By Tim Dewey-Mattia, NCRA Co-Chair – Membership, Engagement and Activities Committee, 12/5/17
Postponed a month due to the smoke from the North Bay fires, the new date for the West Oakland Recycle Bicycle tour brought sunny skies and a dozen NCRA bicyclists out to Frank Ogawa Plaza. The group set out up San Pablo Avenue and over to the now-shuttered site of Alliance Recycling, a buyback center – the focus of the movie Dogtown Redemption – that recently closed due to neighborhood opposition. We discussed the compounding pressures on buyback centers – unsustainably low state processing payments, skyrocketing rents and rapid gentrification of neighborhoods like West Oakland.
Down Peralta Street at the West Oakland Farm Park, it was a much more uplifting scene. Here City Slickers Farm has a community farm, kitchen and playground that provides food and a gathering space to the community. We enjoyed some bites of fresh veggies before cruising just around the block to marvel at the massive metal piles at CASS Inc, aka Custom Alloy, which processes both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Next was a quick peek in the gates of Oakland’s single-stream recycling MRF, California Waste Solutions (not open on the weekend). With China’s dramatic announcements to cut back on imports and the proliferation of random plastic packaging, curbside collectors are feeling the squeeze. Investment in recycling infrastructure and domestic markets would certainly be appreciated.
Down Mandela Parkway and over to Magnolia St, we came to the highlight of the tour – the O2 Artisans Aggregate Eco-Industrial Park. Such an impressive and cool spot – with tons of cool reuse and recycling industry going on. Aitan Mizrahi gave us an hour tour, as we poked our heads in on a sake factory, a soldier fly larvae to animal feed operation, salvaged woodworking, aquaponics…and of course, the Don Bugito “pre-hispanic snackeria”, where they grow edible insects inside a tidy old shipping container.
We hopped back on our bikes and passed the only open buyback center left in West Oakland, National Recycling, then headed past the EBMUD digesters and out to the Port of Oakland. The Middle Harbor Shoreline Park is an under-the-radar and amazing park with panoramic views of the bay, the bridge, the San Francisco Skyline and the port around you. The Port of Oakland is the 5th biggest container port in the US, and recyclables make up about a quarter of total exports – that comes to approximately 2 million tons of recyclables shipped out in 2016 alone. We had a discussion of the impending moves by China and the impacts on markets.… and a quick snack of tasty chocolate covered crickets and spicy mealworms that we picked up from Don Bugito.
The Sutta Company and Schnitzer Steel are both visible from the Adeline overpass, as we headed back from the port and over to our final destination – Old Kan Beer & Co, for beer and food. The fish & chips are highly recommended.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable and interesting few hours exploring the Zero Waste landscape of West Oakland – where the scope and range of different recycling businesses is quite remarkable and always changing.
Thanks again to board member Hilary Near for planning out the route and for being a superb tour guide – and if you missed it, keep posted for another West Oakland Recycle Bicycle tour coming up in 2018!
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