Palo Alto Recycling Center to close Feb. 1 | January 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 27, 2012

Palo Alto Recycling Center to close Feb. 1

Most materials are now picked up at curbside, city says

by Sue Dremann

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


Like this comment
Posted by GreenTek
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Look for more dumping in the Baylands, sidestreets, freeway, and commercial/industrial parking lots. Someone will clean up the mess I guess. So much for Palo Alto claiming to be "the Green City". Now the almighty buck rules with an incompetent city manager and council. What a pity!

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm

The Goodwill Store is on West Meadow not East. Actually El Camino Way.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I suspect most people will put everything in either the blue, green or black bins. Most people won't dump the stuff illegally, but won't bother taking them anywhere else. Who can blame them?

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

This is so G-D stupid I cannot believe it. It is really nice to have a place to go to get rid of things and recycle them … and the land out there as long as the airport and dump are there functioning like they are now … too much noise and too much stink … there is not reason to open up a big park because no one is going to want to be there.

There are more people going out to walk at the baylands lately … but that happens this time every year as people resolve to walk more.

What Palo Alto should have done is to get rid of the airport and start a landfill there is it could be done, and maybe move the golfcourse over the stinky area which would give them a reason and constituency to get something done about the sewage plant.

Palo Alto is so incompetently managed it's pathetic.

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:21 am

Anon, the "dump" closed last July!! It's not 'stinky' out there. Have you been there lately?

Like this comment
Posted by Whatever
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

It is always gonna be stinky, but just because it's so marshy around there. Even the airport section gets stinky on certain days of the week. Hell, even the Dumbarton Bridge gets stinky on humid days.

But if you get directly downwind of the dump, where there's this perpetual dirt churning vehicle, it's still really stinky.

If they covered up all of that excess dirt with vegetation, it might be a halfway decent area.

It certainly helps that the million seagulls at the dump found somewhere else to go. Last year, around this time, you could have filmed a sequel to "The Birds" near the recycling center.

Like this comment
Posted by toxiic waster very soon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I'm hardly going to make a special trip to Household Hazardous Waste on the first Saturday of the month before 12 noon to drop off a burned out "energy saving" fluorescent light bulb--I'd be more likely to toss it in the garbage. These are full of MERCURY. Wish the city would now devise a method to put these in the regular trash pick up. I don't mean the long tubes, I mean the little spiral bulbs.

Like this comment
Posted by Problem Solver
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Many hardware stores will accept old fluorescent bulbs free of charge...old batteries as well. Next.

Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm

OK. I've been looking for a place to dump used needles used for insulin. I would also like to purchase a bio-hazard box to store them in. Where can I do this Problem Solver?

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Most, if not all, pharmacies should have sharps containers for sale.

The closed box can be disposed of at PA's monthly hazardous disposal day (1st Saturday of the month) or at one of the locations listed here,
Web Link

The closest one appears to be
Los Altos Pharmacy
225 2nd Street, Los Altos

Like this comment
Posted by Michelle
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm

If you need a place to recycle your aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic bottles, there are rePLANET sites located in the parking lot of different markets. Palo Alto's is at 164 S. California Ave (next to Mollie Stone's)

Like this comment
Posted by Joanne Petersen
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm

If you bring your filled-up sharps container to the PA Hazardous Waste dropoff, they will give you a free empty container -- or at least they used to do that; with the cutbacks, maybe they won't.

Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Thank you anon and Joanne!

2 people like this
Posted by Maria
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

My kids' school joined a clothing recycling fundraiser with a company called goodthrift. They basically pay our school by the pound for the clothing and shoes we collect... So it's a win-win situation. Better alternative than giving it to a thrift store. Their website:

Like this comment
Posted by Ravi Karra
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Can anyone tell me where I can recycle styrofoam? And I do agree with the comment that it is quite cumbersome to go someplace that's open once a month to recycle old light bulbs. Wish they could pick them up like they do batteries.


Like this comment
Posted by Styrofoam
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:23 am

Only have a place for packing peanuts. UPS stores will take them.