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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on July 2nd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 17

Spotlight on: Larrabee Recycling Center

Owned by the Larrabee family

BY AMY ASMAN


The can crusher
Employees at Larrabee Recycling Center feed cans into a giant machine that crushes them into compact squares. Those squares are then stored and processed. The center is the winner of this year’s 35th Assembly District Small Business of the Year award.
PHOTO BY AMY ASMAN

The title “business of the year” might draw to mind images of a fancy restaurant or a high-end jewelry store. The winner of this year’s 35th Assembly District Small Business of the Year award, however, has a much more practical purpose. Since 1961, Larrabee Recycling Center has been one of Santa Maria’s largest recyclers of glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers.

“We recycle about 2.2 million pounds of beverage containers a year,” company spokesperson Shannon Larrabee told the Sun in a recent interview. “We’ve been green since long before it was fashionable or profitable.”

Enid Larrabee opened the recycling center in 1961 at the site of the family’s beer distributor—Larrabee Brothers Distributing, now called Central Coast Distributing—on South Blosser Road in Santa Maria.

Several years before that, in 1959, Coors Brewing Company rolled out the first-ever 100-percent recyclable aluminum can and asked Coors distributors, like Larrabee Bros., to assist with the company’s recycling efforts by opening centers.

“Coors pretty much invented the aluminum can, and it was something that they never really took a lot of credit for. They didn’t patent it; they made it available to everyone,” Larrabee said.

The recycling center was the first facility of its kind in the Santa Maria Valley, and it’s since grown into a modern facility that operates as both a processor and recycler of aluminum, plastic, and glass. Even after Coors stopped requiring its distributors to run recycling facilities, Larrabee Recycling Center continued to offer the service to the local community. Continuing with the “green” spirit, the family recently added 1,100 solar panels.

“The foresight of entrepreneurs like the Larrabee family played a crucial role in the development of recycling in California,” Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian said at an awards banquet held on June 10 at the Capitol in the family’s honor. “I am so pleased to have this opportunity to honor them for their work in the industry and for their many charitable contributions to organizations in the Santa Maria Valley and throughout the Central Coast.”

The family annually supports numerous nonprofit, educational, and civic groups, including the Santa Maria Valley YMCA, the Santa Maria Valley Boys and Girls Club, the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, the Santa Maria Police Officer Association, the NAACP, Cal Poly Athletics, and the Wounded Warrior Project.

“We’ve always been involved in our community. I think it’s just part of our DNA and who we are as a family,” Larrabee said. “We like to choose organizations where the dollars go the farthest in the community.”

Larrabee admitted that handling people’s trash isn’t the most glamorous job, but said she’s proud of the staff’s commitment to customers.

“We treat everyone with kindness and respect,” she said, adding that people who bring their recyclables in to the center often walk out with a nice little chunk of change.

“We’ve had customers bring in a truckload and come out with $100, and others bring in a couple of garbage bags and come out with $30,” she said. “They just got paid $30 for about 15 minutes of their time. That’s some pretty good dough.”

Held annually, California Small Business Day is sponsored by the California Small Business Association and gives legislators the opportunity to honor outstanding small businesses from their districts.

Achadjian represents all of San Luis Obispo County and part of Santa Barbara County, including Santa Maria and Lompoc.

Managing Editor Amy Asman wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.