When we put CleanScapes founder and eco-garbage hauler Chris Martin on our cover a few years back, his then-tiny company was making an improbable bid for a city of Seattle contract. In short order, CleanScapes won one, allowing the homegrown firm to pick up half of the city's trash and prompting it to grow exponentially. But CleanScapes' ambitions are even bigger, a fact behind a recently announced merger now in the works.As CleanScapes told its employees last week, the company is combining forces with a much bigger San Francisco firm called Recology. Martin tells SW that Recology earns annual revenues of approximately $500 million, about 10 times more than the Seattle-based company. If the merger is approved by regulatory authorities, CleanScapes will become a subsidiary of Recology.
Martin says the attraction of Recology, though, is not just its assets. According to him, the San Francisco firm "has the largest recycling division on the West Coast" and the "biggest and best composting" facility in the area.
And those are precisely the areas Martin wants to go into. Not content just to bring trash elsewhere to be processed, he wants to do the processing himself.
The Seattle area already has both composting and recycling facilities, of course. They're run, respectively, by Cedar Grove and Allied Waste Industries. "There's nothing wrong with a little competition," Martin says when asked about them.
On that point, the city agrees. "We love competition," says Seattle Public Utilities' contract manager Hans Van Dusen, noting that's the way to get the best deals for taxpayers.
Ever the evangelist for finding green ways to deal with garbage, Martin says CleanScapes is also interested in trying new things. "Cedar Grove does a fantastic job," he says of that's company's composting facility. But he wonders about the methane gasses that it and similar facilities release. "We know there are ways to capture those gasses and use it for energy," he says.
Martin, who got into this business by complaining about the dumpsters behind his Pioneer Square home, has taken his obsession with trash a long way.
Update: Cedar Grove sent SW a statement today to counter the charge that its composting facility releases methane gasses. In fact, the company says, "Cedar Grove Composting is registered with the Climate Action Reserve to receive carbon credits specifically because its systems prevent release of methane. The company estimates that its composting operations reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 27,000 cars off the road each year."