Recycling in Berkeley was inspired by and started with the activities and efforts of community agencies, particularly Ecology Action, the Ecology Center (EC) and the Community Conservation Centers (CCC). EC is a nonprofit educational organization incorporated in 1970, and CCC is a nonprofit community-based organization that was incorporated in 1974.
The first step in the organized waste stream diversion efforts in Berkeley began in 1970, when Ecology Action initiated the first drop off recycling program at Sacramento Street and University Avenue at Consumers Cooperative Garage. In 1972, CCC took over the operation of the University Avenue drop off center, as well as the recycling centers at Dwight Way and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and on San Pablo Avenue. The center at Dwight Way and Martin Luther King Way remained in operation until July 2005.
In 1982, using its own funds plus a grant awarded to CCC by the State of California, CCC built the buyback and processing facility at the Berkeley Recycling Center located at Second & Gilman Streets in Berkeley. At that location, CCC now operates the only fully-equipped materials processing facility in the City, as well as its buyback and drop-off recycling activities. In 1990, CCC began processing Berkeley recyclables from the City's commercial pick-up program and from Ecology Center''s residential curbside program.
The recycling programs currently operated by contractors for the City of Berkeley include the buyback, drop-off and processing program operated by CCC and the residential curbside collection program operated by EC. Also, Urban Ore salvages materials from the floor of the City’s Transfer Station. These programs have been operating for more than two decades, with several improvements and expansions over the years. Through these programs, Berkeley recycled more than 19,000 tons in 2004.
In addition, the City operates a commercial recycling pick-up program, a food waste pick-up program, a plant debris collection program, and numerous other programs to divert materials from the landfill, including metals, refrigerators, bulky goods, CRTs and C&D materials. For the first time, in FY 2001-02, these programs enabled the City of Berkeley to achieve the 50% diversion goal.