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Recycling facility could waste away

Matthew Artz
Thursday October 10, 2002

Berkeley’s lofty goal of recycling 75 percent of its waste might be in jeopardy. But city officials will soon have a chance to do something about it. 

The property where a two decade-old recycling center sits, on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Dwight ways, is for sale. Realtor Peter McNally says that after shopping the property for eight months, he is prepared to offer the 8,700-square-foot lot to the city at the asking price of $485,000. 

McNally said a city purchase is the best chance to preserve the property as a recycling center. 

The recycling center accepts roughly 100 tons of recyclables every month – about one-tenth of the city’s total – and is crucial to Berkeley achieving its stated recycling goals said Dave Williamson of the Berkeley-based Ecology Center. 

“It would definitely hamper the effort to reach 75 percent,” he said. “It’s a vital disposal option for people who have too many recyclables for curbside recycling.” 

The center, operated by nonprofit Community Conservation Center (CCC), is one of two Berkeley recycling facilities operated by the group. However, south Berkeley residents say the other facility at Second and Gillman streets is too inconvenient for them to get to.  

“I don’t know if I would bother to go all the way to Gillman,” said Andrew Hwang, who added that the recycling bins at his apartment complex were usually full or used for garbage by neighbors, forcing him to recycle at the south Berkeley center. 

Jeff Belchamber, general manager for CCC, said he has broached a possible purchase with city staff, who said that they would consider the option. 

He noted that because the recycling center pays only about $1,000 in monthly rent, a private buyer would be unlikely to renew the center’s month-to-month lease. 

The property came up for sale recently, Belchamber said, after the longtime owner died. 

Belchamber said he hoped the city might be able to negotiate a lower sale price, considering the poor state of the economy and environmental problems at the site stemming from an old gas station. 

“We don’t think a developer is going to invest a half million dollars [on a polluted property],” he said. He noted that a previous deal to sell the lot to a developer of lofts fell through after soil samples showed contamination, requiring costly cleanup. 

Both Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmember Kriss Worthington said Tuesday they were not aware that purchasing the lot was an option for the city. 

If the lot is sold to a private developer, Belchamber said the recycling center is not likely to find another south Berkeley home. 

“Were not a revenue generator, so it would be difficult to find another location,” he said.