Palo Alto Recycling Center to close in February

City plans to close facility as part of effort to cap landfill, curb costs

Palo Alto Recycling Center, a Byxbee Park fixture for the past four decades, will shut down for good in February as part of the city's broad effort to reform its waste operation.

The center, which stands on the border of the city's sprawling landfill, will be closed to allow for the capping of the landfill, which officially closed in July. The facility's closure is also expected to save money in a waste-management operation that has been bleeding cash in recent years.

The center opened in 1972 and has undergone several transformations since then, according to Brad Eggleston, the city's solid-waste manager. The facility was expanded in 1979 to accommodate all curbside-collected recyclables. The city later scaled back the center from 1.6 acres to 0.4 acres to make way for burial of trash at the site.

In recent years, usage of the facility has tapered off as Palo Alto's residents began stowing more of their recyclable goods into blue bins for curbside pickup. Between fiscal years 2008 and 2011, the percentage of the city's recyclable goods collected at the center dipped from 13 percent to 6 percent.

In July, the City Council Finance Committee asked staff to come up with a plan to eliminate the center and add new pick-up days for recyclable and hazardous materials. Councilman Greg Scharff, who sits on the committee, said having a facility no longer makes sense given its costs and available alternatives.

Later that month, the full City Council endorsed the committee's recommendation to close the center and add a flat fee to residents' garbage bills.

Staff plans to return to the Finance Committee on Oct. 18 to provide more details about the center's looming closure. At that time, the committee is scheduled to consider whether the facility should be relocated or permanently shuttered.

Meanwhile, staff has begun an outreach campaign to inform residents about their recycling options. In addition to the curbside program, the city's trash hauler, GreenWaste, offers annual home pick-up service for items that don't fit into the blue bins. The city will also continue to accept hazardous waste such as motor oil, antifreeze and car batteries at its Household Hazardous Waste drop-off station next to the Recycling Center.

Palo Alto residents can also bring their recyclable and hazardous materials to the Sunnyvale Materials Recovery and Transfer (SMaRT) station in Sunnyvale.

"It is because convenient alternatives exist, as described above, that permanent closure of the RC (recycling center) can be considered for items currently accepted at the RC," Eggleston wrote. "As other services and ways of handling recycling have improved dramatically over the years, the expense of constructing and running a recycling center must be carefully considered."

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Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Very sad to see the recycling center leave ... of course it will save the city money, and will cost all of the residents of the city more money ... and just what do we pay the city to do or have a city for ... to make sweetheart contracts that direct money to some group, and then still increase the cost and reduce the service to the people who live here?

The dump and the recycling center were very useful and gone they will add cost and take away convenience from Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm

The Smart station in Sunnyvale is FAR from a "convenient" alternative to our current recycling center. It is a long, very convoluted drive from Palo Alto and the staff is not very friendly. As someone who frequents the recycling center 4-6 times a month, the annual pick up is also not particularly helpful. In addition, there should be a LOT more frequent hazardous waste days in order to discourage people from bagging and throwing out their hazardous waste.

I find it hard to believe that there is not enough room for a few dumpsters for residents to put their recyclables in anywhere in Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Ilikefirdays
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Now with our dump closing and our recycle center also gone.
I was just wondering if palo alto will sell of our garbage trucks and contract out with BFI, los altos or Mountain view. Would save us lots of money

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Now could we be spared this continuous and duplicate stream of do-this, don't-do- that brochures, instructions, and expensive mailings in living color from Utilities on recycling, trash, how to live and how not to live, and how to be green, greener, greenest? PLEASE Save a tree - save forest!

Like this comment
Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2011 at 8:02 am

What a bunch of whiners. Get over it people. We have curbside recycling. What do we need the recycling center for? Styrofoam? It can't by recycled anyway. Reuse your styrofoam peanuts, better than recycling. As far as costs, revenue is are going down because people are recycling more and getting smaller and cheaper cans. The added fees are to keep the revenue up where the costs are. Closing the recycling center, largely redundant given the blue bins, is a cost saver.

Like this comment
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2011 at 10:34 am

Here we go again. We get rid of something and then we end up paying for it. Is this the way for a City to thank people for recycling? I am tired of all these hidden fees when the City can hire five new employees in the Planning Department making six figures.
Why go all the way to Sunnyvale to do recycling? Stanford has a recycling center. Why should we give the profit to Sunnyvale?

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Posted by rhodty
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2011 at 10:37 am

Recycle center takes things curbside does not - e.g., old video tapes. But I can understand the economics of closing. What I can't understand, is that while saving money by closing this facility, you are ALSO going to ADD a flat fee to our garbage bills. This is egregious!
and greedy.

Like this comment
Posted by Experienced Cyclist
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 13, 2011 at 10:38 am


The curbside recycling in Palo Alto is great, but it doesn't cover a few items that the recycling center does:

Flourescent light bulbs (including CFLs)

I also use it when I have more cardboard than will fit in my blue bin. The batteries we are trying to replace with rechargables and I can recycle the non-rechargables at work. But what about flourescents? Does the city have a plan for those or do I have to drive to Sunnyvale?

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2011 at 10:39 am

Does anyone know where REUSABLE items (from curbside collections) are made available to the public?

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Posted by kongjie
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2011 at 10:44 am

kongjie is a registered user.


AFAIK the recycling center has not accepted styrofoam for some time.

My wife and I will miss the center. It was convenient and even nice visiting there. Everything changes.

Like this comment
Posted by The impossible dream
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 13, 2011 at 11:01 am

If the City is no longer going to support the recycling center presumably they will save money. Does this mean our garbage collection rates will go down?

Like this comment
Posted by yes
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

It is possible if done right and the time is right.

Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 13, 2011 at 11:16 am

Batteries, except for car batteries, may be recycled at the curb. See the end of this link for information: Web Link . Fluorescent bulbs will still be accepted at the household hazardous waste center the first Saturday of the month, or may be left at selected stores (see Web Link ).

Like this comment
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2011 at 11:17 am

The City currently pays $300,000/year to operate the Recycling Center and about half of the users don't even live in Palo Alto. It would cost $1 million to move the Recycling Center. That's a lot of money when the Refuse Fund is millions of dollars in debt and borrowing money from the General Fund this year to avoid an operating deficit.

But, you ain't seen nothing yet....If Measure E to undedicate parkland on this November's ballot passes, the City will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more on another Study to see if it can build a multi-million factory on that land. And, the City will assume the risks of a new technology. Preliminary estimates are that it will cost $111 to $268 million over 20 years to try that technology. And a completed Byxbee Park will be delayed for another 10 years.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Rather than each of us driving down to Sunnyvale, I suggest any recyclables that are not able to be taken to the recycling center should now be put in our blue bins so that GW can take them to Sunnyvale for us. After all, it isn't very green to have us all individually driving them there. Unless of course, you expect us all to take them by bike!

Like this comment
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm

@Resident. Completely agree. Also, there is a small recycling center on the Stanford campus, but it is pretty limited as to what it accepts.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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