Fair Street Recycling’s Jerry Morano has been in the recycling business for 30 years
“When I first got this job—my first real job besides playing the bongos—and I went back to Jersey and told people there what I was doing, that I was working in recycling, they said, ‘What’s that?’” offered Jerry Morano. He’s the recycling director at Fair Street Recycling, part of local nonprofit organization the Work Training Center. “I explained it to them and they said, ‘Oh—you’re a garbage man!’
“[Recycling] was a very strange concept to my family back then,” continued Morano, sitting at his desk in his Fair Street office. “And now recycling has gone mainstream—the green economy has become mainstream, which is a good thing.”
Morano, a New Jersey transplant and longtime Chico musician, has worked for WTC’s recycling facility for 30 years. As most locals know, besides performing the admirable job of keeping much of the community’s recyclable waste out of the landfill, Fair Street Recycling also provides valuable work training for developmentally disabled adults at all three of its locations—the original one on Fair Street in Chico, the one that opened in Oroville five years ago, and the new Magalia facility, which celebrated its first anniversary this past July.
Of the 31 people working under Morano at the Chico site, 25 are referrals from Far Northern Regional Center, which provides an array of services to the North State’s developmentally disabled population. “If I have an opening on my crew, I bring them in,” Morano said.
Besides helping the developmentally disabled acquire marketable job skills, Fair Street Recycling “makes money for the Work Training Center to operate programs that don’t make any money—we have severely handicapped people that we serve in day centers, for instance.
“With budget cuts from the state over the past 10 years, we have to have businesses that make money to keep the doors open to serve clients,” Morano added. Among the several businesses WTC operates are Bear Mountain Production Services, which does bulk mailing and document collating, among other things, and Prestige Landscape Services. All WTC enterprises employ the developmentally disabled.
So far this year, Fair Street Recycling has recycled a whopping 1,600 tons of material at its three locations combined—aluminum and tin cans, plastic containers, cardboard, newspaper, office paper, computers, televisions and stereos (the facility does not accept major appliances, light bulbs, wire or batteries).
“All we did was newspaper when we first started—newspapers and magazines,” Morano recalled of when he started in 1981 as the recycling facility’s truck driver and recycling-crew leader.
At that time, Fair Street Recycling was a small enterprise located across Fair Street from the expansive venue it inhabits now. Morano was responsible for “throwing newspapers in the back of a truck,” newspapers he and his crew collected periodically from the ubiquitous “big blue boxes” that used to dot the parking-lot landscape of Chico, Durham and Paradise in the 1980s, “before there was curbside recycling.”
The combination of the introduction of curbside recycling and the fact that the selling price of recycled newspaper fluctuated wildly prompted Fair Street Recycling to diversify into other recyclables in the mid-’80s.
“News[paper] would go from $100 per ton to $10 per,” offered Morano. “It got so bad that sometimes the broker would not pick up a full trailer of news till the price went up. This led to me dumping news in my building till it was full and you had to walk on top of it to get any work done.”
Luckily, someone donated a can-recycling machine, and Fair Street Recycling started accepting cans, which earned the off-the-street seller a whopping 12 cents per pound at the time.
The institution of California Redemption Value (CRV) fees, in the late ’80s, on aluminum, bimetal, glass and plastic drink containers “changed the whole game,” said Morano. “All of a sudden, cans were worth about 50 cents a pound [to the walk-in customer] and glass was about 4 cents a pound.” Soon after, Fair Street Recycling acquired a glass-recycling machine and a scale.
These days, the CRV value on cans is $1.54 per pound (but Fair Street Recycling pays 11 cents per pound more than that), and the buy-back price on glass is 10.4 cents a pound, Morano said.
Fair Street Recycling has two customer-appreciation events annually—on Earth Day (April 22) and America Recycles Day, which occurs every Nov. 15. In honor of America Recycles Day, Fair Street Recycling will be offering customers at all three of its sites an additional 5 cents per pound on CRV aluminum (see coupon, page 17), as well as nifty green America Recycles Day buttons and the opportunity to take the America Recycles Day pledge to learn more about recycling options in the community and reduce the amount of personal waste produced.
“It’s my last promotion before we kind of go into hibernation for the winter,” Morano said of America Recycles Day. “Recycling is cyclical. In the summer, people are drinking more beverages in the warm weather, so our tonnage [of recyclables] goes up. Come winter and the rain, we see a dip.
“I stress all the time to my clients at meetings how important the work that they do is. We’re helping the community and the planet every day that we’re here. And it builds my clients’ self-esteem and self-worth—and that’s my real job.”