Palo Alto Recycling Center to close Feb. 1
Most materials are now picked up at curbside, city says
Rich Green hauled spools of electrical cable, old VCRs and boxes of paper from the back of his vehicle, carrying them to the appropriate metal bins at the Palo Alto Recycling Center, located at the baylands near Byxbee Park. The trip could be one of his last to the 40-year-old facility. The city will close the recycling center on Feb. 1.
"I wish it wasn't going to close. It's incredibly handy," said Green, who has an audio-visual installation business and offers to recycle the boxes and other byproducts as part of the installation. He did not know where he would take his stuff now, he said.
The Palo Alto Recycling Center, which opened in 1972, will shut down because it's located on part of the city's landfill, which closed last July.
While visitors like Green said they lament the loss, use of the center has significantly dropped in recent years as curbside collection of recyclables has expanded, according to the city. Only 6 percent of the city's recyclable items are now being taken to the recycling center. The city decided to close the center as a cost-saving measure to reduce a $3.7 million deficit in the city's Refuse Fund.
Despite advertising and a notice on the city's website, people coming to the center this week said they weren't aware it would close until they saw a sign on the premises.
"I'm sad," Angel Avalos said, as he poured cans of oil and antifreeze into drums. He comes twice a month and sometimes drops off oil filters, he said.
The scrap metal bin is a popular drop-off spot; this week it was filled with spools of cable, old lawn mowers, an ironing board and utility shelves. A rusty brake drum and other odd pieces of metal clanged as a man tossed the parts into the bin.
Aldo Ramirez, a recycling-center employee, waited in a forklift until the man drove away. He carefully lifted the large, blue metal bin and emptied its contents into an 8-foot-tall refuse container before returning it to its spot.
There are bins for glass and bins for cardboard, and barrels for cooking oil and vehicle fluids. Stacks of old fluorescent tube bulbs, some 8 feet long, stood upright in boxes in an open shelter.
Anne Keller dumped boxes of books in an enclosed recycling bin. She isn't happy about the closure, she said.
"I use it for things that curbside won't pick up, like fluorescent bulbs. I have no idea where I'm going to take things, besides throwing them in the trash," she said.
Although there are alternatives — and Ramirez handed out a chart to some people on Wednesday afternoon — Keller said she is concerned any alternative won't be close by and won't be in one spot.
"I'm not inclined to make five stops," she said.
But Barron Park neighborhood's Green Team leader Lisa Altieri said the closure is a good sign.
"I think that it is fantastic that the Palo Alto curbside recycling program has expanded to the point where it's possible to consider closing the recycling center. Nearly all of the materials accepted at the recycling center are now accepted curbside. This shows the city's strong commitment to support recycling and environmental goals.
"The most important thing is that the recycling program is supported and has sufficient staff to provide the outreach and education to residents about the new curbside program and other alternatives for remaining items," she said.
According to the city's chart, residents won't be left without alternatives, although they might have to travel a bit farther to recycle some items. Large consumer products, such as refrigerators, mattresses and tires can be taken to the SMaRT Station in Sunnyvale (and dropped for a fee), or residents can make an appointment once each year to have the items picked up on their garbage day.
Paper and hardback books are collected through the curbside recycling program, but fluorescent bulbs and tubes can only be deposited at the SMaRT Station or on the first Saturday of each month during the Household Hazardous Waste Day at the Water Quality Control Plant at 2501 Embarcadero Way in Palo Alto. Hazardous waste includes motor oil and filters, antifreeze, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, paint, household chemicals, mercury thermometers and thermostats, sharps and pharmaceuticals. These items can also be dropped off by appointment during mid-month events, according to the city. Cooking oil can be recycled at the SMaRT station.
Cars lined up on Wednesday afternoon at the Goodwill station located at the recycling center. Residents unloaded boxes of clothing, lamps and small working electronics. The Goodwill station will also close on Jan. 31 but a trailer site is located at Palo Alto High School, 50 Embarcadero Road. Casey Cushman, an animal-control officer with Palo Alto Animal Services, dropped off several boxes of blankets and towels. Animal services makes donations to Goodwill when it receives textile items it cannot use. Cushman said he would just take them to the Goodwill store on East Meadow Drive.
Scavengers won't have the luxury of pilfering from the blue recycle center bins anymore. Ramirez said he has "regulars" who show up every day, although most people are dropping off items, not coming to turn trash into treasure.
An older gentleman who arrived on Wednesday comes daily to seek out small items, such as screws. Ramirez said scavenging is not allowed and he has to remind people — particularly when they try to climb into the bins.
Just about every kind of treasure has come through the center over the years, including some antiques, Ramirez said, and he recalled one pair of items in particular.
"They were pure wrought iron — they were like a corn sheller," he said, making hand-crank motions. "They were very old."
Items accepted at curbside in Palo Alto
Mixed paper, magazines, newspapers, cardboard, paperback and hardcover books, PET No. 1, HDPE No. 2 clear and color, HDPE plastic No. 3-7, plastic bags/film, rigid plastic items (limited size), glass bottles, aluminum cans, aluminum foil, tin cans, small pieces of scrap metal, small consumer electronics, household batteries, large appliances such as washers (for a fee), mattresses and box springs (for a fee), bulky items such as furniture (for a fee), residential motor oil and residential oil filters.
More information about the city's recycling program is available by calling 650-496-5910.
Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at email@example.com.