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."