Whole Foods shuts down Del Monte Center recycling station; city cries foul.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
The recycling buyback station behind the Whole Foods in Monterey’s Del Monte Center is gone, to the delight of mall execs and dismay of city staff.
Before the closure, people could weigh their recyclables at the station and collect the California Redemption Value. But in early November, Whole Foods closed the station with support from mall managers who viewed it as a magnet for the homeless.
State law requires grocery stores selling recyclable beverages and grossing more than $2 million per year to have a recycling station within a half-mile radius, according to Mark Oldfield, spokesman for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.
Affected retailers within an unserved “convenience zone” can pay $100 per day until a recycling station is established, pay the CRV in-store or apply for an exemption, Oldfield says. In a deal with CalRecycle, he says, Whole Foods has been paying the daily fee since October.
But the city of Monterey isn’t happy about it. On Nov. 30, Deputy City Manager Hans Uslar sent CalRecycle a letter arguing Whole Foods should not have been allowed to close the station, especially without the city’s involvement. He urges CalRecycle to reconsider and give the city a voice in the process.
Uslar tells the Weekly the closure came as a surprise. “We think it’s a good idea to have a station [there],” he says. “Our interest is to keep this stuff out of the landfill.”
The only recycling stations left in Monterey are one at the Nob Hill grocery store on Lighthouse Avenue and another next to the fire station downtown, Uslar says. Only the Nob Hill station offers the CRV buyback.
Whole Foods would not comment other than an emailed statement via a spokesperson confirming the recycling center has been removed and the store is reviewing its options.
But Del Monte Center General Manager Jill Vivanco is thrilled Whole Foods took action. “The recycling center has been a problem since the day it was set there,” she says. “[It] just exacerbated the homeless population.”
The city’s Don Dahvee Park, which abuts the Whole Foods border along Munras Avenue and Soledad Drive, is a popular homeless encampment. Vivanco says the population presented problems with theft, loitering and patron harassment. She and Whole Foods managers unsuccessfully pressured the city several years ago to move the buyback station somewhere else.
The station generated about 16,000 pounds of recyclables per month, according to Monterey City Disposal Operations Manager Tom Parola. But his staff couldn’t meet mall requests to keep the homeless away, he adds: “They’re citizens of the United States. They have a right to be at a park.”
He says Vivanco contacted him Nov. 1 and asked for the recycling station to be removed, per Whole Foods’ arrangement. He promptly shut down the station and laid off its one employee.
Despite the city’s protests, Oldfield says, CalRecycle can’t force Whole Foods to keep the station open: “There’s really not much we can do.”
CalRecycle will work with the city in an effort to open a new station nearby, he adds. Meanwhile, the 12 affected retailers (including Trader Joe’s) will be noticed they’re in an unserved convenience zone, invited to submit public comments and given a grace period.
If CalRecycle doesn’t grant an exemption and a new station isn’t established, Oldfield says, the retailers will have to redeem the CRV in-store or pay the $100 daily fee starting in June.