Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – What used to be as simple as emptying garbage cans into a truck and dumping everything out at Mt. Trashmore has become a very different process these days. Arcata’s garbage pile is now part of an eco-marsh, and trash collection is now resource recovery.
Sealing the end of an era is the transformation of Arcata Garbage Co. to Recology Humboldt County. But for Arcata’s garbage customers, the difference should be little more than a different name on the bill.
Arcata Garbage owner Rick Fusi said the time had come to quit the only job he’s ever had and sell his family business. His father, Eugene, had operated Arcata’s streetsweeper in the 1950s, then bought the company in 1961.
In those days, the “garbagemen” would manually hoist the cans and empty the contents into the dump truck. When the trash piled up in the bed, they had to get in and even out the load with pitchforks.
Rick Fusi went to work there in 1975, then gradually bought out his father and Uncle Joe, taking over when his dad retired in the mid-1980s. Up until five years ago, he served as a driver, hauling Arcata’s garbage and unintended discards.
“People throw away money, things that are brand new in boxes,” Fusi said. Sometimes they would call to have him search for the discards among the refuse, but that can’t be done any more. The truck loading is automated, and loads are compressed to take up less space. “You really don’t see what you’re putting in there any more,” Fusi said.
Trash collectors do still get to see early morning sights most Arcatans miss out on. “You see people doing weird things around the Plaza,” Fusi said. “I saw a guy trying to light Don’s Donuts on fire one time.” He reported the incident, of course.
He’ll miss the nine drivers and three office personnel that made up Arcata Garbage, as well as the town and its people. “We’ve been lucky to have a really great relationship with the City of Arcata,” he said. “I’m going to miss Arcata.”
He plans to spend winters in Arizona and summers in Weaverville, do a lot of golfing and “see what happens.”
As far as his company’s new owners, Recology, he said they’re worthy. “I’ve been debating this over the last couple of years,” Fusi said. “I looked at a couple of other companies. But I’m confident that they’ll be the best fit for Arcata.”
The Arcata City Council agreed Dec. 14, when it transferred the city’s solid waste and recycling collection contract over to Recology. The employee-owned firm has a solid track record, its 45 operating companies already serving 725,000 residential and 110,000 commercial customers in California, Oregon and Washington.
Recology General Manager Linda Wise said she doesn’t plan any major changes. In discussions with the city, the company said it plans to maintain the same office, phone number, staff and other facilities. The contract is in effect through June 30, 2029.
But the future of garbage is far different than what Arcata Garbage’s founders in the 1930s may have envisioned. The name alone – a portmanteau of recycling and ecology – tells the story.
“We want to be known as the resource recovery people,” Wise said. “Our philosophy is to embrace nonwastefulness, and not just in garbage – with air, land, water and energy. It’s the way of life these days.”
Humboldt Waste Management Authority Executive Director Jill Duffy appreciates the continuity. “We work really well together and are looking forward to continuing with diversion projects as they become available.”
Enjoy reminiscences about Arcata Garbage and its personnel here.