After years of dwindling usage and shrinking space, Palo Alto's recycling center will shutter for good in February -- the latest development in the city's ever-evolving waste-management operation.
The recycling center, a fixture at the city's landfill in the Baylands for nearly four decades, will shut down in February so that the city can cap the landfill, which permanently closed in July. On Tuesday (Nov. 1), the City Council Finance Committee will discuss the future of local recycling and ways to educate local residents about alternatives to the recycling center.
Most residents won't need too much education. According to Brad Eggleston, the city's solid-waste manager, the center accounted for only 6 percent of the city's total recyclables in fiscal year 2011, down from 13 percent in 2008. The vast majority of the city's recyclable goods are collected at the curb in blue containers. Items that don't fit into the blue bins can be placed at the curb in biodegradable containers, provided these containers' weight does not exceed 60 pounds.
The city's trash hauler, GreenWaste, also offers a free annual pick-up service for items too large for the bins.
Among the questions the council will try to answer is what to do with the "household hazardous waste" materials that the recycling center currently accepts, including motor oil, batteries and antifreeze. The city currently allows residents to bring in these items to the center on the first Saturday of each month. Residents can also arrange to bring in their hazardous waste at mid-month by appointment.
While the center's closure will prevent residents from delivering their recyclable goods to the facility, it could make it more convenient for them to dispose of their hazardous waste. Once the center closes, the city plans to expand storage space at the Household Hazardous Waste station near the center, allowing the station to remain open longer.
"Upon completion of the improvements staff anticipates that the HHW station will eventually be open to the public on a non-appointment basis, twice per week for two to four hours," Eggleston wrote in a report.
Residents will also retain the option of delivering their hazardous waste to the Sunnyvale Materials Recovery and Transfer (SMaRT) Station in Sunnyvale.
The recycling center has also been shrinking in recent years to accommodate refuse burial. According to Eggleston, it has gone from 1.6 acres in size during its peak to its current level of 0.4 acres.
The council's Finance Committee had considered earlier in the year a staff proposal to relocate the recycling center. But given the dropping usage and the available alternatives, the committee decided in July that closing the facility altogether makes more sense.
The committee will resume its discussion of the recycling center's closure at its Tuesday meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in the Council Conference Room at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave. The full council is scheduled to consider the topic in December.