WALNUT CREEK -- Residents accustomed to taking recyclables to the facility on Lawrence Way for disposal may soon have to rely more on curbside bins to get rid of yard trimmings and cardboard because the center at the entrance to northbound Interstate 680 will close for good Sept. 28.

With a new multimillion-dollar garbage contract that will offer Central County residents bigger recycling receptacles next year, the center has become unnecessary for most Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority customers, according to authority Executive Director Ken Etherington.

"There will be more capacity at the curb, and with new programs, it was getting so the recycling center has became obsolete and cost-prohibitive," he said.

One reason it has become cost-prohibitive is that, for years, the authority had rented the land for a $1 a year from the city -- a token rate set when recycling was new and the authority was just getting off the ground. But since 2011, Walnut Creek has charged $3,500 a month in rent.

The waste authority's service area includes Alamo, Blackhawk, Danville, Lamorinda, Walnut Creek and surrounding unincorporated areas.

In March, the authority's board awarded a 10-year franchise agreement for garbage hauling to Arizona-based Republic Services instead of Waste Management, the current hauler and operator of the recycling center.


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The center has been operating at 480 Lawrence Way since 1996. It has a roundabout where people can drive up and drop off their cardboard, sell back cans and bottles and offload other recyclable materials.

But Etherington said most of the people who use the center are not the residents the authority serves but rather commercial businesses trying to get rid of cardboard boxes. That was not the intent when the center opened nearly 20 years ago.

In 2011, authority officials estimated that to find and set up another site for the center would have cost $4 million to $5 million. The authority board unanimously decided in 2011 that cost was too high.

In 2005, the authority tried to move the center to a site in Lafayette, but that plan was dropped after neighbors complained.

Still, some of the regular users of the center are not happy about the closure. Friday morning, cars lined up to drop off recyclable materials; almost all were there for can and bottle recycling buyback.

Ben Wyka, of Walnut Creek, unloaded bottles Friday from his truck. He has collected the cans and bottles during his morning walks since he retired. He said it's something to do, and it helps the environment. Wyka is quite angry the center is closing.

"It's a very efficient operation, very clean and a convenient location," he said. "It's not near residential; it's a great spot. People are not going to go even five miles more down the road to recycle -- it's too far."

The closest similar facility is in Concord.

Wyka is even more incensed by the closure because of the possibility that the space may be used by car dealerships to park stock cars.

So far, it has not been decided what the site will be used for. At its Aug. 19 meeting, the Walnut Creek City Council will decide whether to direct staff to get proposals for use of the center site, the nearby corporation yard and other adjacent city-owned parcels.

"Consideration of the reuse or sales of these sites will go through a request for proposals and full review, with public meeting actions at council meetings as appropriate," said Ken Nordhoff, city manager in an e-mail Friday.

Walnut Creek leaders have made it clear they see value in the land. They could sell it; in 2005, the idea was floated to lease it to car dealerships for overflow parking.

Last year, the City Council voted to put the parcel, along with others across the street, on the market. Real estate experts said the parcels could bring in $18 million (or $1 million a year if leased). But that plan hit a snag with the recycling center parcel because the city discovered the title was still part of the now-defunct redevelopment agency.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617.

Recycling options in Contra Costa
FOR CRV BUYBACK:
NexCycle/Safeway, 3540 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette
NexCycle/Sycamore Square, 660 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Danville
Tomra Pacific, 1600 Concord Ave., Concord
NexCycle/Safeway, 600 Patterson Blvd., Pleasant Hill
Concord Recycling Center, 1320 Galaxy Way, Concord

FOR YARD TRIMMINGS:
Valley Waste Management, 925-935-8900 for on-call curbside collection
Contra Costa Transfer Station, 951 Waterbird Way, Martinez (www.pleasanthillbayshoredisposal.com)
Acme Landfill, 950 Waterbird Way, Martinez (www.acmelandfill.com)
Mt. Diablo Recycling, 1300 Loveridge Road, Pittsburg (www.mtdiablorecycling.com)
Organic Solutions, 1460 Goodyear Road, Benicia

FOR CARDBOARD, PAPER, PLASTIC:
Valley Waste Management, 925-935-8900, for on-call curbside collection
Concord Recycling Center, 1320 Galaxy Way, Concord (www.concordrecyclingcenter.com)
Mt. Diablo Recycling, 1300 Loveridge Road, Pittsburg (www.mtdiablorecycling.com)