential recycling collection system, which required households to set out recyclables source separated at the curbside. This provided high quality recyclables, and a direct household link to the recycling system. However, in 2002, San Jose switched from source separated to single stream recycling in an effort to lower costs and to increase recycling quantities. After an initial rocky start with high contamination rates, the program has proven successful, increasing residential recyclables tonnage and diversion.

San Jose was also a leader in PAYT pricing for refuse and recycling collection. Households are charged monthly according to the container size they use for their curbside refuse: $25.90 for 20 gallons, $27.50 for 32 gallons, $55.00 for 64 gallons, $82.50 for 96 gallons and $6.25 for each bag of garbage that doesn’t fit into the cart. Multifamily residents can choose between 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 8 cubic yard containers that can be collected 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 times per week. The rates for these services vary according to the container size and frequency per week. It costs $91.01 for a 1 cubic yard container once a week and as much as $1922.11 for an 8 cubic yard container collected five times a week.

San Jose is also known for its innovative collection contracts designed to provide an incentive for the integrated refuse and recycling contractor to maximize diversion of recyclables. For every 1% above the diversion standard, haulers receive a bonus of ½% of prior year payments. Diversion requirements are 35% for curbside recycling, 95% for yard trimmings (with a 50% compost requirement), 70% for multi-family garbage, 50% for large item pick-pickups, and 75% for neighborhood cleanups.

The City currently has several contracts for collection of refuse, recyclables and yard waste. The City is divided into 3 districts, and currently pays for the services of 4 companies. Garden City Sanitation collects single family garbage for 2 out of 3 districts; GreenTeam of San Jose collects single family garbage and recycling for 1 district, and collects garbage and recycling for multi-family units in all 3 districts; California Waste Solutions collects single family recycling for 2 out of 3 districts; and GreenWaste Recovery collects, processes and composts yard trimmings, and provides street sweeping for all 3 districts. These exclusive services are awarded through a competitive process.

The City of San José, in partnership with Recycle Plus contractor GreenWaste Recovery, was awarded the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), 2009 Recycling System Gold Excellence Award. The awards team commended San José for “successful efforts in achieving the highest level of excellence in solid waste management” by diverting nearly 80% of apartment waste from local landfills, due to GreenWaste’s garbage processing system which removes recyclables and composts the remaining organic material.