With the Arcata Community Recycling Center planning to close its doors in January, it's unclear who will get Arcata's coveted recyclables. At its next meeting, the Arcata City Council will discuss the Humboldt Waste Management Authority, and in particular the joint powers agreement that created the authority more than a decade ago.
"I would like to see what we could do better," said councilmember Alex Stillman. She said that the HWMA's current recycling contract with Mendocino-based Solid Waste of Willits doesn't fit with Arcata's goal of zero waste -- and trucking tons of glass 140 miles down the road to Willits isn't exactly green.
The HWMA, a government agency representing Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, and Rio Dell, contracted with the Willits operation in July because it offered to pay for the county's recyclables, while ACRC could do no better than to take the recycling for free.
But not all the member cities participated in that contract. Arcata decided against sending its recyclables to Willits, as did Blue Lake and some unincorporated areas. Arcata stuck with the ACRC, which is weighed down with debt from its $8.1 million sorting facility in Samoa.
Now, for the second time, Arcata must decide what to do with its recycling. If the city does end up ditching the HWMA, one option is to take it down to Fortuna, where Eel River Disposal will be opening a new sorting facility later this month.
Councilmember Michael Winkler said that, while he thinks that it's good that Arcata is part of the HWMA, he doesn't support the Willits contract. "I think the people of Arcata very much want recycling to be processed locally," he said.
When the ACRC opened the Samoa facility in 2007 it planned on processing the county's recyclables for decades to come. Now, just four years later, the nonprofit plans to shut down.
It's frustrating, Stillman said. "It's like we're going backwards."