Upgrades improve recycling process at Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery

Upgrades improve recycling process at Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery
Luis Martinez, a foreman for the Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery Center, looks over the equipment that sorts and processes recyclables at the Pittsburg facility. (Karen Jenkins photos)

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Dec. 12, 2022) — “Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day only,” states the message on the website of Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery Center.

The other 363 days of the year, the Loveridge Road center is busy nearly around the clock. Workers spend the day accepting, sorting, baling and sending out recyclables to purchasers near and far. A clean-up crew works into the night.

The facility occupies 90,000 sq. ft. – 16 of the 17 acres – of the Contra Costa Waste Services Recycling and Transfer Center, owned and operated by the Garaventa family. As the largest recycling processing center in Central and East County, it receives recyclables from about nine communities from Concord to Discovery Bay.

The center recently doubled its processing capacity for recyclables – thanks to a multi-million dollar upgrade of the sorting equipment and computer technology last July.

The process in which plastics, paper, cardboard, aluminum and other reuse materials are sorted and baled doubled to about 35 tons, or 70,000 pounds of material per hour, foreman Rudy Elizarraraz said while giving a tour of the facility recently.

Technology is key

Foremen Marcial Alvarado, Rudy Elizarraraz and Luis Martinez inspect a bale of paper ready to be sent to one of the many purchasers of the recovery center’s recycled materials.

Elizarraraz has worked in various positions with Contra Costa Waste Services since 1987 and has been with the recycling center since it opened in 1996. He praised the upgrade as a win for environmental efforts aimed at reducing landfill material. “More efficient technology has made an amazing difference,” he said.

Two flights of stairs lead to platforms overlooking the processing apparatus, which is housed in a facility several stories high that resembles a hangar. The new sorting equipment, a series of conveyor belts and dark blue chutes that separate different types of recyclables including paper, plastics and aluminum, dwarfs the lighter blue older equipment still present but no longer in use. The upgrade includes a new computer operations tower that manages the equipment.

The improvements have made a big difference in processing, said foreman Luis Martinez, a 23-year employee. “We want to get as much recyclable material as possible, so our kids can have a future.”

A never-ending stockpile

Visible from the platform is a small hill of material waiting to be sorted and processed in the morning, a hill that will never get much smaller as morning delivery trucks arrive. Nearby, bound bales of like materials – aluminum, paper and cardboard some 15 feet high – await the daily shipments to purchasers of the recycled material as close as Oakland and as far as overseas countries.

Elizarraraz, entering his last two weeks before retiring, offered some advice to residents: “Don’t put garbage in the recycling bins,” he said.

“And batteries are a no-no,” he added, eyeing a pile of batteries, which are not recyclable, swept to a corner of the facility and awaiting disposal.

The Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery Center offers education and tours to the public by appointment. For more information, visit https://mdrr.com/commitmenttothecommunity.

Karen Jenkins
Karen Jenkins
Correspondent | Karenjenkins241@gmail.com

Karen Jenkins is pleased to be a correspondent with the Concord Clayton Pioneer News. She has worked as a community journalist on and off for three decades at publications including the Contra Costa Sun in Lamorinda; the Antioch Daily Ledger; the Avon-Beaver Creek Times in Colorado; Roll Call in Washington, D.C. and the Daily Nexus at UC-Santa Barbara. She is also the student advisor for The Sentinel, the student newspaper at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. She may be reached at Karenjenkins241@gmail.com.