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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Waste Not: NorCal Waste Systems Changes Name to 'Recology' -- Because, Face It, It Sounds Better

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2009 at 2:45 PM

click to enlarge Perhaps the term 'waste management' conjured up the wrong mental imagery?
  • Perhaps the term 'waste management' conjured up the wrong mental imagery?
Just ask the famed escape artist Erich Weiss or handsome actor Bernard Schwartz -- sometimes it really does help to change your cumbersome moniker. That's more or less the explanation offered by "Recology" -- the recycling and garbage service formerly known as Norcal Waste Systems.

Yet the analogy perhaps most fitting is KFC nee Kentucky Fried Chicken.The fast-food chain found that the word "fried" didn't appeal to consumers. Yet KFC certainly didn't stop frying its chicken, it just didn't want to confront folks with the business of immersing its wares in bubbling oil and fat. Similarly, Norcal decided it didn't want to have the word "waste" in its title -- but "Recology" isn't going to be converting your soiled baby diapers or old potato chip bags into fusion power. Recology's name-change isn't accompanied by any alteration in the company's ethos; they are not tangibly going greener or doing anything today they weren't doing last week. But now they won't have the word "waste" in their name.

Now, this is not meant to belittle Norcal/Recology's extant recycling and -- especially -- composting programs. We've brought it up before, but it warrants mentioning again: Roughly two-thirds of what San Franciscans throw away could be recycled or composted using Recology's existing services. It's on us to do better, not them. As is, there may not be an easier city to compost in, period. 

That being said, this name change is not a redirection on the company's part but a re-branding. This name sounds more pleasing to the ear -- and that can't hurt.

"Consumers do have an input on who their waste company could be, and council members do make decisions," said Adam Alberti, a Recology publicist. "We want to make sure we are a different type of company."

And yet, there may be other reasons that it behooves Recology to drop its name of the past 89 years: 

In 2007, the board of supervisors abruptly nixed a waste hauling contract with Oakland's S&S Trucking and awarded it to Norcal -- despite S&S submitting a bid that was $3 million less over the contract's lifetime. The Oakland company took the city to court, claiming the board had no right to break the contract -- and reward the politically and union-connected Norcal. S&S won; the city appealed, and S&S prevailed again. Just the legal bills alone could cost the city $1 million and change.

So, yes, "Recology" is much more pleasing to the ear -- if not the wallet.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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