High-Tech Sustainability

Caglia Environmental
Written by Claire Suttles

After profiling Caglia Environmental in March 2017, Business in Focus is checking back in to learn about the company’s facility upgrades, continued sustainability efforts, and ongoing connection to its community.

Caglia Environmental built the state-of-the art Cedar Avenue Recycling and Transfer Station (CARTS) in 2004 as a next-generation facility. “That was perfect for the needs of the community at the time,” says CARTS Division Manager Mike Ledieff. However, the company continued to evolve as technology advanced. “As time progressed, the markets changed internationally and domestically and the Caglia family made the decision to upgrade the facility with one of the industry leaders, CP Manufacturing, to the most current and efficient technology in the industry to produce the most pure recyclables possible. These substantial upgrades decreased the amount of waste being landfilled.”

When single stream blue recycling can materials arrive at CARTS, all the material must be carefully sorted. “That recycling truck has a lot of different materials in it,” Ledieff points out. “We have to get more advanced in our sorting technology in order to provide quality recoverable materials to domestic and international markets.”

In partnership with CP Manufacturing, the team added four optical sorters that utilize near infrared technology to properly identify all the different materials grades comingled in the recycling stream. The technology differentiates between trash, plastic, cardboard, paper, and more, then separates it all. “In a perfect world,” Ledieff says a human is capable of “performing about 60 picks a minute.” This is far below what infrared technology can handle—upwards of 130 picks per minute. In addition to being more consistent and more efficient, the near infrared technology also improves safety.

The CP Anti-Wrap Screen™ is another notable technological advancement to CARTS. Flex-packaging and film are becoming increasingly common in the material stream but unfortunately, these items often wrap around standard screen shafts. The CP Anti-Wrap Screen™ utilizes high-agitation discs and extra-large rotor shafts to stop the wrapping and lower the risk of jams. This allows paper and containers to pass through CARTS without complications.

Caglia Environmental complements its high-tech machinery with human talent to ensure the best outcome. “We have a multitude of quality control stations that currently have human labor making sure that all the commodities that go out of our facility are clean and we’re not shipping residual trash to our in-market partners,” Ledieff explains.

He adds that it has become increasingly important to ensure the quality of material shipped overseas, particularly due to China’s Green Sword initiative. “What our vendors have done is really take a closer look at the recyclables that have gone to China and made sure that they are pure. We wanted to stay ahead of that and ensure strong relationships with our partners.”

Indeed, sustainability is at the forefront throughout the sorting process at CARTS. This commitment is seen most clearly in “our efforts to ensure that we are recovering the [greatest] amount of recyclable materials within the single stream recycling using this technology from CP Manufacturing… everything that needs to be recycled can be recycled,” Ledieff says. “So [we are] reducing the impact of volume going to the landfill.”

The team’s sustainability efforts have certainly paid off; CARTS diverts from landfills more than 70 percent of the source separated material. Much of this waste is repurposed into raw materials that will be transformed into new consumer products. Food wastes are de-packaged, then diverted for animal feed or sent to anaerobic digesters that convert food waste to biogas that is used to produce electricity. CARTS itself is powered by landfill gas from the adjacent Orange Avenue landfill, which is no longer in operation but still owned by the Caglia family. In fact, the company generates enough electricity to not only power their facility, but to sell back to the local utility company as well.

Caglia Environmental maintains close ties to its community. “The Caglia family’s been involved in the local Fresno community for almost a hundred years,” Ledieff says. “We are very involved with local service groups, we give tours of our facility on a regular basis, we’re constantly in the community educating about proper recycling techniques—what can be recycled and what can’t be recycled.”

The team is especially committed to educating the public on proper battery disposal. “Lithium-ion batteries are a huge issue throughout the country when it comes to being highly combustible and causing fires,” Ledieff says. “The last thing we want is a fire, no matter where it is to occur, because of an improperly disposed-of lithium-ion battery. The environmental impact, the damage impact, is substantial. So we are working with local cities and counties to educate commercial businesses and residents on proper disposal of lithium-ion batteries—and any household batteries or hazardous waste for that matter—and making sure that we are good stewards of our environment and educating the community.”

Caglia Environmental has faced recent challenges due to the pandemic, particularly when it comes to maintaining staff. The solution has been to continue to place an emphasis on “engaging with our employees,” to encourage them to stay with the company. In addition, management has made a substantial effort to make the work environment more appealing. “Obviously we work in an industrial environment that may not be the most appealing to everyone, but as a company we provide a positive work environment for our people, and we have an amazing company culture, so we really do our best.”

The effort has resulted in impressive employee retention rates. “We have tenured employees that have been here over twenty years,” Ledieff says. “In our industry that’s remarkable and it says a lot about the Caglia family and their dedication to the employees. Having a positive company culture that takes care of their employees has been a benefit in a very challenging time for staffing.”

Another ongoing challenge is keeping up with state and federal regulations that change frequently. “Our solution for that is really partnering with our fellow industry members throughout the state and the nation and making sure that we are not only in compliance with regulations, but attempting to stay ahead of it by implementing new technologies,” Ledieff shares.

After more than 80 years in business, the third generation of the Caglia family remains at the helm of the company. Looking ahead to the next eight decades, the team is eager to keep up with the latest, most advanced recycling technologies and techniques. “We’re a fully integrated regional facility,” Ledieff says. “And as the needs of the community increase, we want to be there to fulfill those needs—if it’s organics recycling, biomass, we are looking at all of it. We want to be the flagship facility for the local community. There are a lot of big things on the horizon for us.”

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