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50 Years of Recycling!

The City of Davis Recycling Program celebrates its 50th anniversary this month!  To celebrate, we’re going down memory lane to share the story of this great program.

Recycling in Davis began back in April of 1970 when a small group of environmentally concerned citizens began a newspaper drop-off recycling program. Curbside recycling of newspaper became available in Davis in 1974 when a City ordinance required that newspapers be separated from trash, and the contract with the City’s waste hauler Davis Waste Removal (DWR) was amended to include the collection and recycling of newspaper. Later that year, bottles and cans were added to the curbside collection program.

In 1977, DWR’s new recycling facility was completed at 1818 5th Street. This new facility offered drop-off recycling for glass, newspaper, cardboard, used motor oil and aluminum cans. In 1979, as the recycling program continued to grow in popularity, DWR hired a full-time recycling coordinator to expand the collection program, develop better markets for the recyclable materials and expand the public awareness program.

The Davis Recycling Program took a huge leap forward in 1989 when the Davis City Council passed an ordinance that required apartment properties to set aside space next to trash dumpsters for recycling carts and to inform new tenants about the recycling program and the location of the recycling carts at the property.  

Needing some additional space for their operations, DWR moved their recycling center and offices to 2727 2nd Street in 1994 and began offering 24/7 drop-off recycling for a variety of materials.

Plastics recycling continued to expand in Davis over the years. In 1992, only clear or hazy colored plastics #1 and #2 were accepted for recycling. By 1994, colored #1 plastic was accepted and by 1998, colored #2 plastic was accepted as well. In 2007, DWR began accepting rigid plastics (#3, #5, #6 and #7) for drop-off recycling at their recycling center, and by January 2011, they updated their sorting line and began accepting all rigid plastics #1-#7 in recycling carts.

In looking to the future, The City is excited to further expand its “recycling” culture in the community. While recycling has been ingrained now for decades in our daily habits, a growing movement for composting has been expanding and coming to the forefront of landfill diversion discussions.  

While yard trimmings have been collected (since 1972) and composted since 1981, there were still tons of compostable materials (such as food scraps) being landfilled every year that could not be placed in yard material piles for health and safety reasons.

Recognizing that much of their waste was compostable, a couple of local restaurants approached the City in 2010 to request a food scrap collection service. With their support and assistance, the City and Davis Waste Removal launched a Commercial Food Scrap Collection Pilot Program in 2011.  

Thanks to the data gathered from the successful pilot program, the City rolled out an organics collection program to all customers in 2016, so that all single-family, multi-family and commercial customers had access to food scrap, food-soiled paper and yard material collection via brown-lidded organics carts.  

The City-wide organics collection program was timely. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing organics from the landfill, State regulations required jurisdictions to provide organics collection programs for businesses in 2016. New state regulations that will come into effect in 2022 will require all cities and counties in California to have organics collection programs similar to the program in Davis.

In more recent years, 2018 saw the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. The owners of DWR retired, selling the business to Recology Davis, who took over the DWR contract to become the service provider for Davis. Recology Davis expanded upon those well-established programs already in place and began accepting mattresses and box springs for free recycling at their facility in August that year. By the end of the year, Recology had already collected 756 mattresses and box springs for recycling.

Over its 50-year history, the Davis recycling program has been truly successful in keeping waste out of the landfill, thanks to the enthusiasm of environmentally conscious residents and businesses in Davis. In the last 29 years alone, Davis has recycled more than 118,872 tons of paper, 50,615 tons of cardboard, 8,512 tons of plastic, and 41,459 tons of glass. Davis currently diverts 61% of its waste from the landfill.

The City had a number of events planned to celebrate the program’s anniversary, but unfortunately these, as well as other events planned for March and April, have been postponed due to the current shelter-in-place order. The Bulky Items Drop-Off Days, Compost and Mulch Giveaway Event, Recology Shred Event and Recycling Celebration at the Davis Farmers Market will be rescheduled for future dates.

The Backyard Composting class scheduled for April 14 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. will be webcast rather than held at the Davis Senior Center. We promise that it will be just as fun and entertaining as an in-person class! To participate in this class, please email to sign-up and receive the weblink to the class. 

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