March 21, 2009
If it's reusable, it ends up here
A recycling center is where the containers of consumerism go to die, only to be reborn in some other form that can be bought and sold once again.
Whether you drop your recyclables off on the curb, in one of Del Norte Disposal’s recycling bins or personally take it in, it all goes to the same place: Julindra Inc, owned by long-time resident Jordan Kekry.
Julindra is a conglomerate of his three daughters’ names — Julie, Melinda and Sandra.
Kekry sells the recyclables to companies from California to Georgia. However, the national recession has hit the local recycler, leaving Kekry with piles of material waiting to made into something new.
Last year, Julindra took in more than 4.8 million pounds of recyclables.
Many years ago, Kekry set up shop in an old warehouse on Harrold Street right off Northcrest Drive behind Shop Smart. This is where today, people line up to drop off recyclables such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles and jugs, some of which bring cash in return.
California consumers pay a deposit, known as the California Refund Value or CRV, when they purchase certain beverages. By recycling those containers, consumers can get that deposit back — 5 cents for each beverage container less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.
On a dreary and wet Tuesday morning, drivers are lined up ready to get rid of the recycling they’ve been collecting. When they reach the front of the line, their containers are sorted out and weighed. The weight determines how much each person will get back.
This morning, aluminum cans are making their way up a conveyor belt and over to a cage that hangs above Kekry’s new baler. When the cage is full, the cans are dropped into the baler, making a loud sound similar to popcorn popping, but more tinny. The baler smashes the material into 5-foot-wide, 4-foot-deep, 30-inch-tall bales to be shipped off.
Everything brought in from Del Norte Disposal, the community’s curbside trash and recyclable collector, is sorted separately before it’s put into bales. This is where workers find things that can’t be recycled at Julindra, such as electronics or old paint cans. About 286,000 pounds of stuff had to be sent back to Del Norte Disposal as garbage in 2008.
“It’s amazing what people throw in, Kekry said.
Getting into recycling business
Kekry kind of fell into recycling. He started off in 1969 as a beer distributor, selling five beers to retailers in the area. Leftover Budweiser paraphernalia line his office shelves and walls as evidence. He discontinued his beer operation eight years ago.
“It was a one-man operation: me, myself and I,” he said.
He bought the 3,000-square-foot warehouse where Julindra sits today and was eventually able to hire a few people.
In the 1970s, when Anheuser-Busch made a big push toward recycling, Kekry started recycling the beer cans he distributed.
But then people in the community started to say, “Why don’t you take glass, or this or that?” Kekry said.
“The whole burden was thrown on me,” he said, adding that there was one other recycler in town at that time. “I grew with it.”
Recycling started to grow in popularity. Then in the 1980s, when California started its deposit and buy-back program to encourage people to recycle, “it really hit,” Kekry said.
About 10 years ago, Tommy Sparrow, the general manager for Del Norte Disposal, approached Kekry about taking in the trash company’s recyclables.
“He takes all the recycling,” Sparrow said. “He’s the only recycler we have. And he does a fine job.”
Del Norte Disposal takes plastics, glass, cardboard, tin cans, aluminum cans, newspaper and magazine and grocery bags. Sparrow said there are seven recycling bins all over the county for people to drop off their recyclables, plus there’s curbside pick-up along with people’s trash service.
Recession hits recycling
Last year, “the market dropped bad” for recyclable materials, Kekry said.
Prices paid for the material have dropped. In some cases, it would cost Kekry more money to ship the recyclables then he would be paid for them.
“Every bit of recyclable material has dropped in price,” he said.
For example, a truckload of cardboard would normally generate about $3,600, but the price has dropped to $600.
In addition, shipping out of this isolated county can be expensive.
“We’re in a bad situation as far as freight goes,” he said.
If Del Norte was on Interstate 5, he could get a better shipping rate. There’s a disadvantage of extra-long trucks not being able to travel on U.S. Highway 199. Parts of the highway are too narrow and not up to standards (the county is currently in the process of getting this fixed).
“That’s why I’m stockpiled,” Kekry said.
The warehouse part of his operation is filled with rows of baled recyclables.
Cardboard is tied together, the bright neon colors from cereal boxes peaking out. Shiny aluminum cans smashed together in cubes look almost like displays in the modern art section of a museum. Rusty tin cans melded into one resemble precious metals of bronze and gold.
The new baler is more efficient and can stuff more materials into a bale, Kekry explained — for lighter materials like cardboard this makes a big difference in getting the most material possible on a truck.
Kekry said he receives and then ships off a little bit more each year — an average of nine loads (48,000 pounds) a month. But the percentage of increase has also been shrinking a little bit each year.
He consider the current pileup of materials due to the recession only a temporary problem. In the long run, he’s still looking to expand.
“The county will have to grow more,” he said about having more stuff to recycle.
Paying California’s price
While the price for recyclable material has gone down, deposits paid by the public remain the same because “the price is established by the state.”
Kekry still has to pay people their deposits for what they bring in to him and ship off those bottles and cans California put a deposit on.
He was recycling long before the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act of 1986 was enacted establishing deposit and redemption rates. However, in order to be a state-certified recycler Kekry has to take people’s recycling. As a “grandfathered” establishment, he doesn’t have to take all of the CRV recyclables, but does anyway, he said, to keep locals’ business.
To not do so “would be defeating the purpose of recycling,” he said. “It’s for the convenience of the community.”
Kekry said he has noticed an increase in the number of people bringing in their recycling, trying to get a few bucks for their beverage containers. In particular, some who are homeless, he added, come in two to three times a day.
“In hard times, people do that,” he said.
Most businesses like Julindra are waiting for the economy to stabilize. Kekry’s thought of a few things to boost his business.
“I’m looking at doing something with crushed glass,” he said, such as selling it for use as stepping stones or table tops.
But it’s really just a thought at this point, Kekry said. “I’m just at the beginning stages.”
By the pound
In 2008, Julindra Inc. Recycling took in 4.8 million pounds of recyclables — a 10 percent increase over 2007.
The recycling center accepts 14 types of items from people who drop off their recycling at Julindra’s location on Harrold Street and from what Del Norte Disposal collects.
Here’s what Julindra took in last year (in pounds):
1,005,382 Newspaper, magazines
305,870 Aluminum cans
250,076 Plastic #1(soda, water bottles)
92,433 Tin cans
84,914 Office paper, color
52,992 Plastic #2 (detergent containers)
35,609 Office paper, white
31,902 Gallon milk jugs
16,635 Plastic #3-7 (less common plastic)
9,660 Plastic #2 (gallon water jugs)
6,559 Plastic grocery bags
1,585 Wood pellets