Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The city for whom waste diversion is almost a spiritual journey will soon be without its own recycling center.
Rick Powell, general manager of Eel River Resource Recovery (ERRR) told the Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA) that it is closing its Arcata collection center, the Arcata Resource recovery Center (ARRC) located at 10th and N streets. It will be shuttered at the end of January.
“With the low customer count, it’s just not economically feasible to continue those operations,” Powell said at the monthly HWMA meeting. The closure leaves Arcata residents with the choice of driving to Humboldt Sanitation in McKinleyville, the ERRR Samoa Processing Facility or HWMA’s Eureka Recycling Center to drop off their recyclables.
The drop in oil prices has suppressed the value of plastic recycling, while the slowdown of the Chinese economy has reduced overseas demand for commodities, reducing cap value and hitting recycling markets hard. But Powell said lack of participation by the community was what did ARRC in.
"The biggest issue is customer count," Powell said. "It's never really been what we needed. We've kept it open as long as we can."
Powell said those who do use the facility have been handed flyers indicating the closure, with maps to the other area recycling centers.
“Overall, it’s unfortunate,” said Mark Andre, director of Environmental Services. “It’s nice to have as many avenues as possible, for convenience.”
ARRC had never integrated well into its neighborhood, despite bordering the Creamery District, which is bustling with new businesses and rebranding itself with an "arts and commerce" theme. The district once hosted the Arcata Community Recycling Center (ACRC), which enjoyed both a funky vibe and broad community participation.
"Kids grew up there," said Maggie Gainer, boardmember of Zero Waste Humboldt. "They volunteered in middle school and high school."
She said Arcatans had ACRC in their blood, and their weekly routine. "You'd get your mail, go to Co-op and get your groceries, then go do your recycling," she said.
ARRC got off to a less-than-optimal start when it topped its fence with razor wire, offending Creamery District neighbors. ARRC and its neighbors apparently remained estranged, as no one at the Arcata Playhouse, where district plans are formulated, knew anything of ARRC's impending closure.
"I didn't have much of a connection with it," said David Ferney, Playhouse co-founding artistic director. Jackie Dandeneau, executive director, was similarly surprised at the news.
Powell said ERRR notified the Arcata city manager's office, but confirmed that no press releases had been issued warning of the center's need for participation, or its closure. He said no decision has been made as to the disposition of the property, which ERRR owns.
Andre said the ARRC closure will not impact Arcata’s curbside recycling program, and may help it by making it harder for thieves to steal material from recycling bins. “We have a lot of theft,” he said. “Hopefully that will diminish.” The constant theft of recyclables such as aluminum cans “eliminates the best quality recyclables,” Andre said. The less theft, “the better the payback for customers who pay for that system.”
Andre said the city enjoys a 70 percent solid waste diversion rate, and hopes to meet a state mandate to increase it to 75 percent by 2020 with further reductions in paper, construction and yard waste, plus installation of a food digester at the city Corp Yard.