Family keeps tradition of recycling

March 6, 2008 9:05:16 AM PST
They say one person's trash is another person's treasure, and that certainly holds true for the Garbarino family, who operate the Marin recycling plant in San Rafael. These kings of the crushed can and born again bottle were recycling before there was such a word and have truly never seen an object they didn't want to re-use.

Joe Garbarino may be the most dedicated recycler in the world. "Deep down, I'm really the same guy I always was -- I'm a scavenger," said Joe Garbarino. For the Garbarinos, recycling or scavenging is not just what they do -- it's a philosophy they hold close. Joe's dad Giovanni began scavenging in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood in 1919.

"That's when men were really men," said Joe Garbarino.

It's a philosophy that also courses through the veins of Joe's daughter, Patty Garbarino, who was the first female president of the California Refuse Removal Council.

"We lived in North Beach, my grandmother ran a boarding house there, and she reused absolutely everything, because she came from absolutely nothing, so that ethic was there," said Patty Garbarino, President Marin Recycling.

Reuse could be the family motto. The pigs at the recycling plant are eating rejects from the food bank. And they're sleeping on sawdust, leftover from the grinding of fallen trees.

"It also catches the urine before it gets to the storm drains and we change that about once a month, every six weeks, then we put another pile and then we recompost it. Nothing goes to waste," said Joe Garbarino.

Something else Joe has to crow about, using broken down dumpsters to cure firewood. Painting those dumpsters with paint someone had no use for. It's all captured on canvas on the office walls.

But if recycling is in Joe's blood, plastic bags are his cholesterol. While the plastics division of the American Chemical Council says it cannot imagine it to be true, Joe and many other recycling experts say only about five percent of plastic bags get recycled.

"You use them once and you throw it away for eternity. Once you take that plastic to the dump, a thousand years from now, it's still going to be out at the dump," said Joe Garbarino.

Joe's only regret, dad didn't live to see all this.

"Picking these pearls from trash and it grew and grew and grew. And we've brought it to this extent with the machinery, sorting it, people wanting to recycle," said Joe Garbarino.

There's also a World War II museum that Mr. Garbarino has on the premises of the Marin recycling plant. Again, just another example of reusing something that others thought no longer had any use.