San Francisco

Holiday Trash Piles Up at San Francisco Recycling Yard

The presents are all unwrapped. The Christmas trees already kicked to the curb. The lights and ornaments back in the garage. But at Recology’s San Francisco recycling yard, Christmas was just beginning.

An endless stream of trucks dumped off more than six tons of trash each day, up nearly 20 percent over the plain old non-holiday time. The trash sorters at the Pier 96 plant were racking up plentiful overtime sorting through the gift wrapping, cardboard shipping boxes and empty champagne bottles.

"This year I can say the community has spent a lot of money on gifts," observed trash sorter Damon Wilson.

It’s the annual tradition -- after the tradition. All the stuff consumed, wrapped and discarded is stuffed in trash bins and trucked to the industrial yard where it’s sifted, sorted and recycled.

"We call it silly season," said plant manager Isaac Singleton.

The remnants of the 2015 gifts were everywhere: A box for a 50-inch TV. Boxes for Lego sets. A box for exercise equipment, likely for someone getting right to their New Year’s resolutions. Brightly colored wrapping paper peaking out from beneath the milk bottles and paper bags.

"Christmas has really moved down here to the recycling center," said Recology spokesman Robert Reed.

The mountains of garbage also reflected the number of gift purchases now done over the Internet - with plenty of Amazon shipping containers among the piles.

"People pick out a special wrapping paper, they do a nice job of wrapping the box," Reed said. "When it comes to us, it’s a little further down the line."

But like Santa, this trash will most likely be coming back in time for next year’s holidays. The sorted bottles, cans, cardboard will be sent to manufacturing plants where it’ll be recycled and reused in new products.

"We’re going to get it recycled," Reed said, "so we can have Christmas again next year."

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