When Colombo Vaccarezza started collecting swill and dry waste from local restaurants, businesses and residents in Lodi to feed his pigs, he never imagined that 90 years later the operation, also known as Cal-Waste, would be one of the largest waste recovery and recycling companies in the northern Central Valley.
“My uncle really came here to establish himself as the hog rancher of the area,” current Cal-Waste owner Dave Vaccarezza said.
“When you went to the community you generally had to take the dry trash in order to get the swill to feed your hogs.”
As the community grew, the company grew with it. After an outbreak of typhoid in the late 1930s forced the extermination of all pigs in California, the Vaccarezza family got out of the hog business and began focusing solely on the waste business.
According to Vaccarezza, the industry has been consistent over the years and has managed to bring his family through the Great Depression and several recessions.
Despite the waste industry being a $40 billion a year industry nationally, the business hasn’t always been lucrative, but the Vaccarezza views the work they do as an opportunity to make something good happen in the communities that they serve, Dave said.
Today, Vaccarezza runs the company with the help of his sons Rudy and Casey. Cal-Waste currently has over 140 employees with a very low turnover rate — 25 people have been employed there for at least 25 years.
“You kind of get what you put into your team, so if you take care of your team they take care of you,” Vaccarezza said. “We try to treat everybody like they want to be treated, and we try to provide a good workplace and decent wages.”
At one time, Cal-Waste serviced all of the City of Lodi along with Galt, Elk Grove and South Sacramento until the family sold a portion of the business in the late ’90s. However, in recent years the business has expanded its service back to where it was before and has contracts with the City of Galt, Rancho Murieta, Woodbridge, Angels Camp and Calaveras County. Cal-waste also holds a franchise for industrial collection in Stockton, Lodi, Galt, Elk Grove, Sacramento and Calaveras County.
Cal-Waste has three locations, including one in Arnold, one in Valley Springs and their Galt headquarters, and service at least 20,000 people out of those facilities.
Eighty percent of the recyclables they send out is shipped into the international market, and they not only process recycling materials from the communities in their service area but also several communities outside of the area including Stockton, Modesto, Turlock, Amador County, Folsom and El Dorado County.
About 15 to 20 percent of the recyclables they process are from the cities in their service area and the rest is from communities outside of the area.
“We contract with cities, counties, other haulers and anybody who wants to bring their material here,” Vaccarezza said.
By reaching out and having a formal education program, the company has had tremendous success in the communities it services, Vaccarezza said.
“We take every opportunity we have to educate our customers and get them excited about the opportunities that recycling can bring to the community,” he said.
Cal-Waste also holds tours of the facility and host camps for children in an effort to educate the public and promote better recycling habits. The company created a curriculum for elementary students in the communities they service.
A staff of six teachers lead three sessions with the students and at the end of the sessions the students take a field trip to the Cal-Waste recovery plant in Galt.
The company also created the Cal-Waste Recycles Right app that allows customers to view their collection schedules and receive collection notifications via text message, email and phone call. The app also has a search wizard that helps customers determine what items can be recycled, composted or disposed of.
Moving forward, Vaccarezza said that he wants to see Cal-waste grow responsibly. The company’s new compost facility is set to come on line later this year, and they are looking to expand their recovery and transfer facility in Galt, as well as their recovery and transfer facility in Calaveras.
They have been celebrating their 90th anniversary all year and will hold celebrations at their Galt and Calaveras locations in September.