National Recycling Coalition Awards, 2017
Arthur R. Boone, Lifetime Achievement Award Nomination
Submitted by Chris Lehon, Portia Sinnott and Ruth Abbe
I am pleased to nominate Arthur Robinson Boone for NRC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Boone is a pioneer and leader in the California recycling scene. Fondly known as ARB or Boone, he has had three careers – Minister, Human Rights Executive and Recycler. At 79, Arthur is semiretired but still writes for technical journals, consults with businesses and public agencies, conducts small project grants and teaches a three-day Introduction to Recycling class for the Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA). A very active NCRA member, he served on the Board of Directors for 30 years. Since “retirement” he has made himself useful to the larger recycling community while pulling together his writings from the last 25 years, to which the website Center for Recycling Research is primarily dedicated.
Arthur was raised in Yonkers, N.Y. He attended Princeton University graduating cum laude in English. A year of graduate work at Brown University, a year teaching at a black college in Virginia, and three years at Union Theological Seminary in New York prepared him for the ministry of the Episcopal Church. In 1972 he became the staff director of the State of Rhode Island’s Commission for Human Rights. He was married, has four children and lives in Berkeley, CA.
In 1983, after a few weeks of on the ground research, he started managing a drop-off recycling center on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland – this was long before curbside recycling was instituted in Oakland. It was a mom-and-pop shop, on an asphalt pad without infrastructure. He told everyone, “Keep the place clean and be nice to the public.” Then he spent 20 years, working in a variety of roles – reusables sorter, consultant and pilot project visionary and implementer.
Arthur is best known today for his 18 years producing and facilitating a one-day conference each spring for NCRA called Recycling Update. In fact it is a very popular innovations conference bringing together 25 speakers limited to ten minute presentations; some call it “speed dating for recyclers.” More than 300 people now attend this program; some of the content is posted on the NCRA website and YouTube. The format has been replicated across the country by other recycling organizations.
Center for Recycling Research is an outgrowth of Arthur’s interests in the details of the recycling industry: its policies, programs, legislation, materials, history, etc.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a recycler’s paradise, if you will. Out of all the recycling programs in the U.S. that allow residents to mix food scraps with yard debris, about half are within 50 miles of Oakland, CA.
The whole collection and sorting process has been industrialized. When curbside recycling started, you had separate bins for paper, glass and cans. It was a killing job, picking up those totes and tossing stuff in the back of the truck. In 1994, Arthur spent three weeks following recycling trucks in a car, timing drivers with a stopwatch. They were making 450 stops a day.
Mr. Boone is the head of what he calls Oakland’s (CA) volunteer tree planting department. It started in 2009 with a man with a plan and a clipboard; dig a hole, plant a tree, repeat. Representing the Sierra Club, he stepped up when the City of Oakland tree planting program died due to lack of financing. Arthur is planting trees for today and tomorrow. In eight months alone, he mobilized dozens of volunteers to plant more than 250 trees in neighborhoods and educated homeowners on how to care for the trees. His work is inspiring others to make community improvements, and he is in the process of organizing a Volunteer Tree Department to continue the work.
He is tireless, but also has a great sense of humor. He mobilizes volunteers and handles the behind the scenes work so planting can go smoothly. Trees miraculously appear on planting day, but it takes a lot of work to coordinate the homeowner, City and nursery that supplies the trees. He walks through neighborhoods checking saplings and should a tree look a little low, he reaches out to the resident, “Hey a little more water for your tree, please!”
Most of his current time is spent in recycling as a volunteer. In the past five years, he has done various small research-related projects. He gets paid to teach two or three times a year, but he has a lot to do. If there were professors of recycling, Arthur might well be one, but there aren’t, so Arthur labors on as a practicing (though untenured) scholar.
- NCRA Board Member since 1987. President (4 years), Secretary (6+ years) and the Policy/Zero Waste Advocacy Committee Chair (6 years). Principal designer and 20 year instructor of INTRODUCTION TO RECYCLING class for recycling newcomers; Principal lead for RECYCLING UPDATE conference, an innovations-oriented annual conference, started in 1996, retired in 2016 after 30 years of leadership. Zero Waste Advocacy Committee Chair, 2013 – 2016.
- Board Member, Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, 2005 – 2007.
- Chair, City of Oakland, Waste Reduction and Recycling Commission, 1990.
- Board Member, California Resource Recovery Association, 1989 and 2017 candidate.
- Alameda County Fair Consultant. Built a low tech MRF operated by summer help and oversaw marketing of materials, health and safety, work scheduling, etc. 2008 – 2011.
- Reuse salvage staff, Recology Company, San Francisco. Hired to salvage reusable goods from the public disposal tipping floor at the large transfer station. Packed trailers destined for St. Vincent DePaul in Eugene, Oregon. Weekend Site Supervisor handling customer complaints, site safety, accidents, etc., 1999 – 2003.
- Project Manager for the first mattress dismantling factory west of Wisconsin and third in the U.S. Developed Oakland worksite, raised startup funds for early operations, marketed salvaged materials and transferred ownership to Federal Prison Industries, 1994 – 1996.
- Operations Manager, Folsom Return-to-Custody Correctional Facility MRF for the California Prison Industry Authority. Provided materials information for start-up on first dirty MRF built to be run by inmates and correctional staff, 1994.
- Sort-System Supervisor, East Bay Recycling. Determined suitable loads for sorting in first dirty MRF constructed in the East Bay, 1989.