Saturday, June 6, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 15th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 33

Entrepreneur goes green with a new recycling business in an uncertain industry


Edgar Adolfo Arroyo Garcia slides up the door of his shipping container, planted in the parking lot of Roy’s Liquor and Market off Guadalupe Street in Guadalupe.

His gelled pompadour wiggles as he shoves the door upward, but his hair holds steady in the cool morning breeze. Inside, bags are stacked to the top, bulging with cans and bottles: Sunny Delight, Coke, Diet Coke, the whole gamut.

It’s the 27-year-old’s fledgling business: a bottle recycling drop-off station where customers can sell their empty cans. Called AG’s Recycling Inc., the startup business fills a vacancy left by other companies like rePlanet, which shuttered all of its 284 locations in the state in August.

This recycling venture is part-business, part-calling, Garcia says. His is a green world filled with organic produce he grows in the backyard of his Santa Maria home, plus farm-fresh eggs and milk, but not the store-bought stuff. When he’s in Mexico’s state of Michoacán visiting family, he’s drinking milk straight from the cow.

There, he owns 50 acres of avocado fields from which he supplies vendors in Northern Santa Barbara County.

“I’ve been doing it so long, I just look up at the trees and I know when they’re ready,” he says.

But this new recycling business of his, started in early October, is in an industry that wasn’t friendly to the big business that previously dominated it. Garcia admits he’s not sure what to expect; he just wants to build an environmentally friendly business.

Herb Cantu, Santa Maria’s solid waste manager, said the recycled bottle burden on the city’s landfill has grown. He estimates that recyclables going to the trash have added an extra $1 million cost over the past two years. In early 2018, China also put tighter restrictions on what recyclables it will take, he said. 

“The challenge we’ve had is the state was so dependent on China being a solution that the state was not diversified,” Cantu said. “So when China changed what they would take, there wasn’t a fallback solution.”

The increase in recyclables ending up in the landfill is contributing to the landfill’s imminent expansion. He said the city has already hired planners to look at a new landfill which, he expects, will start receiving garbage in 2024 or 2025. The city already collects 350 tons of refuse daily.

“It has been difficult for people to move plastics,” he said. “There’s not a home for them. There’s not a home for newspapers either.”

Cantu also said there are no places for residents to sell their empty bottles in Santa Maria. The vacancy offers opportunities for new entrants, but Cantu said companies are still working out how to make recycling financially viable.

The evidence, in part, can be found in rePlanet’s closure earlier this year. 

“They went out of business on a Tuesday, and I had my license on Wednesday,” Garcia says, standing in front of his shipping container.

That’s just the way it worked out, and Garcia says it’s not about the money.

“I just got the idea looking at all the trash piles,” he says.

That’s at his day job. One of them, anyway. He’s a heavy equipment driver for the county, even working on the fire lines when the Santa Ana winds stoke seemingly uncontrollable wildfires. But his other tour of duty is at the Tajiguas Landfill in Santa Barbara, where he drives a D9 bulldozer, pushing around piles of garbage for a roller to come by and squish flat.

He had always planned to open up the recycling business, even when rePlanet was still around. Now he has the shipping container behind the Guadalupe liquor store, another location lined up in Arroyo Grande, and a third permit he’s trying to secure in Santa Maria.

His biggest problem now is space. He can’t crush the cans because a compactor would make too much noise. Right now, he weighs the bottles and cans on a scale. Aluminum pays $1.63 a pound, LDPE plastics go for $2.02, and PET plastic goes for $1.26.

Garcia thinks he’ll make $350 a day, maybe. He’s not sure. But that’s not the most important thing right now, he says. He’s thinking bigger. Maybe a mobile recycling unit someday.

But like the avocados, Garcia will know success when he sees it.

“It’s your money. It’s 5 cents,” he said. “If you throw it away, you’ll never get it back.” 

Staff Writer William D’Urso can be reached at

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