Peninsula garbage fleet goes green on grease

Local garbage trucks are now doing more than hauling trash — they’re fueled by it.

Allied Waste has become one of the biggest users of biodiesel in Northern California by converting its Peninsula fleet of 225 vehicles to run on fuel made from restaurant grease.

The reduction in carbon emissions is the equivalent of taking 315 cars off of local roads each year, said Evan Boyd, general manager for the waste company.

The move, announced Thursday, earned the region a commendation from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Because of you, 3.3 million pounds of carbon emissions will be terminated each year,” Schwarzenegger said in a message relayed by representative Barbara Kaufman. “I hope others will be inspired to follow your trail.”

To ensure an inexpensive, reliable fuel source, Allied is partnering with Watsonville-based Alternate Solutions, which reclaims waste oil from restaurants and turns it into fuel, Boyd said. Allied’s fleet uses 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year, picking up trash from 93,000 residences and 10,000 businesses in San Mateo County.

Meanwhile, the costs should be the same. While petroleum-based diesel costs roughly $2.30 a gallon, biodiesel costs $2.27 a gallon, Boyd said.

Many saw the move as an example of San Mateo County’s dedication to environmental action.

“This is another example of the Peninsula taking a leadership role in environmental advances,” said Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, who authored a controversial bill that would reward car buyers who choose hybrids. “It’s one thing to talk about reducing carbon emissions and another thing to actually do it.”

Ruskin also commended Allied for launching a curbside recycling program this month for household batteries and cell phones.

Allied Waste suffered a significant image problem in early 2006 after several audits by the South Bayside Waste Management Authority revealed the trash company missed as many as 9,500 trash pickups in 2005. In addition, its customers had to wait up to 45 minutes on hold to report problems.

“Allied’s performance has been much better this year,” said Brian Moura, former chairman of the SBWMA and assistant city manager in San Carlos. “Their main office intervened — and now they’re at the level of service we’d expect.”

Now, Allied hopes to serve as a model for other companies considering jumping on the biodiesel bandwagon, according to Boyd.

“We are in a race against time, battling against global warming,” Ruskin said, gesturing to the biodiesel trucks behind him. “These vehicles don’t look like race cars, but they are.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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